English Words that are often Confused #4

First, read English Words that are often Confused #1, #2, & #3.

Today, I’m continuing with English Words that are often Confused: words starting with ‘E’. If you would like to receive all my future posts explaining confusing words, just click on ‘Follow’.


Let’s have a look at some confusing words:

a) edible, eatable
     b) effect, affect
c) eminent, imminent
     d) endure, tolerate
e) enormity,  enormous
     f) especially, specially

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a) edible, eatable

♦ edible – adjective

♦ eatable – adjective

 Avocado are edible and this one will remain eatable for perhaps two more days.

I always thought that avocados were vegetables.  In Australia, they are served in salads, on toast, with seafood, and in dips like guacamole. I was surprised to hear my Brazilian students call them fruit! They eat them as a sweet and in drinks. They concluded that Australians were strange!

We all agree that avocados are edible: they can normally be eaten. (The stone in the centre is not edible. It is inedible.) However, that now decaying avocado you put in the fridge a month ago is not eatable! ‘Eatable’ refers to the condition of food.

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 b) effect, affect

♦ effect   noun

Looking at baby animals, especially baby elephants, usually has a positive effect on people.

Were you impressed with the special effects used in the movie Avatar?

Note: ‘Effect’ can also be used as a verb but take care. While ‘affect means ‘to change’, ‘effect’ means ‘to bring about/cause’ a change. It is usually used in formal speaking and writing. I advise consulting a dictionary if you wish to use ‘effect’ as a verb.

The President hopes to effect new laws to deal with drug trafficking.


♦ affect   verb (used with object: this means that the subject  changes or affects the object something or someone)

In France, the extremely cold winter of 2018-2019 affected many vineyards
Do you believe that your thinking affects your actions?         樂

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c) eminent, imminent

eminent – adjective: meaning distinguished, high-ranking, famous

scientists around the globe are working day and night in the search for a vaccine for the Wuhan Coronavirus. 




♦ imminent – adjective: meaning likely to happen soon, impending, threatening

Despite the fact that Mount Etna is an active volcano and eruptions are imminent, many people continue to live on its slopes.

Mt Etna, Sicily

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d) endure, tolerate

♦ endure – verb: usually indicating suffering or ongoing misfortune, often in silence

During war times, the populace endure extreme hardships, especially food shortages.

♦ tolerate – verb: to put up with, to allow something to continue, with some approval; often used in the negative

I tolerate  a lot of questionable behaviour from my students: forgetting to do homework, arriving late for class, even falling asleep in class. However, I will not tolerate laziness!


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e) enormity,  enormous

♦ enormity noun: extreme evil, cruelty on a huge scale; correctly used in reference to war crimes and other crimes against humanity; incorrectly used to describe something very big, like a crowd of thousands at a sports match or music concert

I can’t help wondering if the average Chinese citizen is aware of the enormity of the suffering and destruction that Chaiman Mao forced upon his own people and country.

Despite the rantings of neo-nazis, the world is well aware of the enormity of the suffering caused by Adolf Hitler in WWII.

Many of the recent Australian bushfires were started by arsonists. The enormity of their crime cannot be underestimated.


♦ enormous – adjective: very big in size or number

Coles supermarkets, Australia, recently advertised 5,000 vacancies for casual staff to help cope with demand during the Wuhan Caronavirus situation. They received an enormous number of applications: 35,000!

The pyramids in Egypt are enormous.

New parents are sometimes surprised to discover that they have an enormous capacity for love and patience.

Note: Unfortunately, because enormity is used increasingly (especially in the media) when extremely big is the meaning intended, it is now defined in several modern and online dictionaries as meaning extremely big. I suspect that this has come about because enormous has no acceptable noun. Enormousness is arguably grammatically correct, but sounds wrong, so enormity seems an easy fix. As with the much-misused adjective disinterested, my concern is that if enormity ends up meaning enormous simply because people don’t know the difference, we will lose a concise, meaningful English word. Forever. Every time we lose an irreplaceable word, our language becomes a little poorer.

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 f) especially, specially

♦ especially
– adverb: to an unusual degree, particularly

Bushfires are a natural phenomenon in Australia. However, the recent ones were especially savage because of the accumulation of dry wood and undergrowth which provided an enormous amount of fuel for the fires. Fire prevention measures had been ignored for several years and a bushfire season from hell was imminent. You might deduce that the politicians and bureaucrats who allowed this to happen were especially stupid and you would be right. 

Do you like your new scarf? I knitted it specially for you!

♦ specially
– adverb: for a special purpose 

Do you like your new scarf? I knitted it specially for you!

We know you want to sleep indoors, but the other dogs sleep outside and we can’t change the rules specially for you. 

Yes, of course, you are a very special little dog and this very special scarf which I made specially for you will keep you warm on the coldest nights!


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This entry was posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to English Words that are often Confused #4

  1. Pingback: English Words that are often Confused #4 — Mary’s English Blog – Online English Learning Boutique

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