Saturday, August 4

Similar and Confusing English Words

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Today we’re going to talk about some pairs of words that give a lot of trouble to English learners. This is because these words look or sound the same.

Here they are:

1.       awesome vs. awful

2.       terrific vs. terrible

3.       difficult vs. different

4.       quit vs. quiet vs. quite

As you can see on our list, the words in a pair have similar spelling. So, for non-native speakers of English, it’s hard to memorize these words distinctly from each other. The way they are pronounced is also a source of confusion.

Good or Bad?

First, we start with the four words above. The two pairs: “awesome and awful," terrific and terrible” should be studied together because all these words talk about your opinion of something (or someone). In other words, these four words are used to describe what you think of a thing, place, event, situation, etc.

Please don’t mix up these words in your mind. Because:

awesome = very good

awful = very bad

terrific = very good

terrible = very bad

Yes, you head it right. The words “awesome” and “terrific” actually have a positive meaning. On the other hand, the words “awful” and “terrible” have a negative meaning.

For example,

1.       That Hollywood actor is awesome. = ;-D

2.       The food in that restaurant tastes awful! = ;-(

3.       Thanks.  I had a terrific time yesterday. = ;-D

4.       Oh, I’ll be absent from work today. I feel terrible. = ;-(

A Difference in Meaning

Our next pair of words, “different” and “difficult,” look similar, but they have completely separate meanings.

Different” means not the same or sometimes opposite.

For example,

1.       My sister and I are not the same. We are different.

2.       This isn't the same problem we had last time. It’s different.

3.       There are many different choices on the menu.

Difficult” talks about the level of hardness of a test, situation, competition etc. In other words, it means the opposite of easy.

For example,

1.       The TOEIC is a difficult test.

2.       Climbing Mt. Everest is difficult.

3.       It’s difficult to come up with an advertising slogan for their product.

As you can learn from our examples, the meanings and situations of these two words are absolutely varied.  So you shouldn’t use one when you mean the other.

Quit, Quite, Quiet

About our last set of words, the first thing you should do is to learn the proper pronunciation of each (even though it’s a bit tricky).

Quit = /’kwIt/

Quite = /’kwīt/

Quiet = /’kwī-ət/

Please try to remember and practice their pronunciation.

Next, you should think about what Part of Speech (what kind of word) each word is. Like this:

Quit = Verb

Quite = Adverb

Quiet = Adjective

Finally, you should study their individual meanings:

Quit = stop

Quite = fairly; less than “very” but more than “a little”

Quiet = silent; with a soft sound

This is why we have examples like these:


1.       I’ve decided to quit smoking.

2.       This training is too hard! I quit!


1.       My grandma is quite healthy.

2.       The bag is quite expensive.


1.       Please be quiet when you enter the nursery.

2.       He is a shy, quiet boy.

Hope you learned something!

;-) Registered & Protected

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