Be careful how you use these words

Fewer vs Less

The difference between these words is that less is used with singular or uncountable nouns and fewer with plural nouns.

  • There are fewer cars (plural noun) in the parking lot this morning.
  • There is less money (uncountable noun) in the piggybank than there was a week ago.

Much vs Many

Much is used with uncountable nouns while many is used with countable nouns. Pay attention to one thing though, much and many are mostly only used in negative sentences or questions.

  • There isn’t much time left. (negative sentence)
  • How much time do we have left? (question)
  • There aren’t many people here today. (negative sentence)
  • How many people are at the party? (question)

Tip: In a positive sentence, use the words a lot of/several/some

  • We have some time left. (positive sentence)
  • There is a lot of time left. (positive sentence)
  • There are several people here today. (positive sentence)
  • There are a lot of people at the party. (positive sentence)

Lend vs Borrow

This is a mistake a see a lot from my German students. Borrowing means you take something from someone temporarily; lend means to give something and get it back.

  • I lent you my phone. You borrowed my phone.

Note: be careful with these words when asking a question. The word changes depending on who the subject in your question is.

  • Can you lend me your car? (Can you give me your car temporarily?)
  • Can I borrow your car? (Can I take your car temporarily?)

Person vs People

In German, you say zwei Personen, but in English we say, “two people”.

  • 1 person is eating currywurst.
  • 2 people are eating schnitzel.

Good vs Well

Good is an adjective and well is an adverb. That means good modifies nouns=something can be or seem good. Well modifies verbs=an action can be done well.

  • The movie was really good. (good modifies the noun movie)
  • You did that really well. (well modifies the verb to do)

Note: When we talk about health, well can be used as an adjective. I feel well=I’m healthy. I feel good=I’m happy

Everybody vs Everyone

This is an easy one. Everybody is used in informal settings, and everyone is used in formal settings.

  • Is everybody ready to party?
  • Has everyone arrived at the meeting?

Guarantee vs Warranty

I also get this mistake a lot from my German students. Guarantee can be both a noun and a verb. Warranty can only be used as a noun. The simplest way to explain it is that guarantee is the promise someone makes that their product or service is of a good quality. The warranty is the legal contract that holds the maker of a product responsible to repair or replace a defective product or its parts.

  • I guarantee that this product works.
  • I got a two-year warranty on my new Macbook.

Excited vs Exciting

This one is a bit tricky. Excited is an adjective that describes when someone feels happy about something. Exciting is an adjective that means something is making you excited.

  • The dog was so excited when I got home. (The dog was happy)
  • This project is exciting. (This project makes me excited)

Do you know any other similar words that have a different meaning? Share them in the comments section below.

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