Choice of Right Words

1.    Occurred or happened

If you say that something ‘occurred’ you mean that it happened:

The accident occurred whilst passengers were waiting to board the plane.

But if you say that something ‘occurred to you’ you mean that an idea came into your mind:

Something suddenly occurred to me while I was waiting for the plane.

Be careful, therefore, no   t to use this expression if you mean that something happened which concerned you. Instead you can say:

Something suddenly happened to me whilst I was waiting for the plane.


2.   On Tuesday afternoon—in Tuesday afternoon

In general we use ‘in’ with the word ‘afternoon’.

In the afternoon we went to a stadium to see a match.

But when afternoon is specified, we have to use ‘on’ with afternoon or any other parts of a day.

I will phone you on Tuesday afternoon.

Collect all stationery on the morning of your exam.

3.   Outset—onset

The onset is a beginning/starting, especially of something unpleasant.

From the onset of a nasty cold, he has been ill.

Outset is a very beginning of an event.

I have been involved with the project from the outset.


4.   Party—person

One of the meanings of the word ‘party’ is a political organization whose members all have the same aims and beliefs, usually one that is trying to win elections to parliament. There is another meaning which might cause confusion to many. 

The guilty party has promised to pay Rs. 50, 000 in compensation. (This is the person who has confessed his or her crime.)

A certain person told me that Binaya voted for Subash Chandra Nembang.

5.   Pass an exam—pass in an exam

The word ‘pass’ is a transitive verb. It always takes a direct object to make complete sense. So the word ‘pass’ is not followed by a preposition. Many Nepalese translate Nepali sentences into English without any modification. Consequently, a common mistake is made.

Ma parikshyama pass bhaye. (‘ma’ a Nepali preposition)

Wrong          I passed in an exam. (Because the word pass does not take any prepositions.)

Right             I passed an exam.

6.   Passage—aisle

Many people are confused of these two words, who unknowingly misuse these words while speaking and writing. The word ‘aisle’ means a passage between rows of seats in a church, theatre, railway carriage, bus, aeroplane, etc. or between rows of shelves in a shop or supermarket:

The bride and groom walked slowly down the aisle (ie after their wedding ceremony).

‘Passage’ or ‘passageway’ is a long, narrow space that connects one place to another:

There is a passage to the side of the house, leading to the garden.

7.   People—peoples

The word ‘people’ itself indicates a plural noun or more than one person, however, we can use write peoples as a plural form of people.

Our school employs over 200 people. (more than one person)

Europe is made up of man different peoples. (all the people of a race)

8.   Plan—think

Do you first think or plan? When you plan, you think and decide what you are going to do or how you are going to do something in advance.

She is just planning her holidays.

When you think, you consider an idea or a problem.

You should think about where you want to live.

9.   Practicable—practical

The word ‘practicable’ means ‘that which appears to be capable of being put into practice; that which appears to be capable of being done.’ For example,

          Kalpana’s plan, I feel certain, is practicable.

The word ‘practical’ means that something is ‘known to be workable or effective.’ For example,

          All of the participants got some really practical advice.

The parliament believes that Amar’s plan, which has never been tried in any form, is practicable. (not practical because the plan has never been implemented)

Note: The word ‘practicable’ is never applied to persons. Only the word ‘practical’ when applied to persons, means ‘realistic’, calculating’, interested in actual conditions rather than in unknown or imaginary practices.’

10.            Read—study

When you study, you engage in the activity of learning, especially by serious reading.

Apekshya is in her bedroom, studying for the upcoming exam.

But when you read, you look at words that are written and say them aloud for other people to listen to.

I always read my children stories at bedtime.

Wrong          Which class do you read in? (because you learn about subjects at school)

Right             Which class do you study in?

11.            Refuse—deny

These two words mean ‘not to accept’ in general. Nevertheless, they have different clear-cut meanings.

When you refuse, you say that you will not do or accept something.

Messi refuses to admit that he was interested in leaving Barcelona.

When you deny, you say that something is not true, especially that you are accused of.

Sampada denied killing her friend at the party.  

12.            Remember—memorize

Remembering is not possible without memorizing. You memorize something well so that you can remember it exactly.

Akhil has memorized all his friends’ birthdays.

If you remember a fact or something from the past, you keep it in your mind, or bring it back into your mind.

I cannot remember the name of the film I saw last month with my wife.

13.            Rent—hire

In UK English you rent something for a long period of time.

Sikha has rent a 2-bedroom flat.

You hire something for a short period of time.

My family hired a car for the weekend.

In US English the word rent is used in both situations.


14.            Ride—drive

You ride a bike, cycle, horse. (small means of transport). When you ride these vehicles, you control them; you are no longer a passenger.

I always ride my bike to work.

She taught me to ride a horse.

You drive large means of transport like a bus, car or truck. (You control them.)

But you ride a bus to work. (as a passenger in US English.)

15.            For sale—on sale

For sale means ‘things offered to anyone anywhere who wants to buy them.

There are three houses for sale near us.

On sale means ‘things are in the shops for people to buy’.

The latest model of this video recorder is now on sale in your high street.

16.            Scene—view

A view is the whole area that you see from somewhere, for example when you look out of a window or down from a hill and see a beautiful place.

Simla had a great view from her window across the park.

A scene is what you see in a place, especially when you are describing a place where something unusual or shocking is happening:

Farsha described the horrific scenes which followed the bombing.

17.            Search for someone—search someone

Many of the students in Nepal use the latter one. If you search a place or person, you are looking for something in that place or on that person.

The police searched the man (looked in his clothes or frisked) for some illegal things at the airport.

If you search for something or someone, you are looking for that person or thing because you have something to do with them.

I am searching for Chiranjibi sir.  (I want to talk to him.)

Students call their teachers by title plus their surnames in the UK. For example,

Mrs Tamang, Mr Limbu, etc.

18.            Sensible—sensitive

Both the words are adjectives to describe how someone is. The adjective sensitive tells others how easily you feel or experience something.

Sambhu is a very sensitive man and gets upset easily.

Sensible is related to making decisions based on reasons rather than feelings and imagination.

It would be more sensible to leave before the traffic gets bad.

19.            Shade—shadow

Shade is the protection from the sun, a darker, cooler area behind something, example a building or a tree.

I am hot. Let’s find some shade to sit in.

A shadow is the ‘picture’ made by something that blocks out light. Moreover, a dark area on a surface caused by an object standing between direct light and that surface:

In the evening your shadow is longer than you are.

The shadows lengthen as the sun go down.

20.            Shift—move

‘Shift’ is one of the most frequently used words by the Nepalese. These two words have almost same meaning; therefore, Nepalese writers/speakers make a blunder. Compare their meanings:

If you shift something, you move that from one place to another. Moreover, we shift something that is movable and small enough to be transported.

We need to shift all these boxes into the other room.

If you move, either you change your position or go to a different place to live or work.

We moved into a new apartment at New Baneshwor. (to change the living place)

We moved the chairs to another room. (to change place or position)

Wrong          Our family have shifted to Biratnagar.

Right             Our family have moved to Biratnagar.
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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