Guide to confusing words

23 Oct, 2020 - 10:10 0 Views
Guide to confusing words

The ManicaPost

Friday Lessons with Uncle Joe

The problem that most English learners face is the great number of confusing words in the language.

There are words that look alike and/or sound alike but have completely different meanings. There are words that are difficult to pronounce and others that you can never remember how to spell.

Fear not!

We have created a list of the most confusing words in English, so you can learn them and prevent these words from stopping you in your path to English fluency. Let’s take a look at pairs of words that English learners get confused by.

Fun and funny

Both of these are positive adjectives.

Fun: something that is enjoyable. Something that we enjoy, for example:

“Going to the park with friends is fun.”

Funny: something that makes us laugh is funny, for example:

“The comedy I saw last night was really funny. I laughed and laughed.”

Lose and loose

These two words are often confused in written English. They have very different meanings.

Lose: is a present tense verb. The simple past and past participle forms are both lost. Lose has two meanings:

To no longer possess something because you do not know where it is, for example:

“Try not to lose this key, it’s the only one we have.”

Lose is also used when you have not won in a game or sport. To be beaten, for example:

“I always lose when I play tennis against my sister. She’s too good.”

Loose: is an adjective which means the opposite of tight. Something which does not fit properly is loose, for example:

“His shirt is too loose because he is so thin.”

Advise and advice

Both of these have the same meaning. They mean recommend. Advice is the noun form. Advise is the verb form, for example:

“She never listens to my advice.

“I advise you to spend more time planning projects in the future.”

Embarrassed and ashamed

The difference between these two adjectives is that ashamed is a much stronger word. It is used in very serious situations.

Embarrassed: to feel uncomfortable in a social situation because of your actions or because of what someone has done to you, for example:

“I felt embarrassed when I fell over in the street. Lots of people saw me fall. My face turned red.”

Ashamed: to feel guilt or strong embarrassment over your actions, for example:

“I am ashamed to tell you that i was arrested by the police for drink-driving.”

Lend and borrow

Both lend and borrow are verbs. Although they are used in the same situation, they are opposites.

Lend: to give something to someone. They will give it back to you when they are finished with it, for example:

“I will lend you my car while I am away on holiday.”

Borrow: to receive or ‘get’ something from someone for a short period of time, for example:

“May I borrow your pen, please?”


You also have to be careful with homographs—words with the same spelling, but different meanings—like these:


If you are a subject, you are under the authority of someone like a king.

More commonly, this word means “topic” or “the theme of a conversation/article/study/etc.” You can also study a subject, like math, science or English, for example:

Mbuya Nehanda is the subject of this biography.

The king will provide for his loyal subjects.


As a noun, an object is something that can be seen or touched. It usually refers to an inanimate (not alive) thing.

As a verb, to object is to express disapproval or opposition, for example:

A frisbee is a small, round object the size of a dinner plate.

I have to object to the immoral business being carried out.


As a noun, a bow is a knot to join the ends of a ribbon or string.

As a verb, to bow is to bend the body or to incline the head, as to show respect or greet someone, for example:

The girl wore a pretty bright bow in her hair.

The man bowed his head in prayer.


To produce, as a verb, means “to create or make something.”

As a noun, produce refers to fresh fruit or vegetables, for example:

The new automobile factory is not ready to produce cars yet.

The farmer sells his produce from the back of his truck.


To lie can mean either to be in a horizontal position, or to tell something that is not true, for example:

The book lies on the table.

He lied about his age. He said he is 30, but he is older than that.


If you are content, it means you are happy or satisfied with something, for example:

He was content with the movie and settled back to enjoy watching.

Content as a noun usually refers to some material or information that can be found inside something else. It is often used in the plural form (contents), for example:

Oranges have a high content of vitamin C.

The poem had a lot of words, but very little interesting content.

What are the contents of this envelope?

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