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Why are words so confusing?

Read the following sentences. Can you work out what is wrong with them? Perhaps you can easily spot the errors and correct them but are you able to explain what the errors are? Giving this kind of explanation is good language practice : you have to be very precise and clear so that there is no doubt that you understand what the problem is.

My English teacher gave me lots of good advise about the IELTS exam.

Here’s how you would explain the error. Notice the level of detail in the explanation:

Advise is a verb (to advise someone to do something = verb + object + infinitive) but a noun is needed in this sentence. We know this because advise is preceded by an adjective (good) so an adjective+noun combination is needed. This is an example of a confusing word : a word which has a similar meaning to another word but is used in a different way, is related to another word but has a different meaning or one which looks similar to another word but has a different meaning. The noun needed in this sentence is advice.

Advise is used in this way –

Our English teacher advised us to have an early night before the IELTS exam.

Can you give a complete explanation of why the following sentences are wrong?

1. Strong coffee doesn’t effect me at all.
2. There are strong economical arguments for having high taxation at the moment.
3. He was so busy to do his homework.
4. Do you think there is an opportunity of life on Mars?
5. I was standing besides the IELTS examiner.

Think about your explanations. Do they make the errors clear? Have you given good examples of how to use the word used incorrectly? make sure that you note down these confusing words and try to use them correctly in your speaking and your writing.

Why not post your explanations in the comments box? Other users can check them and decide if they are correct or not. Full explanations are here.

There is plenty of material in this book to help you to improve your vocabulary for the IELTS exam. It covers the main vocabulary areas that you need for the IELTS exam.

Cambridge Vocabulary for IELTS includes useful tips on how to approach the IELTS exam tasks and covers especially tricky areas such as the language needed to describe data and processes.


  1. Rita Muller says:

    It is important to see the difference. Some are verb and some noun. There are also adjectives. Looking in a good dictionary can help lot or online. Try putting “effect affect” in Google and you will find the answer. You can do this with all of the words such as

  2. Nancy says:

    Thanks for the share!

  3. […] Repeat step nine!! Surely you can correct and improve one more sentence before you move on to IELTS writing task 2? Have you checked your punctuation? Make sure you have used the correct words. […]

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