Thursday, 11 February 2016

Confusing Words: Envy or Jealousy

These two words are commonly confused and, probably surprisingly for students, natives make the same mistake...

Firstly, the defintions:


Envy in its extreme and strongest form means to bear a grudge, or have negative feelings for someone, because you desire / want / covet something the a person has or enjoys.

In its weaker form it means desire for something a person has without any negative feelings.

In other words, you may hate your colleague or friend who keeps getting promoted and envy what they have and hope they lose it, thinking they don't deserve it (this is the extreme form)


You may also envy someone cause they have a nice cup of coffee or are on holiday, but are happy for them and wish them no ill will. This is the weaker and more natural form.


Envy (noun, verb) Envious (adjective)





Jealousy means to be scared of being replaced by someone or losing what you have. A jealous person may expect complete devotion from another person, for example a jealous person may want their boyfriend / girlfriend to give them complete attention.

Example: A man is in a bar with his girlfriend when another man comes to speak to her. This causes the boyfriend to become jealous (as he fears someone is trying to replace him).

Jealousy (Noun) Jealous (Adjective)

So what's the confusion? 

Well natives in particular use jealous for both envy and jealousy. I have to admit that even I do it sometimes as it is common in speech and I find myself correcting myself. Not many natives will know the difference. You find them saying "my girlfriend is very jealous when other people talk to me" which the the correct use and then saying "you are going on holiday?! I'm so jealous." when actually what they want to say is 'I'm so envious'

This is common in English with many words such as literally and metaphorically being mixed up.

So listen to some natives and when / if they make that mistake you can think to yourself 'they confuse the words too'.

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