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Confusing English words

by John January 20, 2021

There are quite a number of confusing English words, which can be frustrating. Sometimes when we are talking to somebody, we get the wrong end of the stick!

To clear up any misunderstandings it is important to know the difference between words that are similar but different.

Some such words are: See, Look, Watch etc.

In today’s blog, from Central School of English, we will help you to avoid mixing them up.

Look at, Watch and See

Do you ever mix up the words “Look at”, “watch” and “see”?

It’s true that they are similar. We do all three actions with our eyes but they are slightly different.

We look at something which is still. In other words, we look at objects that are not moving.
We can look at a painting. We can look the wall. We can look at the stars.

However, we use watch for something that is moving.
We can watch a movie. We can watch a race. We can watch the clouds float by.

Both look at and watch are active verbs, meaning we do the action intentionally.

See, on the other hand, is an inactive word. It is something that happens without intention.

See can be used for both things that are still, and things that are moving.

We can see a show on TV. We can also see clothes in the window of a shop while we are passing by.

Look at, watch and see

We use to look at for something that is still.

We use to watch for something that is moving.

We use to see for something that is moving or still when we see something unintentionally.

Speak and Talk

Speak and Talk are some more words that people confuse.

So, what’s the difference?
First of all, Speak is more formal than Talk.

“Karen asked to speak to the manager.”

“I talked to my girlfriend for hours yesterday.”

Another difference is that we use speak for languages, whereas we do not use talk for languages:

“I speak English”

I talk English

Speak and talk

We use to speak for languages.

I speak English.

Test Yourself

Make sentences for the following situations using the correct verb.

Example: When I came home last night, I turned on the TV and _______ a comedy movie.

Answer: watched/saw

 

  1. The students went to the National Gallery museum and ________ some paintings.
  2. Every day, Simon leaves his house to go to work and when he comes back home he ________ some milk back.
  3. Marina had a job interview. When she arrived at reception she asked to _____ to the manager.
  4. If you study hard, you will be able to ______ English fluently.

Bring and take

Lastly, bring and take are words that also cause some confusion in the English language.

These verbs are almost the same but the correct verb depends on where the speaker is when they say them.
They describe moving things from one place to another.
If we are talking about a different place than we are in at the moment i.e there, we use take.

For example, If I am at home and I talk about the city centre I will use, there, and so I can say:

“Later, I will take my bag to the city centre to do some shopping.”

If I want to talk about here, i.e home, where I am now, I can say:

“When I finish shopping I will bring the shopping back home.”

So, bring means carry here, whereas take means carry there.

Test Yourself

Choose the correct verb to complete the sentences.

1

Confusing English words

1 / 8

When I leave my house to go to work, I _______ my lunch with me.

2 / 8

She would like to be able to _________ French as she thinks it is a very beautiful language.

3 / 8

When I go to the cinema, I always _____ comedy movies.

4 / 8

If you go out for lunch, could you ______ a coffee back for me?

5 / 8

If you go out for lunch, could you ______ a coffee back for me?

6 / 8

While Eoin was sitting on the bench, he ________ a police car race down the road.

7 / 8

Sometimes, it’s nice to sit on a bench and ______ people passing by.

8 / 8

Marina likes to ________ objects and paint them.

Your score is

Phrasal Verbs

To clear up: To help people understand when they are confused. Example: The president cleared up the confusion about the new law.
To mix up: To confuse things with each other. Example: Sorry Sally, I mixed you up with Sarah because you are identical.
To pass by: To travel past something. Example: I passed by your house yesterday.

Idioms

Get the wrong end of the stick: to misunderstand something. Example: Michael got the wrong end of the stick and arrived a day early for the interview.

Test Yourself

Complete sentences using idioms and phrasal verbs from this post.

1

Quiz

1 / 4

Mark gave a speech to ___________ the confusion about the new facebook app.

2 / 4

Stefani ________ the shop on her way home after school.

3 / 4

John wished her a 'Happy Birthday', but it was actually her mam's birthday. He ____________________.

4 / 4

He arrived on the 7th of January instead of the 8th of January because he __________ the dates.

Your score is

Did you enjoy our post? Check out about more confusing words and grammar in our grammar section.

Thank you for reading our post. You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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