Friday, January 24, 2014


Confusing Words 1

The first day of class in the Spring semester we played a review game covering everything they should have learned from their class in the fall. One of the queries was as follows:
Combine the following sentences:
The cat lives on campus. The cat has stripes.

I look over and see one group talking. They aren't using Spanish (YAY) but one student in the group is visibly confused and begins to mime whirling something over her head. Her classmates quickly laugh and shake their heads, "No... not strip! Stripes" and then they mime drawing stripes on their arms.Important distinction.
If your students need a reminder it may be a good time to cover spelling rules. The "magic e" makes the i says it's own name (long vowel). Without the  "magic e" the i can't make its own name (short vowel)
My students were writing opinion essays on business practices. One student had come to me after class for some advice about his essay against sweat shops. 
First let's start with praise. He correctly differentiated between sweat and sweet (which is something I see native speakers mess up sometimes). 
You can remember the spelling a few different ways.  Some people remember HEAT makes you SWEAT. Others that MEAT is not SWEET (so meat and swee
t use different vowels).
Even though my student got that part right, he did make a small mistake with one of his supporting ideas.
"An example of the horrible conditions of sweat shops is that the women are fired if they are found pregnant. To make sure they are not hiding their pregnancy the sweat shop tastes women to see if they are pregnant."
After I read this I smiled. "So did they lick the workers to see if they were pregnant?" 
He was shocked by the question, but quickly figured out that taste and test were in fact different words.
MEET THE MEAT To end, this one wasn't in my class but a blog comment on an earlier post prompted me to add it.
  Does anyone else think of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when students mix these up?

I am starting to collect commonly missed words, so let me know if you need a visual to help you and/or your students in the comments, by twitter or Facebook.


  1. hi dear
    bear and beer can also be confusing.

    1. Interesting! Not one my students have mixed up, but I can see how that would happen.

  2. My students sometimes confuse message with massage which could be very funny

    1. I had forgotten about that one! I had a student once tweet asking if he could, "massage" me later for the test. :)

    2. Hey Ken, just to let you know message / massage made it in the Valentine's day version:

  3. Farther and further its reminds me of my co teacher he said theses words are not different they are cousin.

    1. They are different, of course. Farther is used for distance while further for information

  4. Some years ago, I used to work for an American Company in Argentina. One day I had to give them some information printed in paper. So, I entered their office and said " Good morning, I'm bringin' you a" piece of shit", I mean the everyday information... ". All of them looked at me without saying a word. Then , I realized my big, big mistake.
    What I wanted to say was " a sheet of paper"..Oh my God!.That was the most embarrasing situation I have experienced ever in my life.

    1. The sheet / shit difference is one I practice with my students A LOT! Sorry you had the embarrassment, but at least you'll never make the mistake again!


Thanks so much for commenting. Due to spam, your comment may not show up right away, but as soon as I get a chance to approve it I will. I promise to be as fast as possible!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...