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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: 6 confusing words - small & little, big & large, tall & high

Difficulty: 0

Hi again. I'm Adam. Welcome back to Today's lesson is a little bit tricky. The

reason I say it's tricky is because we're talking about specific words that are often

interchangeable; that are often used in the same situations or same meanings. We're talking

about "small" versus "little", "big" versus "large", "tall" versus "high". Some students

asked: what's the difference between them? I'll do my best to explain the difference

between these words. First thing and the most important thing that

you need to remember about these words is that yes, they are synonyms -- means they

have almost the same meaning. What makes the difference in how to use them is always going

to be context. Okay? A lot of the difference in how to use these words depends on the context

they are being used in. Some expressions take this word or that word, and not the other,

for example. In some situations, the meaning is very different depending on which word

you use. Okay? So we're going to start with "small" and "little".

Okay? The main thing to remember and in most cases the biggest difference: when we talk

about "small", when we use "small", we talk about size, the size of something or its dimensions

-- dimensions are length, width, height, depth, etcetera -- or intensity. Okay? When we talk

about the intensity of something. So first of all, the thing to remember about this:

we're talking about physical size. When we describe something as "small", generally we

mean physically small, something physical is small. But again, sometimes we can use

"little" to talk about the physical size of something.

So for example: somebody has small hands or somebody has little hands. The nuance is a

little bit different, and this is what you have to be careful about, nuance. If somebody

has small hands, it means generally physical small but if somebody has little hands, it

has more of the idea that he or she can do less with their hands. True, not true - I

don't know; I'll leave that up to you. But just remember there's a slight nuance in difference.

But, if you look at somebody, say: "Oh, he has such little hands." Or if you say: "Oh,

that person has such small hands." Most people will get the same idea. But again, context

might tell you it's a little bit different. Okay. When I talk about intensity, again,

usually something physical like somebody has a small voice. If somebody has a small voice,

sometimes it's a little bit hard to hear them. Did you hear that? Did you hear my small voice

or do you hear my big voice now? But we'll get to that after.

Usually, we use "little" with uncountables; money, time. "I have a little money." Not

"small money". Small money means like in Canada, we have a dime, 10 cents, it's a very small

coin but that's not what we're talking about. "A little money", when we're talking about quantity.

So usually when you talk about uncountables -- things you can't count and you're not talking

about physical size because it's not something physical, physical things you can count -- uncountables,

not physical things, you usually use "small". If we talk about someone's stature... Now,

what does "stature" mean? It means more or less like how people view this person or this

thing. So look at the example. For example: if I say "A small man" versus "A little man".

A small man means usually physically small; maybe short, maybe skinny, whatever. A little

man is something... we don't care about this person. Right? He's small, I can step on him

because he's not... doesn't have stature. A big man has a bit more stature. A large

man is a large man, but we'll get to that in a second.

When we talk about adjective of degree. When we want... we use "little" almost like an

adverb. So: "I'm a little tired." Not small tired, a little tired. Or if you say... and

that means just a little bit. Right? Not a great amount. But if I say: "I'm a little irritated."

I'm a little irritated means like ugh, you know, somebody made me irritated.

Again, context will usually tell you that "little irritated" means very irritated.

"Ugh, I'm a little irritated." Means I'm pissed off, to be honest, but we use "little" to

make it softer. Okay? But, and another thing, again this usually

comes back to countables or uncountables. When we're talking about countables and we

want to talk about the quantity, like how much we have, we say: "We have a small amount

of something" or "We have a small number of somethings." Again, you usually use amount

with uncountables, you'll use number with countables. But for both, you can use: "A

small amount", "A small number of". But you would say "a little" with the uncountables.

"I have a little time.", "I have a small amount of time to give you.", "I have a small number

of friends." But here you won't use "little", you will use "few" for the countables. "I

have a few friends." Okay? So again, if you mix the two "small" or "little",

most people will understand the same thing that you want them to understand. But if you

want the detailed differences, this is basically it. There are other small various degrees

of difference; very, very nuanced. But again, context will usually make that clear --which

one you should use or which one, or why the one that is being used is being used. Okay?

It's not as clear when we talk about "big" and "large". Let's look at that now.

Okay, so now we're going to look at "big" and "large". This is a little bit more complicated

because "big" and "large" are almost the same... Have almost the same meaning. There're not

many situations where you can't interchange them. Okay? Some people think that "large"

is a little bit more formal than "big" but not necessarily. "Big" and "large" can both

be used to talk about size and dimensions; we mentioned dimensions before. But again,

it's all about context. Okay? Then again, the nuances that come from the context will

tell you which one you should or shouldn't use.

So for example: if you talk about "the big boss", the big boss is basically like the

CEO. Right? He's the president, the top guy. He's going to be the big boss, he's at the

top, he's the most. If you say: "The large boss", sounds a little bit strange if what

you mean is CEO or president. If you say: "The large boss", I'm thinking the fat one.

Okay? There're two or three bosses; there's the CEO, there's a president, there's a COO,

etcetera. You're talking about the "large boss" -- I'm thinking about the big burly

guy. Okay? So I wouldn't really say "big boss" if I mean heavy guy. I wouldn't say "large

boss" if I mean top guy. Now, let's look at this one. You're talking

about your brother. "My big brother" -- what does that mean? Generally, it means older,

my older brother, my big brother. Okay? And if you talk about your younger brother, "my

little brother". He's not physically small, he's younger. Okay? So it's the same idea.

If you say: "my large brother", again, you're talking about a big boy, bigger than you anyway

-- that's why you think he's large. And again, here we go about with amount or

number describing a quantity. I would say: "A large number of people came to the party.",

"A large number of stars are in the sky." Whatever, it's not a good example but it's

an example. I wouldn't say: "A big number" -- it just sounds a little bit strange. It's

not very common to say: "a big number". Again, not wrong. If you say: "A big number of people

came", everybody will understand. It's fine, but not commonly heard. But if you talk about

amount, again, more common: "a large amount of whatever", "a large amount of money was

spent." But you could say: "a big amount". Most people prefer to say "large"; it just

sounds a little bit better for whatever reason. Now, again, here you go: context. "Large business"

versus "big business". Okay? "Big business" you're talking about a big company or a big

industry. Okay? "Large business" means you do, it does a lot of traffic, a lot of trading,

a lot of sales and incoming/outgoing revenues, etcetera. So I can't tell you exactly there's

a difference between "big" and "large", it's about context: which one sounds better? Okay?

You could say: "a big house", you could say: "a large house", they will mean exactly the

same thing. So basically, be careful about the context. If it doesn't feel right, change

it to the other one but don't worry about using one or the other. And if you're doing

a test like TOEFL or IELTS, "big" and "large" in the essay will get you the same points.

"Large" is not a fancy word, it's just another way of saying "big". Okay? So the best I can

do for you with these two. "Small" and "little", they have some variations, "big" and "large",

not so much. Now, let's take a look at "tall" and "high".

Okay, so let's look at our last one here: "tall" and "high". This one should be a little

bit more straightforward. Okay? When we talk about tall things, generally it's, generally

it's always about physical things. Not always, there are certain exceptions but mostly it's

about physical things. And if you want to remember, think about things that are standing.

Okay? So a person, like for example myself, I am standing here and I am this tall.

If somebody this tall is next to me, then I am tall. If somebody is here, then I am short.

But it doesn't matter, by talking about a person and then we're talking about tall or

not tall. We don't say: "A person is high." If you say: "A person is high", he's probably

doing something very different than studying English.

Anyway, if we talk about "high", generally speaking, we talk about above average, above

others like it. Okay? So we're talking about high ground. Okay? So let's say you have,

this is sea level, this is called high ground; it's above the other ground around it, above

sea level generally speaking. We also use "high" to talk about ideas, things that are

ideas; they're not real, they're not physical. High cost, the high cost of living, a high

price. We would never say "tall" about these things because there's nothing to compare

them to. They're just an idea and they're high. Okay?

Position, for example: an official in government, he's a high official means he has a very high

rank. Or we talk about high culture, people who go to the opera and drink champagne and

drive in limousines, they live in a slightly higher lifestyle, higher culture, etc.

Something when you're reaching for a peak. So for example: travelling -- the reason you

don't want to travel in summer is because it's high season; prices are very high then.

We don't use "tall" for any of these things. Okay?

But, in some situations you can use either one. If you describe something or someone...

He, let's say for example: "He is 6 feet high." It sounds a little strange. You would say:

"He is 6 feet tall." But if you're talking about like a wall or a door, "The door is

6 feet high, six feet tall", both are okay. Okay?

Now, sometimes people mix these up. If we're talking about a building, some people say:

"It's a very tall building." Like: the World Trade Center is a very tall building. Some

people say: "It's a very high building." Again, depends which one you want to use. I, personally,

would use "tall building" because a building is standing, somebody built it, it is standing.

If you're talking about a mountain, I would say: "It's a high mountain." You could say:

"It's a tall mountain." But a mountain isn't standing, a mountain is sitting; it's been

there forever, it's sitting there. Nobody put it there, it's not moving so I consider

it sitting and therefore it's high. It's higher than the ground or the other mountains around

it. Okay? Again, context. Don't forget that. It's always

about context. Although the distinctions here are a little bit more clear. "Big" and "large",

not so much; "small" and "little", yes and no; "tall" and "high", more clear cut. Okay?

But again, if you need more practice go to There's a quiz there you can

try out. Also, don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel, and come back again and

take some more lessons with us. Thank you.

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