Confusing words in English

There are some confusing words in English you should know. Study them and understand the difference in meaning.


effect - affect
fewer - less
imply - infer
lie - lay
who - whom
deny - refuse




Confusing Words in English


deny/refuse
deny: say something is not true, or that you did not do something
"The teenager denied stealing the DVDs from the store." (He said he didn't do it)
refuse: NOT do something; or say firmly that you WILL NOT do it.
"The employee was fired after refusing to do what the manager asked."(He said he WOULD NOT do it.)

afraid/scared/frightened
She's afraid of spiders. - She's scared of spiders.
The loud noise scared me. - The loud noise frightened me.
Describing something:
It was a scary experience. - It was a frightening experience.

staff/employees
People who work at a company.

staff = singular/uncountable, the entire group of workers.(1 thing)
employees = plural/countable, the collection of individual workers (many things)
Examples: The entire staff was happy about the extra day off.
All the employees were happy about the extra day off.
With a specific number use:
Thirty employees received raises.
Thirty staff members received raises.

interfere/intervene
interfere: negative connotaion
Someone/something affects a situation, and you don't want it do: " I wish my mother would stop interfering in my life."
intervene: positive connotation; someone/something affects a situation in a good way: "Bob and Joe were about to start fighting, but Pam intervened and calmed them down."

problem/trouble
problem: countable
trouble: (usually) uncountable
I'm having a problem with the computer.
I'm having touble with the computer.
The bad internet connection caused problems for the students.
The bad internet connection caused trouble for the students.
We have two major problems.

relation/relationship
relationship: connection between people (can be romantic or not)
I've been dating my boyfriend for 3 years; we have a great relationship. He has a terrible relationship with his father.
relationship/relation: connection between things
I'm studying the relationship between education levels and poverty. There's a close relation between smoking and lung disease.
relations: general connections in a specific category

international relations
diplomatic relations
race relations etc.

suppose/supposed to
suppose = think, believe, imagine, expect
"He's not answering his cell phone. I suppose he's already gone to bed; after all, it's midnight."
supposed to = something should be done, but it was not (or is not usually) done.
"I was supposed to go to work today, but I'm sick, so I stayed home." "We're supposed to park our cars in the company garage, but most people just park on the street."

switch/change
change = become different
switch = (more specific): stop using/doing one thing; and start using/doing another
I'm going to change a few things in my life this year. (modify/ make things different)
Could you switch seats with me, so that I can sit next to my husband?
Her personality has changed a lot recently.
I wasn't happy with my Nokia cell phone, so I switched to a Samsung.


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