Real English vs Grammar-Book English (Part 1)

Sound Natural and Understand More – Lesson 1

In the following four-part series, there are pairs  of English words – almost all have the same meaning.  The first one is the word most often used by Spanish speakers; the second one is the word most often used by English native speakers.  In many cases both are correct or technically correct.   But be careful in many cases one of the words is wrong or even offensive.   However, if you want to sound more natural and understand more spoken English, the second word is very important.  Notice that in most cases the Spanish preference is more formal and less typical in conversation.

Ill  vs.  sick

“Ill” is quite a formal word.  “Sick” is the natural choice for conversations.  We read and write “ill” in more formal situations, but say, “sick” when talking with friends or co-workers.

Strange  vs. Weird

“Strange” and “Weird” are probably almost equally common.  But 95% of my students don’t know the word “weird”.  I find this… well, weird.  If you want to understand natives speakers, learn this word.  If you want to sound more natural, use it.

Polemic vs.  Controversy

“Polemic” is almost never used in the English language.  For both formal and informal situations, I strongly suggest using “controversial”.

Intelligent vs. Smart

“Intelligent” and “smart” are both used in English.  “Smart” can mean well dressed, but we usually make a distinction with phrasing and context.

Ex: She is smart. (We are probably talking about intelligence)

Ex: She is a smart dresser (Obviously, we are talking about fashion)

Ex: You look smart today! (Once again, fashion)

Ex: You look smart in those glasses. (Could be either intelligent or fashionable)

Stupid vs. Dumb

Again, these words are equally common with “stupid” being a bit more formal.  Be careful to not pronounce the final “b” in “dumb” or you will sound… well, dumb.  The pronunciation is simply /dum/.


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