Data and language for research – day 5: confusing words

Data and language for research – day 5: confusing words

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There are lots of words in English that look similar to words in other languages but have a different meaning. These are known as ‘false friends’.

It’s also common for words in English to have more than one meaning, which can make things increasingly confusing.

Here are some frequently used words that can sometimes be confused with other words.

Confusing word pairs

control/check (nouns)

control check

1.       The ability or power to make decisions about something

They took control of the company in 1994.

2.       The ability to makes something or someone do what you want.
I lost control of the car and hit a tree.

3.       The ability to prevent something becoming more dangerous

We were asked to investigate disease control.

4.       A group that is used in comparison with a test group

The control group were taken to a different location.

5.       The buttons, levers or switches that are used to operate a machine or large vehicle

The temperature control allowed us to increase the temperature in small increments over a long period of time.


when something/someone is examined to ensure it is in the correct condition or as it should be

·        This noun is often used with the following adjectives: regular, routine, thorough, stringent

·        This noun is often used with the following verbs: carry out, conduct, perform, undergo

Temperature checks were performed every hour.



A typical mistake:

Wrong: We controlled the samples every hour.
Right: We checked the samples ever hour.

The verb forms are: to control, to check

current/actual (adjectives)

current actual

1.       happening or existing at the present time

Current constraints include a lack of funding, insufficient infrastructure and poor communication.

2.       Used or believed by lots of people (at the present time)

Current theories surrounding child development often focus on environmental influences.

meaning: used to show that something is real (as opposed to imagined)

The actual number of people affected by the condition is not known.

Wrong: The actual population is over 10,000 inhabitants.

Right: The current population is over 10,000 inhabitants.


to affect (verb) /əˈfekt/ an effect (noun) /ɪˈfekt/
meaning: to change or influence something

·        These adverbs are often used with this verb: significantly, adversely, negatively, directly, indirectly

In this test, we found that hydration directly affected productivity.

meaning: a change that happens as a result of someone/something

·        This noun is often used with the following adjectives: beneficial, desired, adverse, harmful, negative, profound, significant

Reducing the cost of public transport has clearly had the desired effect – with less inner-city congestion being reported each month.

Wrong: The affects of the treatment were immediate.

Right: The effects of the treatment were immediate.

fit/suit (verbs)

to fit to suit

1.       to be the correct shape, size, type or number for a person/thing

We were able to fit all of the equipment into one van.

2.       To add a piece of equipment to a place/thing

They fitted the new screen quickly.


1.       to be the right style for someone

This colour doesn’t suit me.

2.       to be convenient for someone

An early morning meeting doesn’t suit us.

·        Pronunciation: this word has a long /u:/ sound – /su:t/ (NOT /swi:t/)

Wrong: After taking precise measurements, we made a small metal component to suit the machine.

Right: After taking precise measurements, we made a small metal component to fit the machine.

sensitive/sensible (adjectives)

sensitive sensible

1.       to be able to notice and understand other people’s feelings

Medical professionals in this area need to be especially sensitive to patient wellbeing.

2.       to react quickly to something

The plant is particularly sensitive to light.

3.       to be easily upset

He’s very sensitive about his height.

4.       when something must be treated carefully because it may make people feel emotional

We took care to ensure that any sensitive information remained confidential.

5.       to be able to measure tiny changes

The equipment is incredibly sensitive and can measure even the most microscopic samples.

meaning: practical and based on good judgement

The decision to suspend research until the storm had passed was a sensible one.


Wrong: The apparatus was sensible to changes in temperature so tests were carried out in a controlled environment.

Right: The apparatus was sensitive to changes in temperature so tests were carried out in a controlled environment.

Examples of this language in use

You can find these words in the following extract.

Comparing in vivo bioluminescence imaging and the Multi-Cruzi immunoassay platform to develop improved Chagas disease diagnostic procedures and biomarkers for monitoring parasitological cure

Statistical analysis

Linear Mixed Model (LMM) analysis was used for the statistical analysis of the longitudinal data, since a mixed effects model has both random and fixed effects. In the current model, treatment group is a fixed effect, while time and mouse are random effects. Longitudinal data are described by the response variable (biomarker intensity), which was repeatedly measured at each group and time. The data prior to start of treatment were disregarded from the LMM analysis. There were no missing value observations. Response variables were the antigen reactivities of 16 biomarkers in the Multi-Cruzi assay and the log-transformed bioluminescence total flux. Independent variables were time (in days after infection) and treatment group (vehicle; benznidazole 30 mg kg-1; benznidazole 100 mg kg-1). Variance and co-variance were modelled as unstructured (UN). For each subgroup, and for each antigen or bioluminescence variable, slopes and intercepts were calculated and compared. SAS Proc Mixed was used for LMM analysis, from SAS 9.4 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC, USA). The mixed effects model allows the average intercept and slope to be fitted as fixed effects, while taking account of differences between mice and time (random effects).


This study addresses one of the key challenges in Chagas disease control, which is the lack of serological tools and reliable biomarkers to monitor parasitological cure. The current strategy, for investigational settings, is to use PCR-based methods for assessing Chagas disease drug efficacy. However, because of the highly focal and low-level nature of chronic infections [22, 27], long-term follow-up is required [16, 17], and the potential for “false-cure” outcomes remains high. This presents major problems in clinical trials, and in future, will complicate the roll-out of new therapies. The recently developed multiplex serology assay system has shown potential as a means of monitoring T. cruzi persistence and identifying biomarkers that are predictive of successful treatment [29–31]. To further explore the utility of this approach, we applied the multiplex methodology to a highly sensitive experimental infection model, based on bioluminescence, where the limit of detection by ex vivo imaging is less than 20 parasites [22]. The aim was to determine if procedures such as this could be incorporated into the drug development pipeline, as an additional approach to identifying drug candidates that eliminate an infection. This experimental system also has the advantage of a standardized infection timeline and a method for designating cure that is more reliable than PCR-based methodologies [34].

This extract is taken from: Francisco AF, Saade U, Jayawardhana S, Pottel H, Scandale I, et al. (2022) Comparing in vivo bioluminescence imaging and the Multi-Cruzi immunoassay platform to develop improved Chagas disease diagnostic procedures and biomarkers for monitoring parasitological cure. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 16(10): e0010827. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0010827

Try the multiple-choice quiz below to test your understanding.

Lesson tags: Confusing words, English for scientists, language for research
Back to: English for Scientists