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13 pairs of common English words that confuse even native speakers

It doesn't matter what your level is. Even native speakers are sometimes confused in these words, notes Lifehacker.

Photo: Shutterstock

1. Lay and lie

This is the pearl of all grammatical errors. And all because the words are similar in meaning and sound. But still there are nuances. To lie it is translated as "to lie", "to settle down", "to lay down".

I love to lie down in front of the fire and read - I like to lie near the fireplace with a book.

But lie - an irregular verb, in the past tense it turns into lay.

The town lay in ruins - The city was in ruins.

And this form is written and pronounced in the same way as an independent verb to lay. The main meaning of which is “to put”.

She laid the baby on the bed - She laid the baby on the bed.

In a word, the confusion, of course, is utter, but if you look deeply into it and remember it once, it will be much easier to avoid mistakes.

2. Continual and continuous

These words can be called paronyms: they are written almost identically, but differ in meaning. Continual apply to repetitive actions or events.

I'm sorry, I can't work with these continual interruptions - Sorry, but I can’t work like that, they constantly interrupt me.

But continuous is about something that lasts continuously.

He spoke continuously for more than two hours - He did not stop talking for more than two hours.

3. Envy and jealous

Even the philologists cannot always explain the difference between these words clearly. Dictionaries say that jealous - This is primarily about jealousy.

In a moment of jealous frenzy, she cut the sleeves off all his shirts - In a fit of jealousy, she shredded the sleeves of his shirts.

But the word has a second meaning: "annoyance because someone has what you yourself would like." In other words, envy. It is how “envy” translates the second word, envy.

He had always been very jealous of his brother's success - He was always very envious of the success of his brother.

Some of his colleagues envy the enormous wealth that he has amassed - Some colleagues envy his impressive wealth.

So what's the difference? Linguists admit that if we are talking about envy, not jealousy, the differences have almost disappeared and these two words can be considered synonyms. Although before jealous signified a more serious, terrible and dramatic degree of envy.

4. Fewer and less

Less is used when we are talking about something abstract and uncountable or not mentioning the exact amount.

I eat less chocolate and fewer biscuits than I used to “I eat less chocolates and cookies than usual.”

We must try to spend less money - We should try to spend less money.

Few и fewer but you can safely use it where it is about specific numbers or about something that can be accurately calculated.

Fewer than 3,500 tigers are left in the wild today - In the wild today live no more than three and a half thousand tigers.

We received far fewer complaints than expected “We received far fewer complaints than we expected.”

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5. Disinterested and uninterested

Both consoles seem to be dis- и un- - denote negation. And if so, then the meaning of the words is the same. But no. Disinterested translates as "impartial."

A disinterested observer / judgment - an impartial observer / judge.

If we are talking about disinterest and indifference, it would be more correct to use the option uninterested.

He's completely uninterested in sports - He is completely indifferent to sports.

True, not all linguists are united on this issue. The compilers of the Merriam ‑ Webster dictionary, for example, consider these words to be synonyms.

6. Anxious and excited

In Russian, the word “worry” can be used not only in the negative (“I'm terribly worried about you!”), But also in a positive way (“I was so excited when I received your letter!”). Perhaps that is why when we speak English, in similar cases we try to use anxious. But this word translates as "alarmed, worried, nervous."

It's natural that you should feel anxious when you first leave home “Worrying when you first leave home,” is quite natural.

If you are glad to see friends, tell them that you anxious to see themwill be wrong. More suitable here excited (excited). By the way, the word anxious it is also appropriate if we cannot wait to do something or we are striving for something strongly.

I'm anxious to get home to open my presents “I can't wait to come home and open presents as soon as possible.”

7. Affect and effect

To deal with this dilemma, you can use a simple hint. Affect almost always a verb, effect - a noun. Affect can be translated as "influence, cause, lead to something."

Factors that affect sleep include stress and many medical conditions - Causes that affect sleep include stress and various illnesses.

Effect - this is, in fact, the effect or result of some processes or events.

I'm suffering from the effects of too little sleep “I suffer from the effects of lack of sleep.”

8. Among and between

Words are similar in meaning, but still not synonymous. Between translates as "between."

A narrow path runs between the two houses “A narrow path runs between the two houses.”

The shop is closed for lunch between 12.30 and 1.30 - The store is closed for lunch from half past one to half past one.

Among rather, it means "among," "one of."

The decision will not be popular among students - For students (literally - “among students”) this decision will not be popular.

She divided the cake among the children - She divided the cake between the children.

If we are talking about specific people or objects, it is more appropriate to talk between, and if about indefinite or generalized - among.

9. Assure and ensure

It is clear that in both cases we are talking about faith, trust or assurance. But since words sound and spell almost the same, they are easily confused. And here it is important to remember that assures used when we want to reassure or convince someone of something.

She assured them, that she would be all right “She assured them that she would be fine.”

But ensure is appropriate to use when we ourselves want to make sure of something.

Please ensure that all examination papers have your name at the top - Please make sure your exam papers are signed.

On the subject: 9 difficult words in English that are often pronounced incorrectly

10. Then and than

It is easy to confuse these words, but it is better not to do this, because then the sentence will lose its meaning. Just one letter - and what a difference in meaning! Then - an adverb that translates as “then” and “later”.

She trained as a teacher and then became a lawyer - She studied as a teacher, but then became a lawyer.

Than - an excuse, it is used for comparison.

It cost less than I expected “It cost less than I thought.”

11. Lose and loose

Here, too, almost the same spelling and pronunciation are to blame. The word "loser" is well known even to those who are not very strong in English. Therefore, it seems that loseand loose - about failures and losses. But it’s important to remember that lose means “lose”, “lose”, “lose”.

I hope he doesn't lose his job “I hope he does not lose his job.”

А loose translates as “relaxed”, “free”, “loose”.

A loose dress / sweater - loose dress / sweater.

12. A lot and the lot

There is generally a difference only in the article. But in English, even he can significantly change the meaning of the word. Noun lot together with the indefinite article a is translated as “many”, “large quantity”.

I've got a lot to do this morning “I have a lot to do this morning.”

In this case, the lot - British colloquial element, which means not just “a lot”, but “everything”.

I made enough curry for three people and he ate the lot “I made curry for three, and he ate it all alone.”

13. Amount and number

Here the story is similar to fewer и less. Both words refer to quantity, but amount used when it comes to something indefinite and uncountable, and number - when we talk about objects or people that can be counted.

The project will take a huge amount of time and money - This project will require a huge amount of time and money.

A small number of children are educated at home - A small number of children study at home.

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