Published 26th April 2017

We’re English teachers and we’re expected to know our stuff when it comes to the language. Of course, there may be finer points of grammar which we are not totally comfortable with but those things we learn with time, experience and research.

Having said that, there are a few words which we have noticed that EFL teachers get wrong again and again, which probably means that there is a general misunderstanding regarding their usage and meaning.

So we thought we’d do you a favour and clarify these tricky words so that you don’t have to worry about making these mistakes:

Loose vs lose

Loose (adj) – opposite of tight
Because he had lost weight, the shirt was now very loose.
Lose (v) – opposite of win
He always loses money when he goes gambling.

Accept vs except

Accept (v) – to receive
She was very gracious when she accepted the award.
Except (prep) – to exclude
I invited the whole class to the party except Billy.

Desert vs dessert

Desert (n) – big, dry, sandy area
If you go to Dubai you can go sandboarding in the desert.
Dessert (n) – deliciousness usually eaten after dinner
Sarah always has ice cream for dessert.

Bear vs bare

Bear (n) – big, hairy, scary animal
          (v) – to carry something or put up with something
John can’t bear the smell of strawberries.
If you go out tonight bear in mind it might get cold.
Bare (adj) – naked
Children often walk around with bare feet.

Isle vs aisle

Isle (n) – a small island
For my last holiday I went to the Isle of Wight.
Aisle (n) – the corridor in an airplane or supermarket
On a flight I always choose the aisle seat.

Elicit vs illicit

Elicit (v) – what we do a lot in the TEFL classroom, to draw out or obtain
I kept giving hints until I had elicited the correct answers.
Illicit (adj) – illegal, disapproved of for moral reasons
He can get into trouble for his illicit behaviour.

Hopefully now that we’ve cleared that up, you’ll no longer find yourself getting confused or making these mistakes in the EFL classroom or in your everyday life.