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There are many words in English which have similar meanings but are often used in very different ways. Also, there are words that are often confused for each other because of similar pronunciation or spelling. It can be difficult to figure out if you are using the right word. Never fear, I am here to help you out. Let’s look at some examples:

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Assume and Presume – The difference here is that assume means to accept something as true before you have proof, whereas to presume means to suppose that something is true or take something for granted. These are very similar words but are used slightly differently.

For example,

. I assumed that the shop would be open, but when I arrived I discovered that it wasn’t.

. Ten people are missing from the plane crash, presumed dead.

Sleep and Slip – The difference between Sleep and Slip is that sleep is when we close our eyes at night for rest and slip is when we lose our balance on a slippery surface.

For example,

. I go to sleep at midnight.

. I slipped on the icy road.

Beer, Beard, Bear and Bird – These words seem to be confused by many students and it is mainly a pronunciation issue. Beer is a drink and has a similar sound to the word Ear. The hair that is on your face is called a beard and it also has a similar pronunciation to Ear. A bear is a large animal and we pronounce it like Air. And a bird is an animal that can fly and it has a sound similar to Birth. Try listening to these words being spoken by a native speaker to hear the difference.

For example,

. I like to drink a beer at the end of the week.

. Abraham Lincoln had an impressive beard.

. Polar Bears are used to cold weather.

. The Wedge-tailed Eagle is one of the most majestic birds in the world.

Super and Supper – These are two other words where pronunciation is an issue. Super, which means something is very good, has an ooo sound, whereas supper, which is the last meal of the day or a late night snack, has an uh sound.

For example,

. The last Star Wars movie was super.

. I sometimes have soup for supper.

Accept and Except – These two words also sound very similar but have very different meanings. The verb to accept means to agree to receive or do whereas the preposition or conjunction “except” means not including.

For example,

. I accepted his apology.

. I was willing to work every day, except for Sundays.

There are many words which have these problems and it takes practice to learn them and their uses, but they will start to make sense when they are used in the correct context and if your English speaking friends can help you out from time to time.
K. Charles

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