Words of similar meaning

The FCE multiple choice question in the use of English paper of the FCE exam will test your understanding of words of similar meaning. This can be rather difficult. In this lesson I look at a small selection of words and the different ways in which they can be used. It’s a good strategy to firstly separate the words into adverbs, verbs, nouns and adjectives. You can then logically apply the correct word (or at least eliminate one or two options.)

Here are some examples from the above video:

I have a sharp pain in my back.
My neck hurts. It’s been aching all day. I sit in front of the computer too often.
I have a sore throat.
He has a broken leg after being injured in an accident.

There is no cure for this disease.
His treatment will go on for 6 weeks.
He has been treated for several weeks but his wounds still haven’t healed.
He’s a spiritualist and they say he can heal with his hands.
The doctors who treated him say he’ll never recover.

We stopped for a quick chat and a cup of tea.
Let’s take a short break for five minutes.
I caught a brief glimpse of his better side.
There has been rapid growth in unemployment.
Life in the fast lane is fun.

He wants to raise money for charity, so he’s asking for donations.
He raises his voice when he gets angry.
They want to increase the base interest rate next year.
The sea levels are rising.
Do you think they will raise your salary? (give you a raise)
They want to enlarge the images on their website.


Say, tell, talk, speak

Here are some more basic words of similar meaning. Firstly; say, tell, speak and talk. Mixing up the use of these words is perhaps the most common mistake in any English lesson. So study hard, and use them correctly next time.

Look, watch, see

Secondly, let’s examine the verbs of looking under the microscope, because they can be rather tricky to use correctly, at all times.

As or Like?

Another confusing combination is ‘as’ or ‘like’. Please watch the following lesson in order to understand the subtle differences between the two.

So or such?

This is another very frequent mistake in English classes. Here the difference is quite easy to explain, and so the lesson is rather brief:

So + adjective.
Such + (adjective) + noun

Some or any?

We teach students to:

Use some in positive sentences
Use any in negatives and questions.

However, this isn’t entirely true! Find out how English teachers lie (including me) in the next lesson

I will continue working on this series of videos which deal with confusing words in the FCE multiple choice exam, so please subscribe on youtube, or befriend me on facebook, so that you can watch any new lessons which I make.

Sometimes, your success will depend on finding the correct collocation, and so it’s worth looking at two other webpages on this site. Firstly, I have lessons and quizzes for typical FCE collocations.


And secondly, I have four more English lessons on adverb collocations, and two quizzes to test you.