bravery / courage

The meanings of these words are essentially the same – they mean facing danger, difficulty, or fear with calm or confidence. Just make sure not to get confused between their noun and adjective forms: A fireman saved a child from the burning house. He was very brave. / He was very courageous. He was very…

deadly / fatal / lethal

All of these words mean “capable of causing death.” Usually the word fatal means that somebody actually died: He survived his first two heart attacks, but the third one was fatal. We often describe the following things as fatal if they cause someone to die: accident, crash, fall, stabbing, shooting, attack, blow, injury, wound The…

impending / pending

If an issue is pending, it means it is not yet concluded or resolved. It is waiting for a decision or confirmation. The results of the experiment are pending. We have a few pending issues on which we need the CEO’s input. The cause of death is pending investigation. There are two pending transactions in…

begin / start

You can use both start and begin for an activity. “Begin” is more formal than “start”: I started playing the piano when I was 8 years old. What time does the meeting start? He’s beginning to read more advanced books in English. We left the park when it began to rain. When you turn on…

poor / pore / pour

The verb pour means to make liquid flow out from a container by inclining the container. When you put milk or juice from the carton into a glass, you are pouring it. When it’s raining very hard, you can also say “It’s pouring.” Po or (adjective) is the opposite of rich. If a person is…

another / other / others

The word other is an adjective. It refers to something different. The teacher held a textbook in one hand and a pencil in the other hand. The word “other” is often used with “the.” It can be used with singular or plural nouns: We crossed to the other side of the street. I liked the…

resolve / solve

This is a tough one – do you solve a problem or resolve a problem? The answer is both. Solve and resolve do have slightly different meanings, though. To resolve something means to deal with and finish it in a satisfactory way: resolve an argument resolve a conflict / dispute resolve differences between two people…

delay / late / postpone

Late is an adjective and an adverb, describing an event that happened after the correct time: We had a late breakfast at 10:00. (the usual time for breakfast is earlier, around 7-9 AM) The bus arrived thirty minutes late. (the bus arrived thirty minutes after the correct time on the schedule) Avoid this common error:…

how about…? / what about…?

Use “How about?” to suggest an action and to “open” possibilities: “I’ve got the day off from work tomorrow. What should we do?” “How about spending the day in the city?” “Nah. I don’t really feel like traveling.” “How about we clean the house?” “No way. I want to do something fun.” “OK. How about…

have to / must / need to

These words are all used for obligations – things that are necessary and required. Must is the most formal. It is usually used in official rules (and is not as common in spoken English): Students must register for classes by August 1. You must possess a valid driver’s license to apply for this job. NEVER…

forest / jungle / wood / woods

All of these words refer to an area with lots of trees and other vegetation close together. The word jungle refers to a tropical area (it can also be called a rain forest). The Amazon in Brazil is an example of a jungle. In non-tropical areas, land filled with trees can be called the forest…

would rather

Would rather means ‘would prefer to’. It is followed by the infinitive without to. We often use the contraction’d rather: this means ‘would rather’, not ‘had rather’. [ would rather + infinitive without to] Would you rather stay here or go home? ‘How about a drink?’ I’d rather have something to eat.’ We can use…

convince / persuade

These words both refer to when a person influences another person to do or believe something: He persuaded me to move to New York by telling me about how exciting the city was. He convinced me that New York City was an exciting place to live. However, there are a few differences. We persuade someone…

hear / listen

There are two differences between listen and hear: Listen is often a prolonged action, but hear is just one moment in time: While I was listening to the news, I heard that there was a plane crash outside the city. (“listening to the news” = continuous action, “heard” = one specific moment) Listen is often…

apologize / sorry

Both of these words express regret for some problem or something you did wrong. I’m sorry is less formal, and “I apologize” is more formal. There are a few different ways to continue the sentence. You can say: I’m sorry (that) I yelled at you. I’m sorry for yelling at you. I apologize for yelling…

either / neither

Either… or is used for ONE thing, but NOT the other. You can choose one flavor of ice cream – either chocolate or vanilla. We can either go shopping or see a movie, but we won’t have time to do both. Neither… nor is used for NOT TWO THINGS. You can also say Neither of…

despite / in spite of

These expressions are the same – just remember not to say “despite of”! We won the game despite having two fewer players. We won the game in spite of having two fewer players. After despite and in spite of, we use a noun or a gerund (-ING form of the verb). Do not use the…

famous / infamous

The word famous means a lot of people know about a person or thing: She’s a famous singer who has sold millions of albums. This restaurant is famous for its steak. People come from miles away to eat it. The word infamous means someone or something is well-known because they are connected to bad behavior…