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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, “

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.

5. Liquor and liqueur

The word liquor refers to any distilled beverage. However, while liquor refers to a beverage that is anything but sweet, a liqueur is by nature sweet.

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 license is used as a noun. In American English, only the word license is used to describe both the verb and the noun.

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.

8. Permission and allowance

In simple terms, allowance means permission while permission means authorisation when these words are used as nouns. When these words are used as verbs, an allowance means an amount of something that is permitted while permission refers to granting of authorisation for something.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Oxford School of English, Delhi

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Oxford School of English, Delhi

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