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

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62
votes
2answers
313k 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?
28
votes
3answers
7k 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.
13
votes
4answers
47k 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 &...
21
votes
5answers
21k 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 ...
8
votes
4answers
13k views

Difference between get “off of” and “off”

What is the difference when you say "get off of something" and "get off something"?
44
votes
6answers
167k 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
6k 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? ...
53
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
35
votes
6answers
178k 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 ...
19
votes
9answers
73k 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 ...
27
votes
3answers
116k 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?
19
votes
5answers
8k 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 that . ...
15
votes
6answers
110k 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 ...
20
votes
2answers
57k 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 ...
24
votes
6answers
105k 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?
16
votes
1answer
6k 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?
22
votes
5answers
52k 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"?
3
votes
2answers
4k 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?
46
votes
10answers
38k 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 ...
31
votes
3answers
65k views

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

What is the difference between a gerund and a participle?
57
votes
7answers
24k views

Which is the correct spelling: “grey” or “gray”?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
59
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 ...
20
votes
9answers
42k 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 ...
17
votes
3answers
50k views

What is the difference between metonymy and synecdoche?

What is the difference between metonymy and synecdoche?
29
votes
4answers
3k 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?
16
votes
7answers
258k 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.
22
votes
4answers
47k views

What's the difference between “informal”, “colloquial”, “slang”, and “vulgar”?

It seems many people get confused about the differences (and similarities) between "colloquial" and "slang", so what exactly does each term apply to? But to be even more thorough it seems to me we ...
22
votes
5answers
18k 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?
13
votes
5answers
83k 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?
12
votes
3answers
4k 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, that'...
11
votes
5answers
18k 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 locally)...
34
votes
7answers
12k views

Using “utilize” instead of “use”?

My friend has been raising a ruckus about the abuse of the word "utilize" in place of the word "use." He complains that it just makes your sentences sound pretentious. u·ti·lize [yoot-l-ahyz] verb ...
5
votes
7answers
30k 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
46k views

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

When do we use "at" and "in" with "arrive" talking about place, not time?
3
votes
1answer
7k 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.
15
votes
2answers
67k 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 ...
6
votes
1answer
2k 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
12
votes
3answers
18k 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?
9
votes
3answers
109k views

Difference between “think of” and “think about”

Is there a difference between "think of something" and "think about something"? I've also met "have heard of/about something".
2
votes
1answer
204 views

Leave something vs. forget something

Can you forget something somewhere? I expect that much more common is I have left my book at home. But, based on other languages where it is quite common (and based on the fact that I somehow ...
30
votes
4answers
25k views

Is it “despite” or “despite of”?

Should I always use 'despite' instead of 'despite of'?
50
votes
4answers
152k 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
25k views

“It could/might/may be funny” — what is the correct usage?

What is the difference in meaning in these three sentences? it might be funny it could be funny it may be funny The answer was partially touched on in this post.
55
votes
11answers
11k 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 ...
31
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?
27
votes
12answers
16k 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 ...
9
votes
5answers
13k 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 ...
12
votes
3answers
17k views

Is there any difference between “color” and “colour”?

What is the difference between color and colour?
11
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...