Archive for December, 2014

the difference between words: power and strength

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This will be my last blog entry for 2014. I’ve decided to go back to this blog’s most popular topic: the difference between words. This time I want to write about the difference between the nouns “power” and “strength”.

The word “power” refers to the capacity of a group, person or machine to do something. This word can refer to a mechanical situation (a machine) or something political or social (a group or person). For example:

This car doesn’t have enough power to pull that trailer.

I think there’s enough power left in this battery to play my music for another two hours.

My sister has the power to persuade anyone to do anything.

It seems like most politicians these days only run for office to gain power.

The word “strength” refers to a person’s physical capability to do something. In other words, we’re talking about their ability to use their muscles to do something. For example:

I don’t have enough strength in my upper body to lift that desk.

In order to increase your strength you should work out at the gym more often.

We can also use the word “strength” to talk about an advantage that a certain person or group has that makes it more likely for them to be successful. For example:

I have many strengths, but my biggest strength is my ability to communicate with other people.

The strength of that baseball team comes from their ability to work together as a team.

The word “strength” has a direct opposite which is the word “weakness*. However, “power” does not have a direct opposite. If we want to express its opposite, we would just say “lack of power”.

As I mentioned, these words are nouns. However, we often use the adjective forms which are “powerful” and “strong”. In regular conversation in English, it’s often more natural to use the adjective forms as it sounds more casual. Using nouns forms very often can make the sentences sound technical and formal.

I hope everyone has had a great 2014, and I wish you all Happy New Year! All the best to you in 2015!

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grammatical expression: to serve someone right

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This time, I’d like to write about the grammatical expression “serve someone right”. We use this when someone receives something bad and we think that they deserved this because they did something bad before. Let me give you some example sentences using this expression.

Tom Clark lost reelection for mayor. It serves him right because he did such a bad job as mayor before.

I didn’t get a good score on my test. I guess it serves me right because I didn’t study at all.

A: I didn’t get the promotion at work!
B: Well, it serves you right. You didn’t work very hard on your last project.

Bill’s wife just left him and she’s filing for divorce. It serves him right. He was constantly cheating on her with other women.

We usually use this to talk about other people who are not in the room. Sometimes, we use it about ourselves when we feel that we did something stupid. It’s also possible to use it directly to another person, as in my third example, but please note that this is not polite and the other person could get angry or upset if you say something like that to them. We would usually say this to someone we know very well and have a close relationship with.

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