English Words that are often Confused #3

First, read English Words that are often Confused #1 & #2.

Today, I’m continuing with English Words that are often Confused: words starting with ‘D’. Take note of prepositions (about, to, on, etc.) which often collate with the confusing words. Using the correct preposition is as important as using the correct word.


This baby is totally dependent on his parents.

Let’s have a look at some confusing words:

a) defective, deficient           

b) deny, refute

c) dependant, dependent         

d) desert, dessert  

e) disinterested, uninterested         

f) drank, drunk


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a) defective, deficient 

♦ defective   adjective: used to indicate a defect,  flaw or damage

Your watch is defective. You should take it back to the shop and get a refund.


♦ deficient – adjective: used to indicate a shortage or lack, especially of something which is important or necessary

Unfortunately, many students exist on a nutritionally deficient diet.

In many countries, people can obtain a driving licence despite being deficient in common sense and knowledge of road laws.


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b) deny, refute


They denied that they were vampires.

♦ deny – verb: to state that something is untrue

Ambrogio and Selene denied that they were vampires.


♦ refute – verb: to prove that a statement is false

They were able to refute the charge of murder as they had been performing at the annual policemen’s ball at the time of the alleged vampire attack.


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c) *dependant, dependent   

♦ dependant – noun: a person, usually a child, who depends on or needs someone for support or financial aid.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have four dependants, aged from six months to six years.

♦ dependent
– adjective: needing someone or something for support

    Many adult children are still financially dependent on their parents.

      Baby mammals are dependent on their mothers, often for years.


Note: To help you remember: the word ‘ant‘, which is in dependant, is also a noun.

* Dependant is British English spelling for the noun only. American English uses dependent for both the noun and adjective.


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d) desert, dessert

♦ desert – noun: an area in which very little vegetation, if any, can grow because of lack of rainfall.  

The original meaning of the word desert is an abandoned or desolate area.

The Sahara Desert covers an area of about 3.5 million square miles.


♦ dessert – noun: a sweet pie, icecream, cake, fruit salad etc. served at the end of a  meal. 

‘My favourite dessert is Pavlova with
passionfruit. Yours?’

‘I love icecream with chocolate sauce, icecream with fruit, icecream with cake; in fact, I love any dessert which has icecream!’ 


Note: My way of remembering which word has two ‘s’ might be helpful for you: at school, I had a friend, Andrea, who always wanted two scoops of icecream for dessert!


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e) disinterested, uninterested 

♦ disinterested – adjective: impartial, unbiased
To describe a person as disinterested is to provide a great deal of information about that person. It means that he or she is not simply unbiased, but also is not motivated or influenced by selfish interests or personal gain. 

It is a growing concern that so many court judges hold strong political views which may affect their sentencing. All judges should be disinterested in every case in their courtroom.


♦ uninterested – adjective: not interested

My husband enjoys watching football, cricket, and golf on television, and would love me to join him but I am totally uninterested.

Note: It is not surprising that disinterested is often confused with  uninterested when the media, as well as some modern dictionaries, increasingly use them both to mean not interested. Languages change and evolve, and English is no different. However, my concern is that if disinterested ends up meaning not interested simply because people don’t know the difference, we will lose a concise, meaningful English word. Forever. 


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f) drank, drunk

We drank a toast to our future together.

♦ drank: verb – past tense of the verb ‘to drink’

We drank a toast to our future together.


♦ drunk: verb – past participle of the verb ‘to drink’ – used with auxiliary verbs havehas, and had

Have you ever drunk Cava? It’s a luscious sparkling wine made in Spain.

Who has drunk too much on New Year’s Eve? Not me. Never!

When I arrived at the office Christmas party, I was dismayed to learn that the new employees had drunk all the champagne!


♦ drunk: adjective 

We drank a lot of champagne at our wedding but we didn’t get drunk. No-one wants to see a drunk bride!

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** If you would like to receive all my future posts explaining confusing words, as well as other helpful English information, just click on ‘Follow’.

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This entry was posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to English Words that are often Confused #3

  1. Pingback: 4 คู่คำศัพท์ในภาษาอังกฤษที่ชวนสับสนงุนงง ขึ้นต้นด้วยตัวอักษร ‘D’ | Scholarship.in.th

  2. Dakota K says:

    Thanks for writingg this


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