Pairs of Word That Cause Misunderstanding Among English Learners

March 5, 2017

 

 

1. Study/ Learn: 

 

“Study” is a verb that describes traditional educational techniques at schools, such as reading books as a method of revising for your upcoming exams. “Learn” is used when you actually acquire new knowledge and understanding. An example: By studying Biology, I learn more about plants and animals.

 

 

2. Come/ Go: 

 

You should use “come” in a conversation when you and the listener share the same location or direction, whereas “go” is used when the two don’t.  

 

For example: I have to go home now (you use “go” because the listener does not go to your home) but do not worry, Mary will come here soon and join our party (Mary will “go” to the place where you and the listener are both in).

 

 

3. Listen/ Hear: 

 

The word “listen” demonstrates the action of purposely acquiring information using your ears, while you “hear” something suggests that you do so acidentally. For example: When I was listening to my teacher yesterday morning, I heard a big explosion.

 

 

4. Look/ See/ Watch: 

 

“Look” implies the action of using your visual sense intentionally. You use “see” when you use your visual sense without an intention, whereas “watch” describes the action of seeing or looking at something which is moving.

 

For example: When I was watching TV yesterday evening, I saw my mother and looked at her with fear.

 

 

5. The/ A/ An: 

 

“The” goes with nouns that all involved in a conversation are certain about, whereas you use “a” or “an” with nouns that are undefined. For example: My teacher gave me a low mark yesterday. Because of the mark, my mother was upset.

 

 

6. Test/ Exam: 

 

In the education context, “test” descibes informal or unofficial questions given to students. The word can also be adopted in other areas such as healthcare. By contrast, “exam” tend to be big, official and formal and often used in education.  For example: After doing many practice tests, I am now confident to sit my final exams.

 

 

7. Protect/ Defend: 

 

“Protect” imples the action of helping someone stay way from any threats or dangers, while “defend” means that you actively guard somebody when they are mentally or physically attacked. With respect to opinions, you should choose “defend” instead of “protect”. For example: I strongly defend my opinion that businesses must play a role in protecting the natural environment of Vietnam.

 

 

8. Rise/ Raise: 

 

“Rise” is used when the subject can actively do the action without the help of someone, whereas “raise” has two meanings. It can either mean “to increase” (the same as “rise) or “to bring up”. For example: The number of people in Vietnam who raised dogs in 2015 rose significantly.

 

 

9. Tell/ Say/ Talk/ Speak: 

 

“Say” simple means to produce words using our mouth, while “tell” should only be used when there is a conversation between at least two people. That is why “tell” should follow by names or people. “Talk” and “speak” do not have many differences, although “talk” is used in more formal contexts and “speak” goes well with languages.  

 

For example: My brother said yesterday that after having a talk with Lisa who told me that she was born in the US, he was impressed by the fact that she could speak 4 different languages.

 

 

10. Photo/ Picture/ Image: 

 

A “photo” should be taken by a camera or mobile device. “Picture” means a piece of drawing or painting, whereas “image” represents your thoughts of somebody or some place.

 

For example: The photo that I took yesterday at the top of Bitexco represents a picture of rapid economic growth of Vietnam over the past few years which improves its image worldwide.

 

 

11. Family/ Household: 

 

“Family” consists of people that are related by blood. People living in a “household” may or may not be relatives. For example, three students sharing an apartment can be described as a “household”.

 

 

12. House/ Home: 

 

“House” illustrates a physical building with rooms, gardens and parking space. However, “home” has a wider meaning. It can be a place that you feel most comfortable or a charity organisation that you regularly spend time with. For example: I own 4 houses in Vietnam but my home address is in Hanoi.

 

 

13. Recognise/ Realise: 

 

“Recognise” means to understand or learn something new by looking only, while “realise” is a combination of “recognise” plus time to think about it. For example: After recognising you at the aiport yesterday, I realised that you had changed so much over the past few years.

 

 

14. –Ing/ –Ed endings: 

 

Adjectives ending with “ing” describe things. By contrast, adjectives ending with “ed” describes people’s feelings or emotions, often caused by those things. For example: I felt bored last night because I watched a boring movie.

 

 

15. In fact: 

 

This phrase should not be used to present simple “facts” but facts that are surprising or extraordinary. For example: Many people believe that simplying eating less will help them lose weight. In fact, researchers suggest that this may not happen in reality.

 

 

16. Will/ Going to:

 

“Going to” describes an action which has been planned. “Will”, however, demonstrates an action which is spontaneous and randomly chosen. For example: After two weeks of thinking, my wife and I are going to buy a new car tomorrow. We will then travel to New York city.

 

 

Do you know any other confusing pairs of word like those above? Please share them by leaving a comment. 

 

 

 

 

 

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