similar words in English
English

How to differentiate similar-sounding words in English

Identical words are quite complex. They almost look alike but they differ in their meanings and contexts. We can also say that some English words have twins. When you learn English vocabulary, you come across different words that are identical, but in reality, they are very different from one another.

Synonyms are words that have very similar meanings but slightly different functions or applications. Instead of simply saying the pasta you had last night was delicious, you could spice things up by using synonyms like tasty, yummy, or even mouthwatering.

In addition to synonyms, there are words with the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings (homonyms), words that sound the same but are spelled and used differently (homophones), and words with the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings (homographs).

All these similar words in English are quite confusing and sometimes frustrating as well. We will explore some tips to distinguish these similar words.

1. Use a dictionary regularly

The dictionary is your best language-learning guide. If you are not sure what a word means, look it up in an English-language dictionary.

Keep in mind that a single word can have numerous meanings and applications. A good dictionary or dictionary app will list them all, with context examples. A thesaurus (which lists synonyms for any word) can also aid in the identification of words with similar meanings.

2. Create your own clues about the word

Similar English words can be very complicated, but you can create special cues and images to help you to remember which one is which.

Make an image of something familiar (a person, a thing, or an event) and connect it to the word. When you see the word again, that clue will automatically come to mind, and you will easily remember the difference.

3. Use flashcards to make notes

There are numerous ways to use flashcards as learning tools. Use the flashcard to test yourself by writing the word on one side and its meaning on the other. Flashcards are portable, enabling you to review them when you have free time. Even better, you can create and study with flashcards online.

4. Focus on learning words based on their context

If you only try to remember English words and their definitions, you will quickly become confused. There are several words that are used interchangeably. For example, the words ‘rob’ and ‘steal’ are used interchangeably but their definitions may vary in the dictionary.

The definitions of ‘rob’ and ‘steal’ in the dictionary are:

Rob: “to take personal property from someone by violence or danger”

Steal: “to take the property of another illegally”

Now the two definitions look identical but they vary in their context. To understand the contextual difference, you would need to hear native speakers in real situations. You can also learn the contextual use of English words with italki. Enroll yourself to learn English online with the best and most professional online English tutors who will improve your understanding of similar words in English.

The instructors will help you generate your notes for English vocabulary, parts of speech, conjunction, prepositions, and homophones in English with relevant examples and exercises.

Words having similar spellings but different meanings

Coarse/Course

Coarse: (adjective) a rough, not smooth texture.

Example: Is the upper you are wearing smooth or coarse in texture?

Course: (noun) a series of classes taken to learn about a specific subject.

Example: Are you taking any courses to improve your writing skills?

Race/Raise

Race: (verb) compete in a speed contest, such as running or cycling.

Example: My kids enjoy racing each other in school.

Raise: (verb) lift up something like your hand.

Example: If you want chocolate, raise your hand.

Desert/Dessert

Desert: (noun) a hot, dry land with few plants and people (for example, the Sahara)

Example: If you plan to visit the Sahara desert, how much water would you require?

Dessert: (noun) a sweet dish served at the end of a meal (for example, cake)

Example: Maybe we should have dessert at the end of the meal.

Bear/Bare

Bear: (verb) produce outcomes or fruit

Example: This tree will bear fruits this summer.

Bare: (verb) expose or display

Example: When we opened the gate, John’s dog ran up and started to bare its teeth at us.

Break/Brake

Break: (verb) divide something into pieces or cause it to stop working, usually after dropping or misusing it.

Example: Please do not break this expensive glass.

Brake: (verb) slow down or come to an end

Example: You should press the brake of your car at the signal.

Price/Prize

Price: (noun) the amount of money you pay for something.

Example: I did not buy the dress because its price was very high.

Prize: (noun) something offered to conquerors of a competition or contest.

Example: If you want to get first prize, you must work hard.

Lose/Loose

Lose: (verb) suffer a loss or fail to keep something in your ownership.

Example: Please do not lose these papers or you won’t be able to host the meeting.

Loose: (adjective) not tightly or properly fixed.

Example: She is very thin, and this jacket is loose for her.

Plain/Plane/Plan

Plain: (adjective) average, not decorated

Example: This top is too plain. I am not wearing it.

Plane: (noun) short form of airplane

Example: I am traveling to the USA by plane.

Plan: (noun) a thorough program of action.

Example: My plan is to travel to all the nearby places in a month.

Words in English with Similar Meanings

Rob/Steal

Rob: (verb) take something away from someone forcefully.

Example: someone tried to rob John this afternoon.

Steal: (verb) take something away illegally or without consent.

Example: if I leave my bag in the park, someone will definitely steal it.

Cut/Chop

Cut: (verb) divide something into pieces with a knife or any sharp tool.

Example: Please cut the onion into small pieces.

Chop: (verb) cut into many small pieces with recurrent strokes of a knife.

Example: You must chop the garlic before putting it into the pan.

Lend/Borrow

Lend: (verb) give someone short-term use of something in exchange for it being returned later.

Example: Do not worry if you don’t have money, I can lend you some.

Borrow: (verb) accept or demand temporary use of something in exchange for its return later.

Example: I have a Mathematics test tomorrow, can I borrow your calculator?

Hear/Listen

Hear: (verb) become conscious of a sound.

Example: Did you hear the phone ring?

Listen: (verb) pay attention or be aware of a sound.

Example: I like to listen to music when I am sad.

Ice/Snow

Ice: (noun) frozen water

Example: It is so cold that the car is covered with a layer of ice.

Snow: (noun) tiny white frozen droplets of water that fall from the sky.

Example: Snow is expected tonight.

Amount/Number

Amount: (noun) the total number or quantity, used for innumerable things.

Example: you must use this amount of baking powder in the cake.

Number: (noun) the total quantity of units, used for countable things.

Example: The number of passes sold this month is twice the previous month’s passes.

See/Watch/Look

See: (verb) identify by eye or sight

Example: Did you see him taking the book from the shelf?

Watch: (verb) observe responsively.

Example: we are all set to watch a cricket match tonight.

Look: (verb) cast your eye on

Example:  Please look at this object before you start sketching.

So, these were some words that look similar and can be very confusing. We hope that the differences are clear to you now. Sometimes, we get confused while using similar words. Such as, a majority of people get confused about whether to use to or too. It requires deep observation and plenty of practice to get a command of these words.

Conclusion

If you are learning English, you must make flashcards for yourself. Practice them on daily basis in your conversations with friends and family. You can also read English books and watch English movies or web series to understand the difference between similar words in English.

Most importantly, keenly observe native speakers while they utter such words. It will help you understand the use of different words based on their context.

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