This tag is for questions about the differences in the meaning of two words.

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41
votes
2answers
149k views

“Which” vs. “what” — what's the difference and when should you use one or the other?

Most of the time one or the other feels better, but every so often, "which" vs. "what" trips me up. So, what's the exact difference and when should you use one or the other?
23
votes
3answers
3k views

What is the difference between “lay” and “lie”?

How do I know when to use lay and when to use lie, and what are the different forms of each verb? I'm always getting them confused.
11
votes
4answers
26k views

“I like to do (be) something” vs “I like doing (being) something”

This is what I read in an answer to a previous question: Verbs Followed by Either Gerund or Infinitive Sometimes the meaning changes according to the verb used. <…> (dis)like ...
2
votes
3answers
4k views

Differences between ways to express future actions

I asked this question on a different site but I haven't gotten a useful answer. Could you tell me the difference in meaning between these sentences? Do you think you will visit them next week? ...
14
votes
5answers
10k views

Apostrophe-“s” vs “of ”

I gave a quick answer to part of this question which had not been covered by previous answers, trying to clarify the reason you would say time of decoding but not decoding’s time. I said it was ’s ...
26
votes
3answers
71k views

What's the difference between using single and double quotation marks/inverted commas?

I'm quite unsure regarding the usage of single quotation marks (') and double quotation marks (") in English. I had thought that double quotation marks were usually used to quote sentences from ...
33
votes
6answers
80k views

“Oriented” vs. “orientated”

What are the origins of the word orientated? As far as I know, the correct spelling is oriented and orientated is not an alternative spelling but an error that is in common use. Is it for example ...
4
votes
4answers
8k views

Difference between get “off of” and “off”

What is the difference when you say "get off of something" and "get off something"?
15
votes
6answers
46k views

What is the difference between “nothing but”, “anything but”, and “everything but”?

What is the difference between these phrases? When is it valid to use which? Should they be avoided as being ambiguous?
41
votes
8answers
14k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
14
votes
3answers
66k views

Difference between an acronym and abbreviation?

TLA is an acronym for "Three Letter Acronym". Is it also an abbreviation, since it abbreviates the original phrase?
47
votes
3answers
3k views

“Toward” or “towards”?

Which one should should I use? For some reason I have always used "towards", but I see some people saying "toward", like here: A great deal of his work in economic theory has been directed ...
13
votes
7answers
79k views

Difference between “at” and “in” when specifying location

I am used to saying "I am in India.". But somewhere I saw it said "I am at Puri (Oriisa)". I would like to know the differences between "in" and "at" in the above two sentences.
11
votes
1answer
2k views

Logging in or on?

There are a plethora of words for user accounts, like logon, login, signon, and also the action of logging in (or logging on) or signing in. Are there any usage guidelines here?
30
votes
2answers
2k views

Why are clothes “hung” but men “hanged”?

It is said that clothes can be hung but men are hanged. Is this correct, and if so, why?
10
votes
8answers
19k views

“have” vs.“have got” in American and British English

I have looked through several questions and answers on EL&U, and often there is an indication that American English prefers "have" while British English prefers "have got". In addition, there are ...
8
votes
5answers
43k views

What is the difference between “speaking” and “talking”?

It seems more politically correct to say that someone is speaking rather than talking. What is the definitive difference between these terms?
3
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the difference in meaning between “I play” and “I do play”? [closed]

What is the difference between I play and I do play? For example: If someone were to ask to me, do you play soccer?
10
votes
5answers
46k views

What is the difference between 'can', 'could', 'may' and 'might'?

I'm a native English speaker and I've been doing some research into English grammar for a programme I'm working on. However, on looking into modal verbs, I've only just come to appreciate how subtle ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

How can I distinguish “can” & “can't” from pronunciation?

It's very difficult for me to separate them. I was just listening to some video and it said "Fat cells can’t reproduce themselves." What I thought I've heard is "... CAN reproduce ..." Frankly, ...
11
votes
5answers
12k views

What's the difference between “these” and “those”?

First of all, I'm not a native English speaker, but in school I learned that these is used if referring to something near, and those is used when referring to something far away (temporally or ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a clear delineation between the usages of 'this' and 'that' in American English?

One of my linguistics professors speaks English as a second language, and remarked that she never knows which of the two is appropriate. Given a list of examples, all native speakers in the classroom ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

“All X” vs. “all of X” vs. “all the X”

Is there any difference between "all X", "all of the X", "all the X"? E.g., all friends all of the friends all the friends
3
votes
1answer
5k views

“There is no point in” or “There is not a point in”

I was thinking about these negations. Do these mean the same thing? There is no point in ... There is not a point in ... or: I have no clue I do not have any clue etc.
61
votes
11answers
32k views

What is the difference between an Emperor and a King?

I was at a loss when I was asked recently by my grand-daughter who is a school girl about the difference between Emperor and King. She asked me why Great Britain has King and Queen, while Germany and ...
15
votes
2answers
23k views

“X times as many as” or “X times more than”

Suppose John has 5 sweets. Is there any difference between the following two sentences? Jack has 3 times as many sweets as John. Jack has 3 times more sweets than John. I prefer the first ...
9
votes
3answers
8k views

Rule for using “for” vs. “to”

A Brazilian friend speaks English very well, but has a very unique habit: it seems often that she needs to use "for" but she instead uses "to", and vice-versa. For instance: The present is to ...
13
votes
5answers
24k views

What is the difference between “electric” and “electrical” and their usage?

What is the difference between electric and electrical and their usage? For example, what is the difference between "electrical machine" and "electric machine"?
9
votes
6answers
2k views

Is it absolutely necessary to use “than” over “then” in a comparison?

Do you think you are smarter then me? While this question should be using than...I have to wonder if this is a debatable topic within English or is this cut and dry? If this specific instance is ...
3
votes
7answers
12k views

What is the difference between “anyone” and “everyone” in this context

What is the difference between "anyone" and "everyone" in the following context? For example, Anyone is welcome to do such and such. and Everyone is welcome to do such and such. mean ...
12
votes
3answers
8k views

“Between A and B” or “from A to B”

Suppose we are talking about the numbers 1, 2, ... , 10. When we use the phrase between 1 and 10, do we include the end-points 1 and 10? Is there any difference if we say from 1 to 10 instead?
3
votes
3answers
20k views

When do we use “arrive at” versus “arrive in”?

When do we use "at" and "in" with "arrive" talking about place, not time?
45
votes
4answers
70k views

'Made of' vs. 'Made from'

What is the basic difference between "made of" and "made from." Both expressions are used in English. For instance, "This chair is made of wood," and "Cream is made from milk." Though the question is ...
54
votes
6answers
2k views

How small does a land-mass have to be before you live “on” it, rather than “in” it?

I'm sure virtually everyone agrees that people live on the Isle of Wight, but in Ireland. Apparently the usage depends somewhat on physical size, but that can't be the whole story. How exactly do we ...
50
votes
11answers
7k views

What is the difference between “gender” and “sex”?

What is the difference between gender and sex? Wiktionary says that gender is The mental analog of sex but that's too high English for me. Basically, I'm developing a web-application that stores ...
27
votes
12answers
8k views

“Nothing to tell” versus “nothing to say”

There's nothing to tell. There's nothing to say. Can anyone explain the difference between those two statements and give some examples on how they should be used? I think I do have a basic ...
16
votes
5answers
10k views

What is the distinction between “among” and “amongst”?

It seems amongst is quite often used as a synonym for among but it is supposed to sound more distinguished. Is there any difference in the meaning?
10
votes
2answers
34k views

“Covered with” vs. “covered in” vs. “covered by”

I want to find out the differences in meaning among covered by, covered in, and covered with. For example, what is the difference between: covered with blood covered in blood or the ...
27
votes
3answers
33k views

What's the difference between a gerund and a participle?

What is the difference between a gerund and a participle?
10
votes
3answers
4k views

Usage of “many” vs “many a”?

Can someone please elucidate the difference between "many" and "many a"? In what context of usage should we add an extra "a" beside the word "many"? For example: Many times, I had seen ...
19
votes
9answers
11k views

What are the similarities and differences between “irony” and “sarcasm”?

This seems to be one the long-standing arguments between people on the internet. When is something "irony" and when is it "sarcasm"? And can a quip be both at the same time? Dictionary definitions ...
18
votes
3answers
3k views

Is there a general rule for the prefixation of “un-” and “de-” to words?

Given the different questions we have seen about the prefixes "de-" and "un-", I have grown curious if there is a overarching rule for terms that need undoing. “Unselect” or “Deselect”? “Unregister” ...
9
votes
3answers
2k views

“Backward” versus “backwards” — is there any difference?

The dictionaries I've looked in don't distinguish between these two words, backward and backwards (at least when used as adverbs). Is there some real historical, grammatical or regional difference ...
4
votes
4answers
41k views

“Started to work” vs “Started working”

What is the difference between the following: Things started to work again. Things started working again.
6
votes
7answers
9k views

the difference between fast/quick/rapid

She is a karate coach. She is not very powerful, but she is very quick/fast/rapid. Can I use all three words quick, fast or rapid in the sentence? Could you tell me the different meanings ...
4
votes
2answers
7k views

Should I say 'What I wanted to say is' or 'What I wanted to say was'?

Following Martha's advice I am splitting up a question Compound sentences, the punctuation and mooore. Let's put what I said / wrote something in the past. And now I want to elaborate some key points ...
7
votes
4answers
12k views

What is the difference between “photo” and “image”?

What is the difference between photo and image?
6
votes
2answers
421 views

“Like” versus “as”

Is there any difference between the following couples of sentences? Dress as you would if you were having guests. Dress like if you were having guests. She kissed him goodbye, as usual. ...
30
votes
2answers
21k views

When I should use “assure” vs. “ensure” vs. “insure”?

When is it appropriate to use assure vs. ensure vs. insure?
28
votes
4answers
2k views

When should “farther” and “further” be used?

I know I learned the difference between the usage of farther and further in school, but I can never remember where each one should be used. Can someone help me out here?