One of the most challenging things for learners of English is understanding the difference between words with similar meanings that are used differently. This article includes a list of words(including nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs) that are confused the most often. Each word set is followed by examples to help better understand their use. Knowing the difference between them will help boost your language skills and your confidence when speaking or writing in English.
“Say” and “Tell”
Tell is always followed by a direct personal object (me, her, him, them, etc.). We tell someone something.
- Correct: She told me she was moving to Paris.
Say is not followed by a direct personal object. We say something.
- Correct: She said she was moving to Paris.
- Incorrect: She said me she was moving to Paris.
“Come” and “Go”
We use come to talk about a movement towards the person who is speaking or the place they are talking about. We use go to talk about moving from one place to another.
- Correct: Can you come here, please? (You come where the speaker is).
- Correct: Let's go to the cinema (We go to the cinema together).
“Bring” and “Take”
We use bring when we come to a place with something/someone. We use take when we go to a place with something/someone.
- Correct: When I come to your party, I'll bring a bottle of wine.
- Correct: If I go to Mary's party, I'll take some beer.
“Live” and “Stay”
We use live when we talk about our home. We use stay when we talk about a different place (someone's house, a hotel) where we are a visitor or a guest.
- Correct: I live with my parents.
- Correct: On holiday, we're going to stay in an expensive hotel.
“Many” and “Much”
We use many with countable nouns and much with uncountable nouns. We only use much in negative sentences and questions, not in affirmative sentences.
- Incorrect: I had much money when I was young (I had a lot of money when I was young).
- Correct: I didn't have much money when I was young.
- Correct: How much money have you got with you?
- Correct: Did you take many photos at the wedding?
- Correct: I didn't take many photos, but I made a video.
- Correct: I bought many books on my holiday.
“Must” and “Have to”
We use must and have to to say that it is necessary to do something.
- Correct: I must go to the supermarket.
- Correct: I have to go to work very early tomorrow.
Must can only be used in the present. If we want to refer to the past or future we use have to.
- Correct: Her flight was cancelled so she had to take the train.
- Correct: If we miss the flight, we'll have to take the train.
“Mustn't” and “Don't have to”
We use mustn't to say that something is forbidden/not allowed.
- Correct: You mustn't smoke in the building.
We use don't have to to say that it is not necessary to do something.
- Correct: We don't have to go to school tomorrow. It's a holiday!
“Place” and “Space”
We use place to talk about a specific position or area. We use space to talk about an area in general. Also, place is a countable noun, while space is uncountable.
- Correct: There is no space in my house. I found a good place for all my shoes.
“Have” and “Have got”
We use both have and have got to speak about possessing something or to describe a personal feature.
- Correct: I have a new flat. = I've got a new flat.
- Correct: She has blond hair. = She's got blond hair.
We use have, not have got, to talk about actions in expressions or collocations like: have breakfast, have a shower, have a coffee, have difficulty, have a holiday, have an accident.
- Correct: I have a shower every morning.
- Incorrect: I have got a shower every morning.
Also, have got is not usually used in the past or in the future.
- Correct: I had a pet when I was a child.
- Incorrect: I had got a pet when I was a child.
- Correct: I will have red hair next week.
- Incorrect: I will have got red hair next week.
“House” and “Home”
We use house for the building. We also use it with a possessive (his, her, my, etc.) to say whose house it is. We use home for the place where the speaker lives (or where the person the speaker refers to lives).
- Correct: Mary and I stayed at his house.
- Correct: My sister left home when she was sixteen.
We say be/stay/live at home, and get/go/come/arrive home (at home).
- Correct: She stayed at home last weekend.
- Correct: I arrived home late yesterday.
We say be/stay/arrive at someone's house and go/get/come to someone's house.
- Correct: I didn't go home last weekend. My friend and I went to her house.
- Correct: I arrived home late last night. My friend will arrive at our house tomorrow.
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