Catching a student’s error with sweet and sweat is simple enough because I don’t mix up those words. They don’t sound alike to me and their meanings are very different. However, I’ve caught myself saying further when I meant farther, and vice versa. Perhaps the closer words are in meaning, the harder it can be to differentiate between them.
With some words, I have to double check my hunches before I make a correction. This happened recently when I read a student’s sentence with testimony, and I paused for quite a long moment as I considered her meaning, and then finally explained that she needed testament instead. Now I’m second-guessing myself. Some sources clearly limit testimony to a legal context, as in what a witness says in court. However, other sources including the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (see entry for “be a testament to something”) and the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary indicate overlap when the words refer to proof that something is true or exists.
Are there words that even you confuse? I’m sure there are. Let’s admit that no one is perfect! What we teachers can do is discuss easily confused words with our advanced students and develop their instincts as well as their ability to find guidance. Please consider sharing my Words Easily Confused_handout. When questions and doubts come up, as they no doubt will, open a few different dictionaries and examine the meanings and examples. Draw conclusions together.
Photo credit: Poses, Female, Education, Posing by NDE. Retrieved from the Public Domain at https://pixabay.com/en/poses-female-education-posing-1367416/