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Common Mistakes and Confusing Words in English (Part 1) / Grammar

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Any vs some

Any and some are both determiners. They are used to talk about indefinite quantities or numbers, when the exact quantity or number is not important. As a general rule we use some for positive statements, and any for questions and negative statements,

For example:-

I asked the barman if he could get me some sparkling water. I said, "Excuse me, have you got any sparkling water?" Unfortunately they didn't have any.

!Note - You will sometimes see some in questions and any in positive statements. When making an offer, or a request, in order to encourage the person we are speaking to to say "Yes", you can use some in a question:

For example: Would you mind fetching some gummy bears while you're at the shops?

You can also use any in a positive statement if it comes after a word whose meaning is negative or limiting:

For example:-
A. She gave me some bad advice.
B. Really? She rarely gives any bad advice.


Been vs gone

      been is the past participle of be

     gone is the past participle of go

     Been is used to describe completed visits. So if you have been to England twice, you have travelled there and back twice. If you have gone to England, you have not yet returned.

     ! Now you’ve been and gone and done it!


borrow vs lend

     To lend:

     Meaning: to hand out usually for a certain length of time.

     Banks lend money.

     Libraries lend books.

For example: “My mother lent me some money, and I must pay her back soon.”

     To borrow:

     Meaning: to take with permission usually for a certain length of time.

     You can borrow money from a bank to buy a house or a car.

     You can borrow books for up to 4 weeks from libraries in England.

For example: “I borrowed some money off my mother, and I must pay her back soon.”

     ! For a happy life - Never a borrower nor a lender be.


by vs until

     Both until and by indicate “any time before, but not later than.”

     Until tells us how long a situation continues. If something happens until a particular time, you stop doing it at that time.

For example:

     They lived in a small house until September 2003.

     (They stopped living there in September.)

     I will be away until Wednesday.

     (I will be back on Wednesday.)

     We also use until in negative sentences.

For example:

     Details will not be available until January.

     (January is the earliest you can expect to receive the details.)

     If something happens by a particular time, it happens at or before that time. It is often used to indicate a deadline.

For example:

     You have to finish by August 31.

     (August 31 is the last day you can finish; you may finish before this date.)

     We also use by when asking questions.

For example:

     Will the details be available by December?

     (This asks if they will be ready no later than December.)


don’t have to vs mustn’t

     Don’t have to = Do not have to We have to use don’t have to to say that there is no obligation or necessity to do something.

For example: “You don’t have to do the exercises at the end of this page.”

     Mustn’t = must not is a modal verb used to show that something is not allowed. When you use mustn’t you are telling people not to do things. It has the same force as don’t , as in: Don’t do that!

     For example: “You mustn’t drink if you’re going to drive.”


either vs as well / too

     Either is used with a negative verb when you are agreeing with something someone doesn’t do or like etc.

For example: B agrees with A in the negative

     A - “I don’t like cheese.” B - “I don’t like it either.”

     A - “I haven’t seen Lord of the Rings.” B - “I haven’t seen it either.”

     As well / Too are used with an affirmative verb when you are agreeing with something someone does or likes etc.

For example: B agrees with A in the positive

     A - “I love ice cream.” B - “I love it too.” / “I love it as well.”

     A - “I’ve seen Gladiator.” B - “I’ve seen it too.” / “ I’ve seen it as well.”

fewer vs less

     Everyone gets this wrong - including native speakers. The general rule is to use fewer for things you can count (individually), and less for things you can only measure

For example:

     There were fewer days below freezing last winter. (Days can be counted.)

     I drink less coffee than she does. (Coffee cannot be counted individually it has to be measured).

     !Note - “Less” has to do with how much. “Fewer” has to do with how many.


for vs since

     The prepositions for and since are often used with time expressions.

     For indicates a period of time.

For example:

     I have been working here for 2 years.

     Since indicates a point in time.

For example:

     I have been working here since the year before last.


good vs well

     Good is an adjective. We use good when we want to give more information about a noun.

For example:

     My dog Sam is very good. He’s a good dog.

     She didn’t speak very good English. Her English isn’t very good.

     Well is usually used as an adverb. We use well when we want to give more information about a verb.

For example:

     He usually behaves very well.

     She didn’t speak English very well.

     Note! The exception to this can be when you talk about someone’s health:

For example:

     She wasn’t a well woman.

     and when you describe sensations:

For example:

     This pizza tastes/smells/ looks good.

     If you say “You look good.” It means they look attractive.

     If you say “You look well.” It means they look healthy.

     Note! Younger people might reply to the question “How are you?” with “I’m good.” This is what I call MTV English.


hard vs hardly

     Hard is an adjective. It can mean solid, industrious, or difficult.

For example:

     Heating the clay makes it hard (solid).

     She is a hard (industrious) worker.

     It was a hard (difficult) test.

     Hardly is an adverb and means only just or certainly not.

For example:-

     The teacher spoke so quietly I could hardly (only just) hear her.

     You can hardly (certainly not) expect me to do the test for you!


hear vs listen

     hear is a verb that means to receive or become aware of a sound using your ears, so you don’t have to make an effort in order to just hear something.

For example:

     She heard a noise outside.

     listen is a verb that means to give attention to someone or something in order to hear them, so you make an make an effort in order to hear something properly.

For example:

     She listened to the noise and realised it was only a cat.

     Note! In some circumstances we use hear when we listen to someone or something attentively or officially.

For example:

     I heard a really interesting speech on the radio this morning.

     These people need to be heard.


lay vs lie

     Lay is an irregular transitive verb (lay / laid/ laid - laying). It needs a direct object. It means to put something or someone down (often in a horizontal postion).

For example: “Lay your head on the pillow.”

     Lie is an irregular intransitive verb (lie / lay / lain - lying). It does not take a direct object. It means to rest in a horizontal position1 or to be located somewhere2.

For example: “If you are tired lie here and have a rest.”1

     “Nottingham lies in the Midlands.”2

     Note! Lie also means to say something that isn’t true but it takes the following form (lie / lied / lied - lying).


lay down vs lie down

     Lay down has several different meanings.

     If you lay something down it can mean you officially establish a rule, or officially state the way in which something should be done.

For example:

     Please follow the rules laid down by the administrator.

     If you lay something down your weapons it means you stop fighting.

For example:

     They laid down their guns and surrendered.

     If you lay wine down it means you are storing it for drinking in the future.

For example:

     I laid down this bottle in 1998, it should be perfect for drinking now.

     Lie down means to move into a position in which your body is flat, usually in order to sleep or rest.

For example: “If you are tired lie down and have a rest.”


look after vs look for

     To look after; means to take care of or be in charge of something or someone.

For example: “I often ask my mother to look after the children.”

     To look for; means to try to find something or someone.

For example: “I am looking for my keys. Have you seen them?”


look at vs watch

     In this context look is usually followed by the preposition at.

     When you look at someone or something you are interested in the appearance.

     Generally we look at things that are static.

For example:

     Look at these photos, they’re really good.

     I went to the art gallery to look at the exhibition of paintings.

     Watch is a verb.

     When you watch someone or something you are interested in what happens.

     Generally we watch things that move or change state.

For example:

     I watch TV every night.

     The security guard watched the shoplifter steal the clock.

     Note! If I say to you “Look at him!” I mean for you to check out his appearance. But, if I say to you “Watch him!” I mean it as a warning.


look forward / forwards vs look_

     forward to

     If you look forward / forwards it simply means you are looking ahead of you.

     Look forward to is a phrasal verb.

     When you look forward to something, you feel happy and excited about something that is going to happen.

For example:-

     I always look forward to seeing my family and friends when I travel to England.


loose vs lose

     Loose is an adjective. If something isn’t fixed properly or it doesn’t fit, because it’s too large, it’s loose.

For example:

     My headphones weren’t working, because a wire was loose.

     Lose is a verb that means to no longer possess something because you do not know where it is, or because it has been taken away from you.

For example:

     A lot of people will lose their job if there is a recession.


most vs the most

     Most without an article is usually used as an adjective, which means almost all.

For example:

• They ate most of the cake.

• Most days I go for a jog.

     It’s also used to form the superlative where it goes in front of most adverbs.

For example:-

     He objected to the results of the election most strongly.

     The most is usually used to form the superlative where it goes in front of longer adjectives.

For example:-

     The Miss World competition is held every year to find the most beautiful woman in the world.

     !Note - This is only a general rule - as ever there are exceptions.


most vs mostly

     Most without an article is usually used as an adjective, which means almost all or the largest part.

For example:

     Most days I go for a jog.

     They ate most of the cake.

     It’s also used to form the superlative where it goes in front of most adverbs.

For example:

     He objected to the results of the election most strongly.

     Mostly is an adverb. It’s not used very often. It means generally, mainly, chiefly, usually etc.

For example:

     They’re mostly good people, although they have made a few mistakes.

07 сентября 2010


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