Tricky Pairs and Groups of Words Part One

English has a large number of words that both native and non-native speakers have difficulty using correctly. In our commonly-confused words lessons, we’ve focused on words with similar spellings and/or pronunciations but different meanings. For the next two lessons, we’re going turn our attention to words but whose uses are often confused for other reasons.


Ago and Before

Both of these words express time relationships. Ago tells how far back in time something happened:


I started taking English lessons a year ago.


Before means “earlier than” and goes in front of a noun phrase or clause:


Please complete your homework before the next class.


Ago can be used to express an amount of time while before cannot.


Between and Among

Between and among are irregular comparison words. Between is the comparative, and among is the superlative. Use between when comparing only two things:


Jodi has to divide her time between work and English lessons.


When comparing three of more things, use among:


Jodi has to divide her time among work, English lessons and raising her children.


Bring, Take and Carry

Bring involves the idea of a direction toward a place or person:


Did you bring your textbook to class?


Take, on the other hand, involves a direction away from a place;


Maria didn’t take her cell phone with her when she left the house this morning.


Carry does not include any idea of direction:


            I always carry a few business cards in my wallet.


Come and Go

Come is used when the movement is toward the speaker:


Omar will come to Atlanta for vacation. (The speaker is in Atlanta.)


Go is used when the movement is away from the speaker:


Omar will to go Atlanta for vacation. (The speaker is not in Atlanta.)


Do and Make

Do and make each take certain nouns. While there are no absolute rules for which word takes which noun, there are some general guidelines. Do is typically used to discuss activities involving some kind of work. For example, you might tell someone to do (his/her) homework or remind someone to do a good job. Make is generally used to talk about activities that involve creating something. You can make a comment, make a demand, make a decision, make a mistake, or make a request.


During, While, For, and Since

During and while have the same meaning: through a period of time. During is used before a noun that “names” an event or time period:


He was on his phone during the meeting.


And while is used before a clause:


She was taking notes while the teacher was lecturing.


For is used with an amount of time:


Rick hasn’t seen Mark for five years.


And since is used with a point in time:


            Rick and Mark haven’t seen each other since 2012.


Especially and Special

Especially is an adverb meaning “more than”:


The weather today is especially cold for June in Georgia.

(The month of June tends to be warm in Georgia.)


Special is an adjective meaning “unusual or unordinary”:


We’re having a special staff meeting this Wednesday to discuss the merger.

            (The regular day for meetings is Sunday.)


Farther and Further

Farther is used for distance while further is used for quantity and degree:


My new job is farther from my house than my old one was.


We’ll discuss tricky words further in our next lesson.


Good and Well


Good is an adjective only:


That was a good movie.


Well can be either an adjective or adverb. As an adjective it means “not sick”:


Becky’s aunt isn’t well. She was diagnosed with a serious heart condition last month.


When used as an adverb, well means “in a good or skillful manner”:


Her daughter plays the piano very well.