Difference Between a Pair of Words Appearing Close in Meaning

Last updated on March 11th, 2023 at 01:26 pm

“I accepted my fault.” Is the word “accepted” appropriate here? Or “admitted” would have been a better choice? Have you ever tried to find out minute difference between such a pair of words?

Very often students find it difficult to select an appropriate word from a pair of words that look identical in meaning.

When you are writing an essay or a summary, you need to differentiate among similar words very sharply so that the subtle differences between them don’t render your writing flawed.

The words I’m talking about, either look similar or you think they can be used interchangeably. Nevertheless, their meanings differ narrowly.

Here you will find examples of such words and phrases along with their usage. Let’s explore some pairs and understand their underlying differences:

Opening Image by Steve Lee from Pixabay

Read/ Go through

‘Read’ is a general term whereas ‘Go through’ indicates little bit of keen reading. Moreover, it looks more pro. Perhaps, going through also indicates a comparatively smaller sized target, say an article or a topic and not a treatise or an entire book.

Read this book to learn about the orbital movement of the earth.

Go through this letter and find out the points of difference.

A close third word/Phrase: Glance through

Suggest/ Propose

Both ‘suggest’ and ‘propose’ mean putting forward a plan for consideration by a head or a group. However, you need to use ‘propose’ when the plan has been worked out in totality and appears fool proof. This is also more evident from the noun form, i.e. ‘proposal’.

‘To suggest’, on the other hand, is to indicate only the possibility of something. It appears vague and somewhat distant.

The coach proposed to a build a team consisting of players from all states.

I suggested the use of a surprise element for the students.

A close third word/Phrase: Recommend

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Method/ Procedure

Whereas a ‘method’ means a regular way to do a task, a ‘procedure’ implies a number of orderly steps to set up and complete a long, complex task.

Until now, I was using this method but now I will switch to a different one.

The procedure of installing a modem is detailed in its instruction booklet.

A close third word/Phrase: Process

Suitable/ feasible

‘Feasible’ is fit to be applied in practice. ‘Suitable’ is a prior state in comparison to ‘feasible’. It means containing parameters that make something or someone fit for a situation. In case something is found suitable, it may be tested for its feasibility against practical conditions.

The tall player from Ohio appears suitable for the team.

The suggested trick for getting rid of rats seems feasible.

A close third word/Phrase: Plausible

Concentrate/ Focus

‘To concentrate’ indicates narrowing one’s view on something particular to get rid of other less important things. ‘To focus on’ means cutting the distraction and constantly keeping in view the wider scheme of things that matters. That means the range is the difference. ‘Focus’ is wider than ‘concentrate’.

It’s high time you concentrated on a single field to become successful.

Better, focus on the things going around you.

A close third word/Phrase: Draw attention

Fit/ Incorporate

‘To fit’ means to put a thing into a space that exactly accommodates it. ‘Incorporating’, however, makes the reader feel ‘fitting’ is done by an expert possessing intricate knowledge.

Does your plan fit into the series of events that are likely to take place?

The plan-B was incorporated into the master plan by the chief.

A close third word/Phrase: Integrate

Discover/ invent

‘To discover’ is to notice or find something that already exists. On the other side, ‘inventing’ means creating something new with the help of material, tools and new ideas.

Priestley discovered oxygen in 1774.

Edison invented phonograph that developed into phonogram later.

A close third word/Phrase: Innovate

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Solve/ Crack

‘To solve’ is to find out answer to a problem. It is a verb of general use implying a method to do away with a bottleneck. ‘To crack’ is to find a solution with sustained effort to a nagging problem that has remained unresolved for quite some time.

I solved his financial crisis by depositing some money in his bank account.

Scientists finally cracked the genetic code of sunflower.

A close third word/Phrase: Nail down

Transformation/ Transition

‘Transformation’ means a complete change from one form to another whereas ‘Transition’ indicates a gradual change of state from one to another. Transition is generally used for a change of form or state in which the original and final states are closer than what they are in case of ‘transformation’.

The new manager brought about a transformation in the earning processes of the company.

The transition from solid to liquid state is not exhibited by camphor.

A close third word/Phrase: Evolution

Work out/ Exercise

An exercise is a single set of movements of body parts for health improvement. For example, push-ups or neck rolls. Workout is a comparatively wider term. It includes a number of exercises that constitute a complete session. For example, the morning workout session or resistance training workout.

He takes some cardiac exercises in the morning.

The morning workout session is conducted by a coach.

A close third word/Phrase: Aerobics

Increase / Grow

Length, breadth, bank balance and strength increase but size, wealth and physique grow. Thus ‘grow’ encompasses more parameters within it in comparison to ‘increase’.

Will’s height increased by half a feet within a year.

The total wealth of the company grew faster than we estimated.

A close third word/Phrase: Enhance

Considerable / Substantial

The adjective ‘Considerable’ elevates its related noun to a higher level in the eyes of the beholder and renders it worth contemplating. ‘Substantial’ also almost does the same to its noun but perhaps takes into account only a part of it.

We have put in considerable amount of brainstorming into this project.

A substantial divide of our populace consists of young people.

A close third word/Phrase: Significant

Reach/ arrive

‘Reach’ means to complete the act of going somewhere. ‘Arrive’ means to complete the act of coming somewhere.

Geeta reached there yesterday.

Sita arrived here yesterday.

A close third word/Phrase: Approached

Do/ Perform

Doing simply means carrying out a task. Though performing also almost means the same, it adds little bit of effort, care and preparation to ‘do’.

Prinota has done her homework.

The magician performed the magic with great perfection.

A close third word/Phrase: Carry out

Walk/ Stroll

Walking indicates stepping ahead. Strolling is a specific kind of walking. It means walking with ease that includes a bit of leisure.

He walks all the way to school in the early morning hours.

Mr. and Mrs. Gujral took a post-dinner stroll.

A close third word/Phrase: Trudge

Preference/ Priority

Preference is selective favour given to one out of two or more persons, items, things etc. Priority is a relatively broader term. It weighs many parameters at a time and and sets one’s inclination based on a bigger picture.

She has been preferred to others because she has some extra qualities.

My top priority at this point of time is my son’s study.

A close third word/Phrase: Precedence

Accomplish/ Complete

Completing is a general term and is used commonly to mean finishing off something. On the other hand, ‘to accomplish’ adds attention, totality and a sense of achievement to completing.

Perhaps you had completed even before I started.

The team worked hard and accomplished its objective well before time.

A close third word/Phrase: Achieved


What I have tried to emphasize throughout this article is if you try to find out such minor differences between pair of words, not only will your writing skills improve but you will also observe an increase in your learning and writing interest.

Trying to use a word that exactly carries your feeling, is a perfectionist habit and you should cultivate the same. It’s no doubt, difficult and needs hardship, patience. Yet, it makes writing an interesting job.

When you make it a habit – and you should, you’re surely going to grow your vocabulary, interest and most importantly, the viewership.

Suggest to me what you want:

I’ll try to collect more similar pair of words and keep on adding them here. Meanwhile, you may also suggest topics on similar matters that you want to read. And I promise to deliver to my dear audience whatever it demands.

Exercise for you

Find out what are homonyms, homophones and homographs. Learn by clicking on the link below:

homographs, homonyms, homophones