Archive for July 5, 2010

the difference between words: popular and common


Many of my students mix up the words “popular” and “common”.  The difference between them is very important for effective communication. The word “popular” is used to describe things or people that many people like, but “common” is used to describe things that happen a lot. When something is common, maybe people like it, but maybe they don’t. For example:

Johnny Depp is one of the most popular actors in Hollywood right now.

Going to look at cherry blossoms in April is extremely popular in Japan.

Toy race cars are very popular with young boys, but they’re not so popular with young girls.

Working overtime is very common in Japan.

When Japanese people travel, it’s common for them to buy many souvenirs for their family and friends.

Heart problems are common among people who are 65 years old or over.

It’s important that you don’t confuse these two words. If you say something like heart problems is popular, it will sound very strange because that would mean that many people like to have heart problems which is obviously not true.

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