My Facebook posts about confusing words continue to be popular so here are some more for you. If there are any words that you find confusing, you can write them in the comments and maybe I’ll include them in my next post!
IN TIME and ON TIME
on time = at the arranged time, not late, punctual
The 3.30 train arrived on time. (Probably AT 3.30)
If you have a job interview, it’s really important to be on time.
in time = early enough, with enough time to do something, before it’s too late
They arrived in time for the 3.30 train. (Probably BEFORE 3.30)
I arrived at the cinema in plenty of time to get a good seat.
The police arrived just in time to catch the thief.
I’m getting married next week! Are you sure my dress will be ready in time?!
My husband always tries to get home in time to read the children a story before they go to bed.
Notice how we usually say in time + to + verb or in time + for + noun
“Just in time” and “in plenty of time” are common phrases too.
ASSURE, ENSURE and INSURE
assure = promise that what you are saying is true, make somebody certain
I assure you that you are making good progress, even if you can’t see it yourself.
£200?! But we were assured that it would cost less than £100!
assure = to make yourself feel certain or confident
I have to assure myself that the doors are locked before I go to bed.
I checked my pockets to assure myself that I’d remembered my phone.
ensure = to make sure, to check
I always ensure that the doors are locked before I go to bed.
You should ensure that your passport is up-to-date before you book a holiday abroad.
So “assure” is more about feelings - making yourself or somebody feel safe or confident.
“Ensure” is more about actions - doing something to make sure that something will happen.
insure = to buy insurance to protect yourself against financial risk. You pay the insurance company an annual fee and then they give you money to pay for your costs if something bad happens, like a car accident.
If you drive a car in the UK, you have to insure it. It’s the law.
She insured her house against theft and accidental damage.
The above is British English. In American English, “insure” is a possible alternative spelling for “ensure”. If you use the British spelling, you will be correct in both countries!
ANYMORE, ANY MORE, NO MORE and NO LONGER
In British English, “any more” is always two words. That should make it easy to remember except that I see the American “anymore” when I read American English and I forget which way round it is! There are two meanings:
any more (1) = extra, an indefinite quantity (determiner)
Do you have any more questions?
I really shouldn’t have any more cake!
He doesn’t want any more lessons.
There isn’t any more milk.
any more (2) = any longer = it was true in the past but it isn’t now (adverb)
I don’t eat meat any more. I’m a vegetarian now.
I can’t wear these trousers any more. I’ve put on too much weight!
He doesn’t drive any more.
In American English, this second meaning is usually written as one word: anymore
no more = not any more (determiner)
If there are no more questions, we can move on to the next part of the lesson.
There’s no more milk.
no longer = not any more (adverb)
I no longer eat meat. I’m a vegetarian now.
I can no longer wear these trousers. I’ve put on too much weight!
He no longer drives.
To really understand all this, you need to understand the difference between “no” and “any”.
No = not any
I have no free time = I do not have any free time.
I have no sisters = I don’t have any sisters.
ACCEPT, EXCEPT and EXPECT
Be careful with “accept” and “except”. They sound similar but the meaning and spelling are different.
Be careful with “except” and “expect”. They have the same letters but not in the same order!
1. take something that somebody gives you
He accepted the money.
2. agree to do something
He accepted the job offer.
3. decide there’s nothing you can do
He accepted the situation.
1. but not, to introduce the only one about which the sentence is not true.
She eats everything except fish.
2. but, to say something is almost true apart from one thing
She has the same car as me except hers is blue.
1. to think something will happen
I expect to finish this by Friday.
2. to want or demand that somebody will do something
I expect my students to do their homework
3. to be waiting
She’s expecting a parcel this afternoon.
ADVICE, ADVISE, PRACTICE, PRACTISE, LICENCE and LICENSE
In British English, the rule is the same for all of these words.
Use C for a noun and S for a verb.
advice = opinions or suggestions about what somebody should do (noun)
Can you give me some advice?
advise = to give advice (verb)
What would you advise me to do?
practice = the act of doing something repeatedly in order to improve (noun)
Practice makes perfect!
practise = to do something repeatedly in order to improve (verb)
He is practising the piano.
licence = an official document that gives you permission to do something (noun)
Do you have a driving licence?
license = to give somebody a licence (Verb - usually passive)
This restaurant is licensed to sell alcohol.
We also use a C when the word is used in a compound noun, like “advice bureau” or “practice exercise”.
Note that “practice” and “practise” are pronounced the same way. “Licence” and “license” also sound the same. But “advice” and “advise” sound different. “Advice” has an S sound but “advise” has a Z sound.
In American English, if they sound the same, they are spelt the same too. So it’s always “practice” with a C, whether it’s a noun or a verb, and it’s always “license” with an S.
“Advice” (noun) and “advise” (verb) is the same in American English as in British.
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