Vocabulary | Confusable Words

Audio Episode

What is this episode about?

Learn how to use confusable words with similar meanings in different contexts with different collocations in this new Vocabulary episode from English Plus Podcast.

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I am using an automatic transcript service as it is not possible for me to do it on my own and I cannot afford human transcription at the moment. The service claims to have about 95% accuracy, which means there will still be some mistakes, so my apologies for having a less than perfect transcript, but I hope I can afford human transcription soon and I will solve this problem. However, the service is pretty good, and the transcript is almost perfect.


Welcome to a new episode from English plus podcast today. It’s all about vocabulary and we will talk about a very important and very useful topic. And that is confusing words, words that have. Similar meanings or even sometimes the same meaning, but they are used differently. They have different colocations.

[00:00:25] They are used in different contexts. What we are going to talk about today, we will talk about the differences between words like closed and shuts start and begin big, large end and finish and other things in this episode. So without further ado, let’s start right away with our very first pair and that is closed and shut.

[00:00:45] Now, basically they have the same meaning. But they are not used in the same places. They are not used in the same contexts. For example, we say the chairperson closed the meeting at four 30, but we don’t say shut the meeting. Right. You’ve never heard of that. Or we can say, for example, she was rude. She said, shut your mouth.

[00:01:03] Now we don’t say if she is rude, we don’t say, she said, close your mouth. Nobody says that. Right? So we use close for meetings, discussions, conferences, but shut something also means to close, but that is an impolite way of telling someone not to speak. For example. Now a dentist might ask you to close your mouth.

[00:01:23] They wouldn’t say shut your mouth. And when you are a dentist, you don’t say that you can’t be impolite and tell your patient to shut his or her mouth. You say, please close your mouth. And without please, it’s fine. But you say close your mouth, open your mouth, not shut. So shut is generally more informal and it is impolite.

[00:01:40] Now let’s move on to talk about, start and begin. Well, they both have the same meaning, but. Say for example, it was a cold morning and I could not start my car. We don’t say begin here. I cannot begin. The car start is used instead of begin for engines and vehicles, but we say, for example, before the universe began, time and space did not exist.

[00:02:03] So begin is preferred. We’re not saying that start here is wrong, but begin is better in more formal and abstract contexts. Like here. When we talk about before the universe began, it’s a big, an abstract idea and obviously more formal. So we use begin more than we use. Start. Let’s talk about big and large.

[00:02:24] Again, they have similar meanings, but we use them in different contexts or with different colocations. Is that, for example, it was a big decision to make. We don’t say it was a large decision to make, or we say there were some big problems to solve, but you say, for example, I wanted the sweater in the large size, but they only had medium.

[00:02:43] So here you see big and large have the same meaning, but we don’t use them with everything just because they have the same meaning with decisions, with problems. We say big decisions, not large decisions. And with sizes, we can say big sizes to talk about big sizes in general, but to talk about those sizes, the medium, small, and large size.

[00:03:04] Now hear what I’m trying to say is that you have to pay attention, not only to the meaning of the word on its own. You have to pay attention to what co-located with a word as well. Now, of course, I’m not going to cover every single co-location for big or large or start, begin closing shot. And the others that we’re going to talk about in this episode, but I’m just trying to encourage you to ask this question.

[00:03:29] Yes. I know the meaning of this verb or that adjective, et cetera, but does it work in this context? Does it work with this noun or does it work with this verb or with other word? That is a valid question. You need to ask yourself the meaning of the word itself is not enough. You need to know what words go with this word and which contexts can I use this wording now let’s continue.

[00:03:55] We said, we will talk about end and finish again. They have similar meaning, but we don’t use end and finish in the same context. For example, we say the film ended with the hero dying. Or they ended their relationship a year ago. Now they ended their relationship and here means they decided to stop their relationship.

[00:04:14] We don’t say they finished their relationship. Right. But if we want to talk about something, a task or something else we use finish, we don’t say end like homework. If you say I haven’t finished my homework yet, not, I haven’t ended my homework. So you see similar meanings, different contexts, different colocations.

[00:04:31] Now let’s talk about a couple more. We have charge and load. Now, for example, we say, I need to charge my phone. Like we use charge for batteries, electrical items, and it has a quite similar meaning to load, but we don’t use charge. When we want to talk about trucks, vans, ships, or even weapons. We say load, we say, for example, they loaded the truck and drove away not they charge the truck.

[00:04:56] So here, similar meanings, especially when you look up a meaning in a dictionary now sometimes good dictionaries tell you the real difference, or they give you a hint of the context. These words can be used in, but not all the times, especially nowadays, because people look up the meanings of words on their cell phones and they usually get a very basic meaning with not a lot of information about the words.

[00:05:19] So you might get that the word charges the same, like the word load, but imagine saying I need to load my phone. What does that mean? Load your phone, load your phones with photos, maybe, but not charge. You’re talking about electricity here. You need to use charge and you can say you want to charge your weapon unless your weapon is an electrical weapon or something like those weapons we see in star Wars, or I don’t know, but if it’s a regular weapon, you load it with bullets or with shells, et cetera.

[00:05:46] That is a difference between charge and load. What about injure and damage? We say, for example, three injured, people were taken to hospital after the accident here, injure works with words to do with people. But when we want to talk about things, we don’t use injured. Things get damaged, not injured. So we use damage with things we use injure with people, but the meaning of these two words, the basic meaning of these two words is the same, right?

[00:06:13] For example, we say the shop tried to sell me a damage so far, but I noticed that just in time. So at damage so far, not an injured so far, not a damaged person, a damaged person means something else, which is a lot deeper when a person is damaged, like a person is broken, that is from the inside, but we don’t usually use it.

[00:06:33] Don’t go that deep and use injured for people use damaged for things. How about grow and raise. Now we say, for example, grow four crops or plants, but we use res for animals or children. So for example, we say in the South, the farmers grow crops. You’re talking about crops, talking about plants. That’s fine.

[00:06:54] You grow crops. You take care of the crops, you water, the crops, you do whatever it takes to help them get bigger. And then you get the fruits or whatever it is. That you get from these crops. But when we talk about animals or children, maybe we do the same with animals and children. We take care of them.

[00:07:11] We feed them, we nurture them, et cetera, but we don’t say grow. We don’t grow children. For example, we say in the North, the farmers mostly raise cattle again. I said, raise can be used for animals or for children. So, this is also another confused pair. And now to finish up, let’s talk about some words that have the basic meaning of old, but they are different words and they are used in different contexts.

[00:07:34] So to have the meaning of old, we can use the word old itself, the adjective old we can use ancient, we can use antique or elderly. Yeah. If you look them up, of course, a good dictionary will tell you the difference between these words, the different contexts. You can use these words in, but as I said, Google translate is not going to tell you any of that with all due respect to Google translate.

[00:07:55] But Google Translate’s job is just to give you one word for the word that you gave it in English. So it will give you this word in your native language. And usually this word is very limited. Or limiting to what you can do with this word to learning what you can do with this word. So try think about it.

[00:08:15] It might be a good idea. If you look up even online, even if you want to do it online, that’s totally fine. But try to look up in good dictionaries, Oxford, Cambridge Longman dictionary. They’re perfect. Dictionaries. You can use them. Anyway, we’re talking about old, right? So we said that we have old, we have ancient, we have antique or elderly, but obviously we don’t use them all in the same context.

[00:08:37] For example, we say I met an old friend the other day, oldest fine here, or it’s a very old building. It’s also fine. We talk about places. We talk about buildings, old buildings, but what about ancient? What do we use ancient for? Or which contexts do we use ancient in? You say she studied ancient history.

[00:08:57] All right. We’re talking about very old history here. And for history, you can use ancient. Now of course, talking about that, you might think why can’t I use ancient with a building? Of course you can. But when you talk about an ancient building, you’re talking about something historic in nature. You’re talking about maybe the Colosseum in Rome that is ancient.

[00:09:16] But you can’t just say a 60 year old building with no specific or no particular history behind it. Ancient it’s just old. Right? Ancient has an extra layer of meaning to it. And of course it is very old. Or we can say in ancient times, life was very hard. Ancient times. We’re talking about very old times, maybe the times of the Romans or the Greeks, or even before that these are ancient times.

[00:09:42] What about antique? You say the shop sells antique furniture or she collects antique jewelry. Now antique is usually old and valuable. It’s not only old, it’s also valuable because if this furniture is just old and damaged and you just want to throw it away, you don’t say it’s antique furniture, antique furniture.

[00:10:03] It is all the yes, but it is valuable. And the same goes for jewelry, antique jewelry, all jewelry that belonged to some royalty or something that is antique jewelry. Or what about elderly? I would say, for example, I helped an elderly Berson who was trying to cross the road. Now, here, you can say an old person, that’s fine, but usually elderly is more polite than old.

[00:10:28] And you would want to use elderly when you want to talk about old people, because that is more polite. Just like when we say overweight instead of fat. I mean, they’re kind of the same kind. They’re not exactly the same, but it is not nice to say to a person that he or she is fat. That is offensive. That is too direct.

[00:10:47] Sometimes you might want to be a little bit more polite and say overweight. Or we have some other nice words, but this is not the topic of this episode. Anyway, let’s move on and talk about one more thing. What about words? Meaning with no one or nothing else or with nothing similar? So if I have this meaning in mind and I want to choose a word.

[00:11:08] Well, actually you have many words you can use for this meaning with no one or nothing else with nothing similar. If you want this meaning maybe in your own native language, you have just one word for that, but most probably you have more than one word and you use these words in different contexts with different things, with different colocations.

[00:11:27] Now, let me give you some examples about words that have this meaning, but they are different. They are used in different contexts. And even of course, the meaning is slightly different. Let’s start with Donna is a single parent, single parent. Obviously she’s not married, but she has children. So single parent it’s difficult for her to work.

[00:11:46] Full-time. That is one word that has this meaning single, but we can use also lonely. That is different. Of course we say he lives in a very lonely place up in the mountains. The meaning is similar to single, but it’s different. The context is different and it’s a little bit different. There’s a layer of meaning that is different in the sentence.

[00:12:04] Or when we say at first I felt desperately lonely. When I moved from London to the countryside also here, lonely, we’re not talking about a place. We’re talking about a feeling. I felt lonely. Maybe there were a lot of people around, but I felt lonely and it’s different from alone. Right. When we say I live alone, that means there’s nobody else.

[00:12:22] Lonely. I feel that there’s nobody else. Maybe there are a lot of people. Maybe I live with so many people, but I feel lonely. But if you live, if you physically live with other people, you cannot say that you live alone, right. You live alone. That means physically there’s nobody else. But lonely that me spiritually, that’s nobody else.

[00:12:42] So here I live alone, but I don’t like traveling alone. It’s nice to be with someone. We have other words that are close too lonely, single alone. This is like solitary. For example, there was just one solitary figure on the other wise, deserted beach now solitary figure on the beach. That means just one person on their own.

[00:13:04] Just one person. That’s a solitary figure. We don’t say a lonely figure. We don’t know if this person is lonely or not. We don’t say alone because alone usually cannot be used before the now. And we can not say an alone figure. This figure was alone, but that’s kind of awkward. We don’t say that. We say solitary figure that works here.

[00:13:21] That works in this context. What about Sol S O L E. She was the sole survivor of the crash. Everyone else died when we say the sole survivor. That means she was the only survivor. The only one. What about only when you are an only child? For example, I am an only child. Oh, well, I’m not, but that’s an example.

[00:13:42] I’m an only child. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a brother or sister. So if you don’t have any brothers or sisters, you say that you are an only child. Or when we talk about an occasion, one with nothing similar that is unique. This is a unique occasion with three past prime ministers altogether in one room.

[00:14:02] For example, while that wouldn’t be unique, you know, maybe just a coincidence, but it is a unique occasion. So, I guess that would be all for today. Again, my point is not just to talk about these words. Of course, these words are useful and I hope you found some of the words useful. I hope I cleared some of the confusion around some of the words, maybe between begin and start maybe between finish and end, et cetera.

[00:14:25] That might be very useful. I hope so. But the thing that I want you to take from this episode is not only the words that we discussed in this episode, but the manner of thinking when you want to learn new words in English, Ask the next question. Well, the first question, obviously, what does this word mean?

[00:14:43] And usually use a dictionary to learn the meaning of a word. Hopefully not only, or at least you’re not only depending on Google translate again. I love what Google translate is doing and it is very useful, but not when it comes to learning the meaning of it. Single words when you want to learn the meaning of single words, ask the next question.

[00:15:03] The next question is, what can I use this word with? What are the co-location of this word? Is this word countable, uncountable. By reading the examples you see in good dictionaries, you will learn more about the context in which these words are used. So all of these things can be found in good dictionaries.

[00:15:23] As I said, Oxford, Cambridge long banana. Of course, there are a lot of other good dictionaries you can use, but please do not settle only for the single meaning of the word that is usually the equivalent in your own language, which might be right in this context or wrong. That’s what I want you to take from this episode.

[00:15:42] And of course, I also hope that the information I gave you in this episode was useful. Remember, you can find the transcript of this episode and other useful things on our website, English plus podcast.com. You will find the link in the description of the episode. Also, if you like the content we’re creating and you want to help us grow and reach more people and continue not to stop because of any stupid financial reason.

[00:16:03] There’s another link in the description that will take you to our Patrion page. Go to our Patrion page. And become a patron of the show, help us continue, help us grow with your support. Now that being said, this is your host, Danny. I would like to thank you very much for listening to another episode from English plus podcast.

[00:16:20] I will see you next time.


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<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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