Archive for October 18, 2010

the difference between words: clever and smart

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Many of my students get confused about when to use the adjectives “clever” and “smart”, so that’s what I’d like to write about today.

In English, we use the word “smart” to say someone is intelligent in a general way. It has the same meaning as “intelligent” except that that “smart” sounds a little more casual than “intelligent”.  We use the word “clever” to describe people who are able to quickly find solutions to particular problems or who can think of witty and humorous things to say. We can also use “clever” to describe the thing the clever person thinks of such as an idea, story, joke, etc. For example:

My best friend is extremely smart. He went to Harvard and got his PhD in physics.

Pauline isn’t very well educated, but she’s very smart. She reads a lot in her free time and is very knowledgeable about many things.

Jim was the only person in our class who could think of a solution to our problem. He’s very clever.

My friend is extremely witty and clever. Sometimes she makes me laugh so hard with the things she says.

The suspense movie I saw yesterday had a very clever twist ending. I was very surprised.

My husband came up with a very clever idea to make money while staying at home.

There is also another misunderstanding about the word “smart” in Japan. The Japanese language has borrowed the word “smart”, but the meaning has been changed. In Japanese, “smart” is used to talk about a person’s body which is thin, but in English, “smart” is only used to say someone is intelligent. It has nothing to do with a person’s body.

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