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1. Pseudo-Synonyms with Different Meanings

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Able (To), Capable (Of) 1.‘Capable’ is used for describeing hypothetical or theoretically possible true action or a potential action whereas ‘able’ means having the power, skill, means, or opportunity to do something.

The patient is now able to manage her own toilet without any assistance./ My father is a trained commando and he is capable of defending himself all alone. / She was able to get permission because of her contact.

2. ‘Capable’ is used to express higher order ability. Of all those who were able to sprint, very few are capable of running a marathon. 3. 'is able to' also means 'it is possible to'

I have an early morning flight to catch, so I won’t be able to (can’t) come for late dinner tonight. (wrong: capable of coming... )./ He stood third and hence he will not be able (legally qualified) to participate in next tournament. (wrong: not be capable of participating..) 4. 'capable' is used to refer to affirm possibility of an ability which is otherwise questionable or doubtful.

He is capable of (has the inclination and temperament for) hard work. (wrong: able to work hard )


Ability, Capacity, Capability

1. Ability: physical/mental power/skill or talent to do something.

Some teachers have exceptional ability to hold attention of the otherwise unruly class of students./ Her ability in solving Rubik’s cube, blindfolded, is truly amazing./ The new software comes loaded with the ability of auto-correction./ The new CEO is known for his ability to manage crisis and turn loss making companies profitable. (wrong: capacity to manage ... )./ She has the ability to persuade and convince./ When I take interview I try to assess multiple abilities rather than just judging a candidate based on qualification and success stories.

2. Capability: Refers to potential to achieve because of 'ability'

My grandfather had said I had the capability to become an ace lawyer because of my ability to comprehend, articulate, and argue succinctly./ This child has the ability to learn and grasp much quicker than other kids of her age and therefore she has the capability to learn even chess at this young age.

3. Capacity: maximum quantity/number a container/place can hold or a machine/ equipment/ human/ animal can produce or perform

Capacity of the tank is 1000 litre. Capacity of the plant is 2000 tons per day. Capacity of the hall is 300./ The new software boosted the production capacity. In all his concerts he plays to capacity audience./ My friend’s capacity for binge drinking is all of us put together./ I still have some capacity left to indulge in sweets and ice-cream./ Over a period of one moth my capacity to do Surya Namaskar has improved from 4 times to 12 times./ The inverter has the capacity to keep one tube light and one fan switched on for 6 hours..

3. Capacity: Specified position/role/authority

He can issue notice in the capacity of vice-president in the absence of president. Abstain, Refrain

1. Refrain: pardon or condone without an approval

The librarian refrained from charging fine for returning the book late, since it was my first instance.

2. Refrain: to avoid or stop doing something for sometime in a particular place/situation in spite of provocation by exercising control over oneself.

We behaved as strangers and refrained from looking at each other to avoid attracting attention.

The sign boards in the zoo read, “Please refrain from feeding zoo animals.”

3. Abstain: to voluntarily avoid doing something which is inappropriate/sinful/harmful but enjoyable.

This New Year my husband has taken a resolution to abstain from smoking more than six cigarettes.

Abstinence, Temperance

1. Abstinence: Act of not indulging in harmful but enjoyable habits.

The old man credits his long and healthful life to abstinence from smoking, alcohol, and coffee besides organic food, spirituality, and yoga.

2. Temperance: Moderation by avoiding what is excess and unnecessary

Temperance in consumption is a virtue which must be inculcated since early childhood when kids accompany parents for shopping and by practice of simplicity and frugality by adults, themselves.


Accept, Receive 1. Accept: to agree to take something

The new vending machine accepts payment by QR Code. The committee refused to let go by accepting just an apology. The clerk has been charged for accepting bribe.

2. Accept: to say yes to an offer or invitation

I am yet to decide whether to accept the offer or not. The Councillor has accepted the invitation for the inauguration.

3. Accept: to consider something or someone as satisfactory

The research article has been accepted for publication. Her project proposal has been accepted for the grant.

4. Accept: to agree to something after initial disbelief/denial

She accepted her mistake.

5. Accept: to accommodate with reconciliation

The in-laws accepted my daughter after she gave birth to a son.

6. Accept: to agree to continue with something difficult

The team has accepted the challenge of finding a solution within 24 hours.

7. Receive: to get or be given something

The receptionist confirmed that the courier has been received. The staff received salary early because of festival. Did you receive any phone call from the dealer? The terrorist surrendered after receiving bullet injury in the leg.


Ache, Pain

1. Ache: a continuous pain that is unpleasant but not very strong

earache/a headache/toothache/backache

She had a stomach ache all morning.

2. Pain: a feeling of physical suffering caused by injury or illness

There is a shooting pain in left leg when I try to walk.

Do you feel pain when I press your shoulder?

Adherence, Adhesion

1. Adherence: the obeying of a rule or law

Political parties and leaders have become irresponsible in as far as adherence to the rule of law is concerned due to political corruption.

Working with thousands of small artisans makes strict adherence to fair trade rules difficult.

2. Adhesion: ability to stick

The new glue provides stronger adhesion.

3. Adhesion: frictional grip on a surface

The Vibram sole unit provides good adhesion for walking on all surfaces even when wet and slippery.

Admission, Admittance, Confession

1. Admittance: act of allowing physical entry

2. Admission: price for entry

Admission is free for children below 12 years but a token is required to be carried by accompanying adults for admittance. /Admission fee for those above 12 years is Rs.20./ The guard refused admittance of the car to parking bay because it didn’t have the apartment sticker.

3. Admission: right to enter

She could secure admission to department of Economics based on marks, test, and interview.

4. Admission: acknowledgement/acceptance of truth

By government’s own admission, vaccine production will meet full requirement only by 2024.

The teacher rewarded the student for admission of guilt and thereby encouraged others too.

5. Confession means same as admission of guilt but more formal and legal. Allow, Permit, Let

1. Let: not to inhibit, stop or disrupt what is otherwise natural, instinctive or normal

She decided to let the hair grow.

Let the children learn by doing.

Let her sleep as long as she wants so as to recover fast.

Let her vomit; she would feel better.

Let them decide as two grown up adults and stop giving unsolicited advice.

Let the recovery progress at its own natural pace; do not be impatient.

Let the water drain out completely.


2. Let/allow/permit: not to stop something in spite of having power/authority to do so. Permit is more formal than allow. Allow is more formal than let. ’Permit’ is used more in context of rule/law, ‘Allow’ is used in context of authority and ‘Let’ mostly in case of willingness.

The law permits to impose penalty on factories violating pollution norms.

The manager allowed the employee to present her side of the case before taking action based on complaint by her boss.

Let me show you once how to make paper plane to fly long distance, and better watch carefully.


In case of ‘Let’ infinitive verb is used without ‘to’.

Parents won’t let her go alone.

Parents won’t allow her to go alone.


We often use passive with ‘permit’ and ‘allow’ but not with ‘let’.

Download is permitted only for self-use and not for commercial purpose.

We were not allowed to step out after 8 o’clock in the evening.

We were not let step out...


Adverse, Averse 1. Adverse means harmful, unfavourable, or hostile. It is used with conditions or things rather than with people. Adverse is an attributive adjective and precedes a noun, e.g. adverse effects, adverse weather, adverse health conditions, adverse financial circumstances, adverse impact etc. Adverse is not followed by a preposition.

2. Averse means having a feeling of opposition, repugnance, and distaste and it describes a state of feeling of people.

Averse is a predicate adjective often used after the ‘be’ verb as a part of the predicate of a sentence and followed by the preposition ‘to’, e.g. is/am/are/was/were averse to noise/ taste of garlic/ pungent odours/ gaudy colours/ snobbish behaviour/ pretentions


Allude To, Refer To

1. Allude: to hint or suggest indirectly

The Prime Minister in his speech alluded to recent Chinese aggression and Pakistan sponsored terrorism by talking of international alliance against expansionism and cross border terrorism by neighbouring countries./ She alluded to a nefarious collusion and corruption at the top level by mentioning some suspicious activities.

2. Refer: mention

My mother always refers to you name whenever there is discussion on food and delicacies.

3. Refer: to read for information

The Professor asked us students to refer to certain articles and authors for helping themselves with the assignment.

4. Refer: to direct for treatment/ consultation/ decision

The physician referred the patient to a specialist. It was decided to refer the case to a committee of experts for their opinion.


Amateur, Novice

1. Amateur: a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science in a non-professional or unpaid manner and 2. Novice: a person or creature who is new to a field or activity.


Ambiguous, Equivocal

1. Ambiguous: unintended uncertainty of definitiveness of result, finding, or interpretation

2. Equivocal: when interpretation of a statement/ proposition is intended to confuse or deceive or can be subjective or non-definite.

She gave an equivocal response to her stand on stubble burning by farmers, typical of a politician.


Amoral, Immoral

1. Immoral: contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong.

Bush had to be condemned as an immoral beast who killed women and children to get his bloody hands on Iraqi oil.

2. Amoral: (a) neither moral nor immoral; neutral from a moral perspective or (b) lacking moral sensibility.

In capitalism business enterprises are considered amoral, merely acting as an intermediary between buyers and sellers. In a court of law which is amoral, someone having committed an act of immorality may escape conviction, if can’t be proven guilty.


Anticipate, Expect

1. Anticipate: to expect something and take action in expectation.

When smoke came out of the volcano, the authorities anticipated it might erupt and ordered the villagers to evacuate.

2. Expect: regard as likely to happen and does not require any action.

She expects to get high grades because she had worked hard and answered all questions correctly and satisfactorily.

Ardour, Fervour

‘Ardour’ is a personal emotion, enthusiasm, passion or affection resulting from an emotional response to a stimulus which is likely to be short lived. ‘Fervour’ is an emotion resulting from a more intellectual conviction or a social pressure and likely to be more sustained with supporting action to actualise it.

Nationalistic/ religious/ patriotic fervour

The fervour surrounding her campaign continued right up to the election day.

The initial ardour cooled down in no time and the newly-weds filed for divorce after six months of marriage.

Nowadays there is an ardour for environment and animal welfare amongst the youth.

The youth rallied with fervour to demonstrate against govt project which would cause irreparable damage to the rare and pristine flora and fauna.

Artist, Artisan

1. Artist: A person who is creatively skilled in creation of novelty with an aesthetic sense

Satyajit Ray was one of the greatest film artists of 20th century. 2. Artisan: A skilled manual worker who uses tools and machinery in a particular craft of routine and regular type.

Local artisans sell their pottery and rattan furniture in the flea market.

Filigree artwork is dying because children of the artisans are no longer interested due to unremunerative wages.


Ascent, Ascension

1. Ascent: the act of climbing or moving upwards

She made her first ascent of Everest by nearly defying death.

As the lift made its ascent, it made a creaking sound.

2. Ascension: the action of rising to an important position or a higher level

Ascension to the chair of Presidency

He had a vision of his mother's resurrection and ascension to Heaven with warm welcome by the saints.

Ascribe, Impute

1. Ascribe: to consider something to be caused, created, or owned by someone or something. Suggests an inference or conjecture of cause, quality, authorship

People like to ascribe human feelings to animals.

Grit, prudence, and determination are the qualities commonly ascribed to top bosses.

Our clan has never ascribed importance to opulence.

Invention of Zero as a number in its own right is ascribed to ancient Indian mathematicians.


2. Impute: to ascribe fault or responsibility that brings discredit by way of accusation or blame to a cause or source

The video footage might be used to impute evil intentions.

Colleagues impute his silence to unfriendliness and not to his shyness.

The police impute the rise in crime to high unemployment.

A winner ascribes success to merit and prudence whereas a loser imputes failure to bad luck or something unfavourable.

Assembly, Assemblage

1. Assembly: A machine/ device with a special function which is formed by union of different parts in a particular fashion

Gear assembly, brake assembly

2. Assembly: A regular meeting or gathering of people for a specific purpose

A religious assembly, a prayer assembly, a legislative assembly

3. Assemblage: a collection of things or a group of people or animals

A varied assemblage of birds is found foraging the lake for food, in this season.

The showcase is an assemblage of curios collected from different parts of the world

Assent, Consent

1. Assent: Agreement with an opinion

The Finance department has given assent to the terms of contract from financial angle.

Priya gave her assent by nodding her chin up and down.

Majority assented that Paul’s idea was probably the best way forward.

2. Consent: Permission for something to happen as mandated by law

Parents’ consent for underage children

Patient’s consent for operation

Avenge, Revenge

1. Avenge: As a verb it means ‘to inflict a punishment or penalty in pursuit of justice, for an injury or a wrong done’ – mostly death and injustice

The gang avenged murder of their leader by burning down the rival gang’s warehouse.

There will be no abatement in crime if every crime is avenged.

2. Avenge oneself against/on: To retaliate against another for a wrong done to oneself unjustly

Garima was spreading canard about Satish, so Satish decided to avenge himself against her by leaking her secrets.

Edward returns disguised as a beggar, determined to avenge himself on the aunt who turned him out for stealing from her.

3. Take Revenge: as noun it means ‘harm done to someone as a punishment in return for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands’. It simply suggests retaliation and not so much for achievement of justice as in case of ‘avenge’ such as an earlier defeat.

You must cast aside all thoughts of revenge if you want to end violence for all time come.

The bike rider took revenge by smashing car window of the car for being hit accidentally.

The red team revenged themselves on the blue team by winning the semi-final.


Avocation, Vocation

1. Avocation: a hobby or minor occupation

She is an interior designer by profession and describes tarot reading as her part-time avocation.

2. Vocation: a primary occupation or job

He is fortunate that painting which was his avocation since childhood is now his vocation, as an illustrator of a leading children’s magazine.


Aware, Conscious

1. Aware: having knowledge of something

He is not aware of recent developments.

2. Aware: well informed about a particular situation or development because of concern and interest

Nowadays citizens are more environmentally aware.

He is well aware of current affairs and international politics.

3. Conscious: Awake or alert with mental faculties fully receptive

The noise woke me, but it took me a few minutes before I was fully conscious.

Doctor advised against anaesthesia and I had to bear the pain in fully conscious state.

4. Conscious: alive to an issue

We are conscious of the extent of problem and understand the urgency.

5. Conscious: concern arising out of worry

She is very hygiene-conscious.

6. Conscious: (of an action or feeling) deliberate and intentional

A conscious effort/ decision/ move made after weighing all options and possible consequences.



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