English can be tricky, and those who teach it know this all too well. The biggest challenge of teaching English grammar has nothing to do with grammar. Instead, it’s teaching students to understand the difference between terms that seem similar, but people use them differently in academic settings (sometimes referred to as false friends).
This blog post aims to help you identify commonly confused academic vocabulary by giving you definitions, examples, and an interactive quiz you can use in class or as homework.
Rationale vs. Rational
Rationale and rational are two words that are often confused, but they mean two very different things. On the other hand, rational means using reason or acting sensibly. Rationale is usually used as an adjective to describe a plan or an idea.
Literally vs. Figuratively
When you use it figuratively in a sentence, you mean it’s not true. It’s just an expression. When you use it literally in a sentence, you describe something as precisely what it is. So if someone were to say, “That test was impossible,” they probably didn’t pass it.
Method vs. System
Method refers to a plan of action, whereas system refers to a collection of connected things. One example is that teaching is methodical, and public schools are systems. In other words, when you say you teach methodically, you mean that you have a structured (systematic) approach to it.
Insure vs. Ensure
Ensure means to make sure or guarantee; this word is a verb. Insure is a noun that means financial protection. For example, you can ensure that your car is safe provided it’s in good condition and covered by insurance.
Discreet vs. Discrete
These two words are homophones, meaning they sound alike but have different meanings. Discreet means being tactful or cautious, while discrete means indivisible or separate.
Stimulus vs. Response
Response refers to a student’s response to what you’ve just said. Stimulus refers to something that causes a reaction or gives rise to an action, usually in response. In other words, it’s not usually referring to your science projects 3rd graders but rather something they are reacting to.
Flout vs. Flaunt
What’s The Difference? Both flout and flaunt something to do with showing off, but they aren’t interchangeable. Flouting is when you purposely ignore a rule or law or deliberately behave arrogantly.
Peruse vs. Scan
Peruse is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn’t take a direct object. In other words, it can’t have a noun or pronoun immediately following it. Instead, scan and skim are more similar to each other than peruse because both of these verbs require that something be scanned or skimmed over.
In academic settings, it is important to use language correctly and precisely. This language can be elevated on the Adobe Education Exchange However, that does not mean that you can never make a mistake with your vocabulary. For example, it is normal to occasionally confuse two words that sound similar or have multiple meanings.