Unfortunately, I believe that there is no magically easy way to distinguish or remember the meanings of words.
Remembering words is not that different from retaining other information in your brain.
If you encounter something repeatedly(i.e, your brain gets multiple impressions of it), then you get to retain it.
So you just have to keep impressing those words and phrases on your brain so they are not forgotten.
The challenge is that there are so many words, probably in the millions if you count all important permutations.
The key is then how you can keep impressing such a vast and growing set on your brain at regular intervals.
You obviously need an efficient strategy for it.
For me, the best strategy is to read and listen broadly.
You can't beat the quality as well as quantity of information contained in texts - there's no waste like in other media.
If you read diverse texts attentively, you'll encounter words at a rate proportional to their frequency of usage.
You'll hit stem words like "have", "take", "that", "which" and the rest probably dozens of times a day.
And the next tier words maybe a dozen times a week, and the next a dozen times a month, and so on.
This way you learn and retain the words according to their importance.
As you learn and remember them, you also get more familiar with their usage since you always see them in context.
And such a deeper knowledge creates a positive feedback to make learning easier and more fun as you go.
In my mind, this is the best way to cope with the vast vocabulary, far better than any artificial "methods".
So I recommend above all else reading and listening all the time. Try to illicit pleasure from doing it.
If you read regularly, you'll become a learned person in a few years, and remain as such for the rest of your life.