COMMONLY CONFUSED WORDS
by Guy Perring
Common problems in English arise out of the similarity of many of
the words. For example, if halfway through a film you say “I’m
boring”, your date may reply “Yes, you are” and it is unlikely the
rest of the evening will be a success. Remember the rule
” for how you feel and
” for describing
something. So if the film is boring
, you are bored
. A film may be frightening
and you will be
. This rule
applies to numerous pair words such as fascinating/fascinated,
exciting/excited, relaxed/relaxing and surprised/surprising.
Another pair that confuse are borrow/lend
. For example, It has started to rain. Could you _______ me
your umbrella?/Could I _________ your umbrella?
which, tricky, isn’t it? The first gap is lend
and the second borrow
. Probably, the easiest way to
remember the difference is that lend
has two objects one is indirect(
i.e. me) and the other direct (i.e. umbrella), while borrow
only one direct object (i.e.
umbrella). Alternatively, you could remember with Ambrose Bierce’s
definition of an acquaintance:-“A person who we know well enough to
from, but not well
enough to lend
also can cause
confusion. A typical mistake being If we leave now, I can bring you
to the airport. In this example, take
is correct because the movement is
not towards the person speaking. If the movement is towards the
speaker then we can use bring
as in “Come her and bring
me your homework”. Similar
problems arise with come/go
and the guidelines are essentially the same. I say guidelines,
because you will always find exceptions.
Here are a few more examples:-
a)He gave me some good _______ about investing.
b)We will ________ you of any changes later.
a)The new model of car is very ___________.
b)The latest ________ forecast for Malaysia is very positive.
a)Be careful when you comment about his fashion sense. He’s very
b)It is ________ to keep note of your passport number.
See below for answers.
Guy Perring is
Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the British
Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning
opportunities from management and communications skills training to
developing English skills. Contact the British Council in Kuala
Lumpur at 03- 2723 7900 or Penang at 04-263 0330 or visit www.britishcouncil.org.my.
- a) advice
- a) economical
- a) sensitive