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Confusing words

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Let's take a look at 5 pairs of words that English learners get confused by. Remember if you have a problem with any words or anything to do with the English language, you can post your questions on our forum and we'll try and answer them.

fun and funny

Both of these are positive adjectives.

fun: something that is enjoyable. Something that we enjoy.

'Going to the park with friends is fun.'

funny: something that makes us laugh is funny.

'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.

'Try not to lose this key, it's the only one we have.'

Not to win or draw (tie) in a game or sport. To be beaten.

'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.

'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.

'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.

'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.

'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.

'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.

'Can I borrow your pen, please?'


Link: Improve your vocab quiz

  • I enjoyed the amusement park. It was a lot of ___.

  • Your brother is so ___. How does he remember all those jokes?

  • Be careful with that jar. I think the lid is ___.

  • We don't play cards for money so it doen't matter if I ___.

  • Can I offer you a piece of ___?

  • The bank will ___ you on which account is best for you.

  • I was ___ when I called my neighbour by the wrong name.

  • I am ___ over my governments treatment of political prisoners.

  • Don't ___ him your pen; you'll never see it again.

  • I tried to ___ my brother's hammer, but he said 'no'