Given that the English vocabulary has more than 1 million words, it is common for English language users to be confused with words that have similar meanings, sounds or spellings. To prevent such confusion, here is a compilation of the commonly confused words. This list is by no means exhaustive and it will be expanded regularly.

  1. Prejudice vs Discrimination
    • Prejudice is an adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts.
    • Discrimination refers to the actions, behaviours, or treatment based on prejudice.
  2. Race vs Ethnicity
    • Race is a biological classification system.
    • Ethnicity is a cultural classification system. An ethnic group is a group of people who identify with each other on the basis on common ancestry and cultural heritage.
  3. Customs/Traditions vs Mores vs Laws
    • Customs/Traditions refer to everyday customs, shared norms with little moral significance  e.g. sleeping on a bed, dining practices.
    • Mores refer to public morality with serious social consequences upon violation e.g. no indecent public exposure, no premarital cohabitation, no discrimination such as racism & sexism.
    • Laws are used to secure public obedience with severe legal punishment upon violation e.g. Courts of Law, Constitution.
  4. Authoritarian autocracy vs Totalitarian autocracy
    • Authoritarian autocracy is one in which the society is ruled by a dictator or clique that forbids all activities that threaten its position. However, it is generally indifferent to activities that do not threaten its rule.
    • Totalitarian autocracy is one that wants to control all aspects of an individual’s life.
  5. Listless vs Restless
    • Listless: lacking energy or enthusiasm
    • Restless: unable to rest or relax as a result of anxiety or boredom
      • Many people refer to someone who is restless as someone who has not rested enough. In actuality, it refers to someone who cannot rest or relax, which is often manifested in his/her fidgety behaviour.
  6. To be continued…

For enquiries about our quality English/GP tuition, please contact The Useful English Tutor at 9747-0937.


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