moral / morale

As a noun, a moral is the lesson learned from a story – often used in the expression “the moral of the story.” The plural form, morals, has a different meaning. It refers to a person’s standards of determining right and wrong behavior: The doctor refused to perform an abortion because it was against her…

all / whole / every

Use every with SINGULAR, countable nouns: I exercise every day. Every student in the class has a computer. Every necklace in this store costs more than $1,000. Use all with PLURAL nouns OR with uncountable nouns to mean 100% of many things: All of the students in the class have computers. All of the necklaces…

close / shut

You can use both close and shut with doors and windows: Please close/shut the door. I closed/shut the window because it was getting cold. (the past tense of “shut” is also “shut”) With eyes and mouths, “close” is probably a little more common than “shut” (especially with mouth): He closed his eyes and tried to…

distinct / distinctive

The word distinct means: 1) that something is clearly and noticeably different or separate from other things Three distinct languages are spoken in this region. Please make sure to keep your opinions distinct from the facts when writing the article. We’re dealing with two distinct problems here. 2) that something is strong and obvious: There…

inhabit / live / reside

Live is the most common word: My family lives in a big house. They live on the East Coast. I’ve lived in Canada my whole life. We’ve been living here for five years. Reside is a more formal word for live. It usually implies that you live in a place permanently or for a long…

tide / waves

Waves are the raised swells of water that move along the surface of the ocean. At the beach, surfers ride on the waves: The size of the waves depends on the general movement of the ocean water in the area, the shape of the sea floor, and whether there are storms or strong winds that…

amoral / immoral

The word immoral means something is against established moral principles: Many religions consider lying and cheating to be immoral. The word amoral means something is completely free from moral considerations -it is neither moral nor immoral. Money itself is amoral – it is simply a tool that can be used for good or for evil.

empathy / sympathy

Empathy refers to the ability to deeply understand and share someone else’s feelings or situation. The verb form is empathize. For example, if you were bullied or made fun of as a child, you have empathy with kids who are currently being bullied. If you started your own company and you know how challenging it…

late / lately

Late can be an adjective or an adverb that means after the correct time. I’m not hungry because I had a late lunch. (adjective) He slept late and missed his first class. (adverb) Lately is an adverb that means the same as recently. I haven’t studied a lot lately. Work has been busy for the…

affect / effect

Affect is a verb used for the process of one thing causing another thing to change. Effect is a noun, and it means the end result of some change. This disease is affecting my ability to breathe. The medicine had an instant effect on the pain. In spoken English, affect and effect are pronounced the…

arrive / come / get / reach

Come is a general word used for entering a current place. It can be used for coming from short distances or long distances. My sister lives in London, but next week she’s coming to visit me in Atlanta. Our neighbors are coming over for dinner tonight. Come here – I want to show you something….

Mr. / Mrs. / Ms. / Miss

These titles indicate a person’s gender and marital status: Mr. (pronounced “mister”) = a man. Can be married or unmarried. Mrs. (pronounced “missus”) = a married woman Miss (pronounced “miss”) = an unmarried woman Ms. (pronounced “mizz”) = a woman who we are not sure if she is married or not. These titles are typically…

sensible / sensitive

Sensible means having a good practical awareness or understanding of a situation: This is a very sensible article – it’s a realistic description of both points of view in the debate. I’m more of a dreamer, and my husband is the sensible one. I come up with crazy ideas and he tells me if they’ll…

all of / each of

We use each to talk about objects individually, and all to talk about objects as a group: The teacher gave a different task to each student. (“each” emphasizes the individuality of the members of the group) The teacher gave tests to all the students. (“all” emphasizes the students as a group) In a similar way,…

been / gone

When talking about past travel experiences, we typically use been to mean “gone” or “visited,” usually with ever/never: Have you ever been to Australia? (= Have you ever visited Australia?) Yes, I’ve been there three times. (= I’ve gone there three times.) No, I’ve never been there. (= I’ve never visited.) The word been describes…

cloth / clothes / clothing

Clothes and clothing refer to the things you wear – shirts, pants, underwear, dresses, suits, etc. Cloth is the material, the fabric. Cotton, wool, silk, etc. are different types of cloth. There is also a pronunciation difference: The o in clothes/clothing sounds like the o in “no.” The o in cloth sounds like the aw…

do / make

DO generally refers to the action itself, and MAKE usually implies that there is a result. For example, if you “make breakfast,” the result is an omelet! If you “make a suggestion,” you have created a recommendation. Use DO for actions, obligations, and repetitive tasks: do the laundry do homework do the shopping do business…

gratuity / tip

When you go to a restaurant in the United States, it is customary to pay extra money for the service of your waiter or waitress. This extra money is called the tip or gratuity. Usually you, the customer, decide how much money you want to leave as a tip (it is customary to leave between…