Common mistakes at B2 level exams

about / on

Have you read this article on the Antarctic?

There’s an article about tourism in today’s paper.

(’on’ for serious and specific information; ’about’ for general interest)

accept / agree

They invited me to their wedding and I've agreed to go. (Not *accepted to go*)

She offered me some clothes her children had grown out of and I accepted them. (accept + object = take what is offered)

I don't accept your opinion/agree with your opinion that we can't control inflation. (agree with an opinion)

accident / incident / episode

Someone rammed the back of my car. It was an unfortunate accident. (Not *episode*) (= an unplanned happening, often bad)

There was an unpleasant incident on the train this morning when a drunk attacked one of the passengers. (Not *episode*) (= a single happening, good or bad)

That was an episode/incident in my life which I'm not proud of. (episode = one part of a continuing story)


While touring Britain, we found (some) excellent accommodation in old inns.  (note the spelling, not *accomodation* *acommodation*; uncountable: not *an accommodation*; the plural form accommodations is AmE only!)

according to / by / in my opinion

It's 4.30 according to/by the station clock. (= as shown by; both possible when referring to clocks and watches)

According to many scientists, the level of the oceans is rising. (Not *By*) (= as stated by other people)

In my opinion, scientists take a pessimistic view. (Not *According to my opinion/To me* *To/After/By my opinion*)

across / over / through

They're laying a pipeline across Siberia. (Not *over* *through*) (across = from one side to the other of a surface area)

We skated over the frozen lake. (over = on or above a surface, not necessarily from one side to the other)

Water flows through this pipe.

It was difficult to cut through the forest. (through = movement within a solid or enclosing medium)

act / action / deed

The situation requires immediate action. (Not *act* *deed*) (= doing something, often as a response)

I shall always remember her many acts of kindness to me. (Not *actions* *deeds*) (act of + noun phrase, not *action*; act specific thing done; action = a move to something; act/action are interchangeable after adjectives: It was a kind act/action.)

Visiting Mrs Hollis in hospital was a good deed that had to be done. (Not *act/action*) (deed is only used in a context where an action is being judged: a good/evil deed)

act / take effect

Has the medicine taken effect yet? (Not *acted*) (=had a specific effect)

This drug acts/takes effect quickly in the system. (=has a general effect on)

(Compare: This drug acts on/affects the central nervous system.)

actual / real / topical / up-to-date

Public transport is a highly topical issue at present because of the row over the new bypass. (Not *actual*) (i.e it's in the news)

The real/actual problem is the civil war.

(= true, the one we are concerned with)

I can't comment before I have read the actual report. (Not *real report*) (= the report itself)

Magazines in doctors' waiting rooms are never up-to-date. (Not *actual* *topical*)

actually • at present/for the present • at the moment

Frank's been travelling for a month now. At present/For the present/At the moment, I have no idea of his whereabouts. (Not *Actually* *To the present*)  (= now, for the time being)

Do you realize that Martin has actually been off work for a month now? (= as a matter of fact, really)

advice • advise • opinion

She gave me (some) good advice about jobs. (uncountable noun spelt -ice, pronounced /aisi; not *an advice* *(some) advices* *advice for*)

She advised me about applying for jobs. (verb spelt -ise, pronounced /aiz/; not *adviced me*)

Mr Foley advised me to apply to your company. (preferable to advised me I should; and note: He advised (me) against applying. = He advised me not to apply.)

I took your advice and applied for promotion. (Not *took your opinion*)

I don't know whether my essay is good or bad and I'd like to have your opinion. (advice = what you think I should do; opinion = what you think about something)

affect • (have an) effect (on) • come into/take effect

This hay fever is having a serious effect on my work. (Not *affect*) (effect is the noun relating to the verb affect: have an effect on something)

This hay fever is seriously affecting my work. (Not *effecting*) (affect is the verb relating to the noun effect)

The new law comes into effect/takes effect next Monday. (Not *has an effect/affect*) (= will be in operation)

Mr Court effected numerous changes while running this company. (Not *affected*) (= brought about, put into effect)

after • in

I'll see you in a week. (Not *after a week*) (= within, before the end of)

I'll see you in a week's time. (Not *after a week's time*)

It's hard to get back to work after a week on holiday! (= at the end of)

age • epoch • era • period • century

The whole period was marked by important changes in the earth's surface. (period is the best word to refer to geotime)

Satellite TV brought in an epoch of worldwide communication. (an epoch is a period of time beginning with an important event)

We live in an age/era where fast food is the norm. (Not *epoch*)

There's no way of knowing exactly when the Iron Age really began. (Not *Epoch*) (The Iron Age is a fixed phrase; compare in the age of Shakespeare, etc. = at that time)

The Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century. (Not *age*)

aged • elderly

Who will look after us when we're elderly? (Not *aged*) (= in or near old age)

I was approached by an elderly man who asked me for directions. (Not *an elderly*) (we cannot use elderly on its own to mean 'an elderly person'; an elderly man is preferable to an aged man, which is literary, and is more complimentary than an old man)

Monica devotes a lot of her spare time to helping the aged/the elderly. (Not *the ageds* *the elderlies*) (the + adjective for the group as a whole)

Constance looks after her aged parents. (= very old; aged can be used in front of a few nouns: e.g. my aged parents, an aged aunt, an aged friend of mine, etc.)

alike • similar • same

We've received two similar offers. (Not *alike offers* *same offers*)

The two offers are similar/alike. (= nearly the same; we cannot use alike in front of a noun)

The houses in this street are all the same/are all similar.

Yours is the same as mine/similar to mine. (Not *the same with* *similar with*) (the same = exactly alike; similar = they resemble each other)

amazed • amazing

I'm amazed at you. (Not *amazed with*)

I was amazed by what they told me. (Not *amazing* *amazed with/from*) (-ed endings describe people)

I heard an amazing story. (Not *amazed*) (-ing endings describe things, events, etc.)

Hemingway is an amazing writer. (a number of -ing endings can also be used to describe people, suggesting the effect they have on others) (some other pairs of -ed/-ing adjectives are: alarmed/alarming, amused/amusing, annoyed/annoying, appalled/appalling, astonished/astonishing, bored/boring, confused/confusing, depressed/depressing, distressed/distressing, embarrassed/embarrassing, enchanted/enchanting, excited/exciting, exhausted/exhausting, frightened/frightening, horrified/horrifying, interested/interesting, moved/moving, pleased/pleasing, relaxed/relaxing, satisfied/satisfying, shocked/shocking, surprised/surprising, terrified/terrifying, tired/tiring; and note: delighted/delightful, impressed/impressive, and upset/upsetting)

among/amongst • between

There are quite a few talented artists among/amongst the people I know. (among many; among is always preferable to amongst)

It's hard to choose between these two pictures. I like them both. (between two)

and • to

Go and buy yourself a paper. (Not *to*)

Come and see the goldfish. (Not *to*) But: Try and/to see my point of view. (imperatives with go, come, wait, etc., a followed by and where we might expect to; go buy is also possible, especially in AmE)

angry with • angry at/about

People in our town are very angry at/about the new parking charges. (Not *angry with*) (angry at/about something)

It’s no good getting angry with the waiter because the food is badly cooked. (angry with someone)

argument • row • quarrel • discussion • dispute

Some married couples seem to spend a lot of time quarrelling/having arguments/having rows. (Not *disputing* *discussing*) (= disgreeing, often with strong feeling; • have a row is informal)

We're having a big discussion about/ argument about the date of the next election. (Not *making/doing a discussion about/an argument about*) (a discussion = a talk, exchange of information or opinions; an argument contains the idea of disagreement)

We're having a dispute with our neighbours over our property boundaries. (= a serious disagreement, often legal)

aroma • flavour • taste • scent • perfume

What flavour do you want, strawberry or vanilla? (Not *aroma* *perfume* *taste*) (i.e. that has this taste)

Few things can beat the aroma of freshly-ground coffee. (Not *perfume*) (= a strong appetizing smell)

The room was filled with the scent of roses. (Not *flavour* *aroma*) (= a delicate smell, e.g. of flowers)

Dorothy wears too much perfume/scent. (Not *aroma*) (= manufactured, sweet-smelling liquid; perfume is now the commoner noun)

I love the sharp sour taste of lemon. (= experience of flavour)

as soon as

We'll discuss the matter as soon as he arrives. (Not *as soon as he will arrive*) (as soon as as a conjunction + present tense form when referring to the future; also: after, before, directly, immediately, the moment, when)

at last • in the end • finally

It was impossible to guess who had done the murder. In the end it turned out to be the cook. (Not *At last*; preferable to Finally) (= 'when the story ended')

We searched everywhere for accommodation and at last/finally/in the end a farmer offered us his barn for the night. (at last = after a long time; finally = after effort; in the end = 'when the story ended')

During the meeting we always have sales reports, production reports, work in progress, and finally any other business. (Not *in the end* *at last*) (i.e. as the last thing in a series.)

I wonder whether Mallory finally got to the summit of Everest/Mallory got to the summit of Everest in the end. (Not *at last*)


The audience was/were applauding wildly. (collective noun + singular or plural verb; also: class, club, committee, company, congregation, council, crew, crowd, family, gang, government, group, jury, mob, staff, team, union)

bad • badly

I play tennis badly. (Not *play bad*) (badly is an adverb modifying the verb play)

Business is slow and things look bad. (Not *things look badly*) (bad is an adjective describing things; compare taste/seem/smell/sound bad)

bad at

Lots of people claim to be bad at maths. (Not *bad to* *bad in*) (also awful at, clever at, good at, quick at, slow at)

baggage/luggage • a case/suitcase • valise • coffer

I'm travelling light. I've got a small case/suitcase with me and that's all. (Not *a baggage* *a luggage* *coffer*)

I've brought a lot of baggage/luggage and can't manage on my own. I need a porter. (Not *a lot of baggages/a lot of luggages*) (baggage and luggage are uncountable)

You don't need more than a small valise if you're going away for the weekend. (= a small suitcase: old-fashioned, self-conscious/literary)

You'd have to be mad these days to keep your money at home in an old coffer. (= a strong box: old-fashioned)

bake • cook • roast

I'll cook supper tonight. (Not *bake*) (cook is the general verb for 'prepare food by heating')

I bake all our own bread. (Not *cook*) (= bake any made-up dish in the oven, especially one made with flour)

It says in the recipe that you cook/bake it in a hot oven for twenty minutes. (referring to a dish of some kind, not necessarily bread or cakes)

I've just had a look in the oven and the beef is roasting/cooking nicely. (Not *baking*) (roast = oven-cook any large piece of meat: roast chicken, sometimes with vegetables in the same dish: roast potatoes)

barred • closed • shut

We're going to have to turn off soon. The road ahead is closed. (Not *shut* *barred*, but we can say barred to traffic) (we use closed on its own for roads; we can only use barred if we add more information)

The shop is all shut up. Look, the windows are barred. (= closed with bars)

I was sure she was watching me from behind her closed window. (Not *shut*) (we don't use shut before a noun)

Most shops are closed/shut on Sundays.(interchangeable)

bath • bathe • swim

I think have/take a bath. (noun) (Not *do/make a bath* *bath myself')

I'm going to give the baby a bath. (noun) (Not *do/make the baby a bath*) (we can also say bath the baby, not *bathe the baby*)

I don't think many people bath more than once a day. (verb) (= have a bath in a bathtub/in a bath)

I can't bear to bathe if the sea temperature is under 15°C. (Not *bath*) (bathe = have a swim, now becoming old-fashioned; AmE also = have a bath in a tub; also note to sunbathe, or have a sunbathe)

What's she doing? - She's bathing. (= having a bath or a swim: both spelt the same)

I'm going down to the beach for a swim/a bathe. (Not *bath*)

Let me bathe those scratches for you before you put on any ointment. (Not *bath*) (= wash gently, especially a wound) bazaar

bear • bare

The table was bare. (Not *bear*) (= with nothing on it; pronounced /bear")

Imagine meeting a bear in the forest! (= a large animal; pronounced the same way)

bear • can't bear

I wish she wouldn't eat so fast. I can't bear to watch her. (i.e. now)

I wish she wouldn't eat so fast. I can't bear watching her. (i.e. now or in general) (-ing or to after bear)

begin • start

I couldn't start my car this morning; the battery was flat. (Not *begin*) (you start a machine or it starts)

We began/started working/to work on the project as soon as we got the commission. (begin or start an activity + to or -ing)

I began/started the lesson by telling them about Pasteur. (Not *began/started with*) Let's begin/start with soup. (Not *by*) began • begun — Sh! The play has begun. (Not *has began*) — It began a minute ago. (Not *begun*) (begin - began - begun)


This farm belongs to me and it belonged to my father before me. (Not *is belonging* *was belonging*) (only stative; no progressive form; also: astonish, believe, comprise, concern, consist of constitute, contain, deserve, desire, detest, differ, disagree, disbelieve, dislike, envy, excel, fancy, fear, matter, merit, need, own, perceive, possess, result from/in, suit, understand, want)

below • under/underneath • beneath

He had a parcel under his arm. (Not *below* *underneath* *beneath*) (under, opposite over = at a lower place than, sometimes touching)

The stone hit me below the knee. (Not *under*) (below, opposite above, refers to position)

We camped just below/under the summit. (sometimes interchangeable)

We could see him swimming just below/under/beneath/underneath the surface. (beneath is less common than under and below and more literary; underneath = completely covered by)

beside • besides

There were a lot of people at the party besides us. (Not *beside* *beside of (= in addition to)

She has so much else to do besides. (Not *beside*) (= additionally; adverb)

Come and sit beside us. (Not *besides*) (= next to)

big • large • great

A language always benefits from the work of its great writers. (Not *big* *large*) (great, opposite minor, generally refers to importance)

If he's a Sumo wrestler, you'd expect him to be a big/large man. (Not *great*) (big, opposite little, and large, opposite small, generally refer to relative size)


Mr Parkins is blind/a blind man and owns a guide dog. (Not *a blind*)

Mr and Mrs Parkins are both blind/blind people. (Not *blinds*) (we cannot use blind on its own to mean 'a blind person')

More money is collected for the blind than for any other group of handicapped people. (Not *the blinds*) (the + adjective for the group as a whole)

For a moment, we were blinded by a flash of lightning. (Not *blind*) (blind is also a verb, often passive)

bread • a loaf of bread • a (bread) roll

Nip out and get a loaf of bread/two loaves of bread, will you? (Not *a bread* *two breads*)

We've eaten a lot of bread today. (Not *a lot of breads*) (bread is uncountable)

I'll just have a bowl of soup and a (bread) roll. (Not *a small bread*) (= a small separately-baked piece of bread)

bright • brightly

The sun shone bright/brightly all day. (bright occurs in fixed phrases: shine/glow bright, look bright = be bright)

She answered all my questions brightly. (Not *bright*) (adverb = in a cheerful manner)

bring • fetch • take • carry

If you're going to the kitchen, would you mind bringing me a glass of water please? (i.e. you will be there, so bring it here)

Please fetch me a glass of water. (= go from here to another place and bring it back here)

Take this glass of water to your father. (i.e. you are here; carry it there)

I had to carry the twins all the way home. (= lift and move)

camping • camping site/campsite

Is there a camping site/a campsite near the beach? (Not *a camping* *camping*) (camping site is a countable noun)

Camping is cheap. (Not *The camping*) (uncountable noun describing the activity)

We love to go camping in fine weather. (Not *go for camping* *go for to camp*)

cancel • postpone

The match has had to be cancelled/ postponed because of the bad weather. (cancelled = prevented from happening; postponed = put to a later date)

I postponed taking my driving test when I wasn't well. (Not *postponed to take*)

in case • in case of • in the case of

Take this umbrella in case it rains/in case of rain. (Not *in the case* *in the case of') (= so as to be safe if/as provision against)

In the case of the ship's captain, there is no evidence to show he was negligent. (= in the matter concerning)

case • situation • occurrence

An earthquake in Britain is a rare occurrence. (Not *case*) (= a happening, event)

The waiter brought me the bill and I didn't have enough money. I've never been in such a situation before. (Not *case*) (= a position)

Do you know the date of the last recorded case/occurrence of smallpox? (= a particular instance)

classic • classical

Darren is one of those people who can't bear classical music. (Not *classic*) (= serious and lasting)

’Between you and I' is a classic example of bad grammar. (Not *classical*) (= typical, or excellent of its type, as in a classic mistake, a classic suit, etc.)

classroom • class • lesson

I must hurry. I have a class/a lesson at 11. (Not *a classroom*) (spoken by a teacher, this means 'I am taking a class/giving a lesson'; spoken by a student, this means 'I am attending a class/a lesson')

The students are waiting for you in the classroom/in class. (Not *in the lesson*) (classroom = place; in class = gathered together for a lesson)

client • customer • patient • guest

During the sales, the department stores are full of customers. (Not *clients* *guests*) (= people who buy things)

Small clients demand the same service from their bank as large clients. (= people who buy services from banks, lawyers, etc.; customer can also be used, but it is less formal than client)

Shall I send in the next patient, doctor? (Not *customer* *client*) (= a person who seeks medical services)

Parking facilities are available only for hotel guests. (Not *clients* *customers*) (= people staying at a hotel)

close (to) • closely

Stand close to me. (Not *closely to*) (close (to) = near (to))

I studied her face closely. (Not *close*) (closely = in detail)

cloth • material • clothe • clothes • clothing • garment

Wipe up the mess with a cloth. (Not *a clothe* *a material*) (a cloth = a piece of material for cleaning: countable noun; the plural is cloths)

There's enough cloth/material there for a skirt. (Not *clothe*) (cloth and material are uncountable)

We can't hope to feed and clothe our children if we don't both work. (verb = provide clothes for; dress)

My clothes are getting shabby. (Not *My clothe is* *My clothes is*) (plural noun with no singular form + plural verb)

Elisabeth owns a lot of clothes. (Not *a clothing/a lot of clothings*)

The Red Cross appealed for tents and clothing. (clothing = uncountable, things that will clothe people, in a general sense; we can also say an article of clothing)

This garment must be washed at 40°C. (Not *This cloth* *This clothe*) (we can use a/this garment - formal - to refer to a single item of clothing)

coast • shore • cost • beach/seaside • sea

There is rain over the whole of the west coast of Britain. (Not *shore* *cost*) (we use coast when we are thinking of a country in terms of a map; take care with the spelling: coast, not *cost*)

In bad weather a lifeboat is ready to set out from the shore at very short notice. (preferable to coast) (we use shore to refer to the dry land at the edge of the sea)

With the increase in oil prices, the cost of a holiday has risen sharply. (= the price)

There's nothing the children enjoy more than a day at the beach/at the seaside. (Not *on the coast* *at/to the sea*; preferable to on the shore) (= the part of the shore used for pleasure)

The beach was crowded. (Not *coast* *shore* *seaside*) (specific reference to a sandy or pebbly area)

There were a lot of people in the sea. (= in the water)

convenient • comfortable • suitable

We'd all like to live in a comfortable house. (i.e one that makes life easy and pleasant; the opposite is uncomfortable)

Our house is very convenient for the shops. (= near; the opposite is inconvenient)

What you're wearing isn't suitable for the occasion. (Not *convenient*) (= appropriate; the opposite is unsuitable)

Yes, Friday will be convenient/suitable. (both words are possible for dates, appointments, etc.)

cooker • cook

My husband is a good cook. (Not *cooker*) (= a person who cooks food)

Is your cooker gas or electric? (= the apparatus on or in which food is cooked, BrE, or stove, especial AmE)

copy • imitate • mime • mimic

It was only when I mimed/imitated a chicken that the waiter understood what I wanted to order. (Not *copied*) (mime = use actions without language; imitate = act like)

I wish you'd stop imitating/copying the way I speak. (Not *miming*)

You should hear her mimic our teacher. (= copy actions and speech very exactly, possibly so as to make other people laugh; a person who does this is a mimic)

corpse • body • corps

Looking after your body becomes essential as you get older. (Not *corpse* *corps*)

I tried to get her autograph but couldn't get through the press corps /ko:r/. (Not *body* *corpse*) (= the people representing that group; also the diplomatic corps)

The police found a corpse /ko:ps//a (dead) body buried in the garden.

correct • repair

Please repair these shoes. (Not *correct*) (repair = make good something that is worn or broken; mend)

Some computer programs will correct your spelling mistakes. (Not *repair*) (= point out or put right mistakes, especially in speech and writing)

correct • right

I don't think it's right to worry my friends with my own problems. (Not *correct*) (right and wrong refer to consideration for others, moral behaviour, etc.)

Is this the correct/right way to address an envelope? (correct/right = without mistakes; the opposite is wrong)

cost • price

What's the price of this radio please?

What will be the cost of a 10,000 km service? (Not *What will it make*) (price is preferable when referring to particular objects; cost is preferable when referring to services, jobs to be done, etc.)

counsel • council

The decision to build on this site was taken by the town council. (Not *counsel*) (= elected representatives; noun only)

The council is/are meeting today. (collective noun + singular/plural verb)

'Cruse' is a charity that gives counsel to/counsels widowed people. (= advice: noun; advise: verb)

cushion • pillow

I could never get to sleep at night if I didn't have a nice soft pillow. (Not *cushion*) / (we use a pillow on a bed)

There were three velvet cushions on the sofa. (Not *pillows*) (we use cushions on sofas, chairs, etc.)


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