Confusing Pairs – What’s the difference?

This week, we are going to look at pairs (2) or groups of words that students often confuse. For example, do you know the difference between “borrow” and “lend”? What about “dead” and “died”? Many students are confused by these pairs. Let’s look at them (and more!) to learn the differences.

Dead vs. Died

“Dead” is an adjective. We use it to describe a person who was alive before, but is not alive now. “Died” is a pas verb (present is “die”). We use it to describe what a person does. For example, my grandmother died many years ago. She is not alive now. She is dead.

We also use these words for electronics and appliances when they stop working. For example, “I’m sorry I didn’t call you last night. My phone died.” Here, we mean that the battery died, so the phone had no power. Here’s another example: “We need a new refrigerator. Ours is dead.” This means the refrigerator does not function any more. There is something wrong with it, and we cannot repair it.

Borrow vs. Lend

  • borrow (v) – to take for a short time
  • lend (v) – to give for a short time

I do not have a pencil. I need a pencil. You have a pencil. I want to take your pencil for a moment. I want to borrow your pencil. I ask, “Can I borrow your pencil?” I can also ask, “Would you lend me your pencil?”

Meet vs. See

When I go to a new place with new people, I meet new people. I say, “It’s nice to meet you.” I only say that the first time. When I see someone I already know, I say, “It’s nice to see you.”

(first meeting, at a party)
Ana: Hi, I’m Ana.
Kyle: It’s nice to meet you, Ana. I’m Kyle.
Ana: Nice to meet you, too.

(one week later, at the supermarket)
Kyle: Ana?
Ana: Oh hi, Kyle! It’s nice to see you again.
Kyle: Nice to see you, too.

Remind vs. Remember

Remember only requires one person. When an idea or thought comes into my mind again, I remember. For example, I think, “I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels from the bathroom and put them in the dirty laundry.” Then I go into the bathroom and think, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” Then the thought comes into my mind again. “Oh yes, I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels and put them in the dirty laundry.” When the thought comes into my mind the 2nd time, I remember why I came into the bathroom.

Remind might require two people. When someone helps me to have an idea or thought again, that person reminds me. For example, I think, “I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels from the bathroom and put them in the dirty laundry.” Then I go into the bathroom and think, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” I say to my husband, “Why did I come into the bathroom?” He says, “You are going to get the towels.” Then the thought comes into my mind again. “Oh yes, I need to wash the towels. I will get the towels and put them in the dirty laundry.” When my husband says, “You are going to get the towels,” he reminds me that I am going to wash them. He helps me to remember.

You can put an appointment in the calendar of your phone, and your phone will remind you about the appointment. Your phone helps you to remember.

See vs. Look vs. Watch

  • see (v) – to use your eyes / to take information into your brain with your eyes
  • look (v) – to put your eyes in a specific direction on purpose / to direct your eyes to something / to try to see something
  • watch (v) – to put your eyes on something that is moving / to direct your eyes to a moving object, show, game, etc.

If your eyes function normally, you can see. Light comes into your eyes, and your brain understands images. You do not do this on purpose. It is simply normal if your eyes work normally.

“Look” and “watch” are actions that you do on purpose. You move your eyes because you want to see something (you want your brain to take information in and understand the image). When you put your eyes on something, you look. When you put your eyes on something that is moving or changing for some time, you watch.

Here is an example. A father and his daughter are at a park. The father receives a text message while daughter goes down the slide.

daughter: Dad! I went down the slide! Did you see me?
dad: No, honey, I’m sorry. I wasn’t watching.
daughter: Watch me this time!
dad: Ok!
(Dad receives another text. He looks at his phone.)
daughter: Look, Dad! Watch me!
dad: I saw you that time. Great job!

“Look” and “watch” are like “paying attention” with the eyes. When you move your eyes in a specific direction, you are looking. When you pay attention for a period of time (long or short), you are watching.

Discuss vs. Argue

  • discuss (v) – to talk about
  • argue (v) – to fight with words

You can remember the difference because Argue and Angry both begin with A. Is it possible to discuss something angrily? Yes. We call that arguing.

Your Turn

Choose a pair/group of words you want to practice. Write some sentences or a conversation with them. Ask your teacher if you used the words correctly. You can also write your sentences in a comment, and I will tell you if you have used the words correctly.

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