Most commonly confused words in English
In the English language, there are plenty of words that are often used interchangeably, but which have subtle differences in their meanings and connotations. In this blog, we look at 15 such word pairs and the respective subtle differences in their meanings. How many of them do you already know? Read on and find out!
1. Faith and Trust Faith refers to the belief in a concept or idea without empirical evidence. Trust, on the other hand, refers to the confidence in a person and/or their abilities. For example, “They expressed deep faith in the religion” and “He trusts his people-handling skills”.
2. Anger and Fury An intense feeling of displeasure or dissatisfaction that is coupled with hostility or antagonism. Fury refers to extreme anger. For example, “The mill-workers expressed anger at the government’s policies” and “The people of the colony expressed fury over the newly opened liquor shop in the area”
3. Proposal and Suggestion A suggestion is generally just an idea, which is used in everyday, informal contexts while a proposal is usually presented as a plan with steps to implement it. Proposals are more formal in nature and carry more weightage than a suggestion. For example, “They didn’t like his suggestion that they should all go hiking” and “The proposal to revise the salaries is still under consideration”
4. Sound and Noise Sound, in very simple terms, is what we hear while noise refers to sound that is unwanted. However, the difference between a sound and noise depends on the listener as noises are sounds that are perceived as unpleasant or disturbing. For example, “He heard some strange sounds outside” and “It was difficult to prepare for the exam with all that noise in the street”
5. Sculpture and Sculptor The word “Sculpture” refers to a wooden or stone statue whereas “Sculptor” is an artist who carves or makes sculptures. For example, “This 16th century sculpture was carved by famous sculptor Gionni.
6. License and Licence Both these words refer to an official permit from authority for a specific purpose. In British English, license is used as a verb while licence is used as a noun. In American English, only the word license is used to describe both the verb and the noun. For example, “The government distributed licences to differently abled individuals to operate mobile phone booths” and “The contractor was licensed by the state to construct road dividers.”
7. Cargo and Freight Cargo refers to goods that are carried overseas by large vehicles, such as by airplane or by ship while freight refers to goods that are carried inland by smaller vehicles, such as by truck or by train. For example, “A large cargo of medicinal plants was sent to South-Asian countries” an “The road-police is stopping all heavy trucks to curb the illegal freight”
8. Permit and Allow Both the words share the same meaning and can often be used interchangeably, with a little exception that the word “Permit” is used in a more formal context to refer to legal authorization, as in “The old man never allowed us to play in his garden.” and “Smoking is not permitted inside the moving vehicle.”
9. Road and Street A road refers to any thoroughfare that connects two points. A street, however, refers to a road that has buildings on either side of it. For example, “This road is primarily used by heavy vehicles to transport goods” and “No heavy vehicle is permitted to enter the street.”
10. Student and Pupil The word student refers to a learner who is studying in a college or a university while the word pupil, however, refers to a younger learner studying in school. For example, “The university students have been allowed to park their vehicle here” and “The pupils moved in tandem along the road with their teachers leading them.”
11. Oral and Verbal Oral refers to anything pertaining to the mouth or something that is spoken. Verbal can refer to anything that is expressed in words, both spoken and written. For example, “The oral exam will be conducted next month.” and “Verbal skills are a prerequisite for this job.”
12. Farther and Further Even though both these words are used to refer to something that is more distant, farther is typically used to refer to physical distances while further is typically used to refer to figurative distances. For example, “As more time passed, the wooden planks drifted farther away in the sea.” and “He will move abroad to pursue further education”
13. Hearing and Listening Hearing simply refers to the perception of sound by the ears. Listening, however, refers to the conscious processing of sounds and is a voluntary process while hearing is an involuntary process. For example, “Did you hear the sound coming from the woods?” and “We listened to the candid conversations between the host and the guest.”
14. Woman and Lady The word woman is a generic word for a female person. A lady, on the other hand, is a woman with refinement and class. All ladies are women, but not all women are ladies. For example, “The company needs to train all the women for the job.” and “Three ladies waited outside in the visitor’s lounge for the induction program.”
15. Politician and Statesman A politician is any person holding an office of political authority whereas a statesman is a senior figure in a country’s government. Statesmen are experienced politicians who hold a position at a national level while politicians can hold a public office at any level. For example, “All the party politicians are requested to further their queries to the president” and “As a renowned statesman, he advocated the cause of women empowerment in the country.”