Words that are often confused

Some words are often confused by language learners – because they are similar to another word or because they look like a word in your own language but have a different meaning. Here are some words that often cause confusion.

sensible and sensitive

sensible means ‘practical’ or ‘having good judgement
sensitive means ‘easily affected by the things people say or do

  • Come on darling, be sensible and put a coat on. It’s freezing outside.
  • Don’t be so sensitive – he didn’t say you were fat, it was just a joke.


Usually we are sympathetic when someone has a problem or is in trouble.

  • They were very sympathetic when our house was burgled but they couldn’t do much to help.

We don’t use it to mean ‘nice’ or ‘pleasant’

  • My uncle is a very sympathetic man.


We are nervous in a particular situation, like an exam. We don’t generally use nervous to describe someone’s character.

  • I’ve never been as nervous as the time I had to give a speech to 500 people.
  • My sister is very nervous. She’s always shouting at me.

journey and travel

Journey is countable. Travel is uncountable and refers to the general idea of travelling.

  • Did you have a good travel?
  • Travel is something I recommend to all young people.
  • The journey took about 8 hours.

recipe, receipt and prescription

A recipe is a set of instructions for cooking something.
A receipt is a piece of paper you are given after you pay for something.
A prescription is a piece of paper a doctor gives you to get the medicine you need.