Archive for February 14, 2010

the difference between words: embarrassed and ashamed

Embarrassed

It’s Sunday here in Japan. I wasn’t able to write a blog entry yesterday because I was quite busy. First I had to teach and then I had dinner with some Japanese friends. During the dinner, we started talking about the difference between “ashamed” and “embarrassed”. This is a very common misunderstanding in Japan and I think in Korea too, so I’d like to write about it today.

Basically, the word “embarrassed” means having a feeling of emotional discomfort in front of other people. This last part is very important. If we are embarrassed, we have to be in front of at least one other person. We cannot be embarrassed if we are alone. These situations are usually not so serious.

Some example sentences using “embarrassed” are:

I made a big mistake during my presentation yesterday. I was really embarrassed.

I was embarrassed in front of my date last night because I didn’t have enough money to pay for dinner.

*It’s important to remember that you shouldn’t say “embarrassing” when talking about your personal feeling. We use that when talking about the situation. For example:

I made a big mistake during my presentation. It was really embarrassing for me.

It was so embarrassing for me last night. I didn’t have enough money to pay for dinner with my date.

On the other hand, “ashamed” means having a feeling of guilt because you did something bad intentionally. We can also be ashamed of  someone else if they did something bad intentionally. In this case, the feeling is not about guilt but about judgment. In both cases, it’s important that the bad thing was done intentionally. If we cause something bad to happen by accident, we don’t usually say we are ashamed.

Some example sentences using “ashamed” are:

When I was a teenager, I stole money from my parents. I’m really ashamed of that now.

Last year, Bill stole his co-worker’s idea and told the boss it was his. He should be ashamed of himself.

Many people in my country are ashamed of the way the government treated the native people a long time ago.

I can’t believe you cheated on your exam! I’m really ashamed of you!

So that’s the difference between “embarrassed” and “ashamed”. As I said in my first blog entry, the best way to improve your English is to memorize full sentences and then change the small details. You can do this with the examples I’ve given you and then you’ll never be confused about these words again. Good luck!

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