Choice of Right Words

  1. Fun—funny

The fun can be a noun and an adjective. Its meaning is enjoyable or entertaining in terms of adjective. Use ‘fun’ to talk about something which you enjoy doing.

There are lots of fun things to do here.

Travelling is fun.

A funny thing makes you smile or laugh. Use ‘funny’ to describe something which makes you laugh.

The film I watched two days ago was really funny.

This is a funny story.

  1. Get on a van—get into a van

It is said that even native speakers of English are not good at the use of prepositions. Some of the prepositions are fixed with words, which have to be memorized by learners. There is no definite rule to follow. You always get into or get out of a small means of transport like a taxi, van, small boat, care etc, but you get on or get off a large means of transport such as bus, train, plane, etc.

David should quickly get into the van.

Sophiya quickly got out of the taxi at the airport.

  1. A gold watch—golden watch

Generally the noun simply names the material something made of, while the adjective has a more metaphorical meaning. But in older English, the of-structure was common. For example, a bridge of stone, a rod of iron, etc.

Right                       I bought a gold watch.

Wrong                              She bought a golden watch.

My friend bought a watch of gold. (not acceptable in modern English)

  1. Graceful—gracious

Graceful means attractive or pleasant. We use it especially to describe the shape or movements of a person or animal:

Shambhu is a graceful dancer.

I was enthralled by the graceful movement of a deer.

But we can also use it to describe people when they are sorry for something or are accepting defeat:

He made a graceful apology.

We use gracious to describe people’s manners. It suggests an important person being polite to someone less important:

The queen thanked them graciously.

  1. Happen—occur

Happen refers to accidental or unplanned events. Happen is also used to talk about one event resulting from another:

What happened at the meeting last night?

What happened when you told him the news? (What was their reaction?)

Something suddenly occurred to me while I was writing. (I had an idea)

  1. Hard—hardly

When you mean ‘with a lot of effort or force’, you should use the adverb hard, not ‘hardly’.

My brother worked very hard to pass the SLC with flying colours.

Hardly means ‘only a very small amount’.

I was so tired that I could hardly walk.

Wrong          I kicked a ball hardly. (Because a lot of effort has been applied.)

  1. Hear—listen to

Use ‘hear’ when you want to say that sounds, music, etc come to your ears. You can hear something without wanting to.

Sandip could hear his music though the wall.

Use listen to when you want to say what it is that you are trying to hear.

The audience listened to the speaker. (The audience wanted to hear what speaker was saying.)

  1. An herb—a herb

British people pronounce the first letter, too. Therefore, they use ‘a’ with herb, whereas the American drop ‘h’. So, they use an with herb. Whether you would like to use a or an relies on which pronunciation you follow.

Aditya went to a herb garden for some research. (UK English)

Samyami went to an herb garden for some research. (US English)

  1. Historic—historical

Some pairs of words ending in –ic and –ical have different meanings.

Historic means ‘having a long history’ or ‘being remembered in history’, but historical means ‘something that happened in the past’ or ‘relating to the study of history’.

I took a photo in front of a historic building.

I read a historical novel.


  1. House—home

Many speakers of English use these two words synonymously; however, it is good to use these words for different purposes.

A house is a building where people live, usually one family or group but they don’t have any emotional attachment. A house can also be a building where commercial activities are held.

We went to my uncle’s house for dinner.

A home is a place where you live or feel you belong because you were born in the place. You have emotional attachment.

He left home when he was only sixteen because of the family quarrel.

  1. Illness—disease

Illness is a general word for a period of not being in good health.

She died unexpectedly after a short illness.

A disease is a specific illness with a name:

Measles is the most devastating of all the major childhood diseases. It can also be used with certain organs of the body.

A healthy diet and regular exercises can help prevent heart disease.


  1. Imply—infer

          The words ‘imply’ and ‘infer’ should not be used synonymously. ‘Imply’ should be used by speakers and writers, whereas ‘infer’ should be used by listeners and readers. Imply means to suggest or show something, without saying it directly. For example,

You are implying that I am very fat.

          My friends imply that I am little fussy. (They just drop some hints about my choices.)

          Infer means to guess that something is true because of the information that you have. For example,

          One of my students inferred that the speaker in the poem was a Democratic.

          I inferred from the number of cups that he was expecting visitors. (I guessed so because there were many cups.)

  1. Invent—discover

When you invent something, you design or create something that has never existed before.

We invented a new video game.

If you discover something, you become the first person to find something.

Columbus discovered America. (America was not invented by Columbus.)

  1. In front of—in the front of

If you are in front of a place, vehicle etc you are outside it.

We stood in front of her car so that she couldn’t drive off.

If you are in the front of a place, vehicle, etc you are inside.

Her husband was sitting in the front of the car. He looked quite frightened.


  1. Job—task

‘Job’ is a general word and may be difficult or easy, pleasant or unpleasant:

My wife has a few jobs to do in the house this morning.

‘Job’ can also mean an occupation:

She’s had the same job for five years.

A task is usually a small job which you may not enjoy, and may not want to do.

The teacher gave the children some holiday tasks.

‘Task’ can also mean something important that must be done in order to achieve something bigger in the future.

The police face a very difficult task dealing with the increase in violent crime.

  1. Journey—trip

A journey can be a long or a short distance; a journey is one particular movement from one place to another.

A 500-mile journey is very fun.

A trip is a journey to a particular place and back.

We took the kids on a trip to Nagarkot.

Amar Bahadur Sherma (ELT)

Mr Sherma is HOD of English at Euro School, Online English Teacher and Content Writer at MiDas Education, English Textbook Writer at KEDC and Editor-in-Chief of Writers' Diary.

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