Commonly Confused Words
Many students of English have trouble with these two verbs, using one
where the other would be more appropriate. While they are similar in
meaning, they are not identical, as
we can see in the definitions and examples below, adapted from the
Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, 3rd edition.
notice: to see, hear, or feel something
The definitions of realize include the word "know", while the
definition of notice includes "see,hear or feel". In other
words, realizing is a cognitive event, something which involves thinking
about a situation. Noticing is more of a physical event in
which something comes to our attention through our senses. It is
possible to notice something without realizing that it is important.
- He spilled the tea, but Mrs. Whitley did not notice.
- You may notice a numb feeling in your fingers.
- He was too tired even to notice how tired and hungry he was.
- Did you notice him leaving the party early?
realize 1: to know and understand the importance of
- Do you realize that you are an hour late?
- I realize how much she means to you.
- None of us realized the danger we were in.
realize 2: to start to know something that you had not
- I suddenly realized that he was crying.
- Later, we realized that we had met before in Paris.
- I realized then how hungry I was.
- Tim didn't realize his mistake until the next day.
Pay attention to the contrast in these two sentences:
- Did you notice what time it was when you came in? (That is, did
you happen to see the clock?)
- Did you realize what time it was when you came in? (That is, did you
understand that you were late?)
Here are a few examplesThese examples taken from the Bank of English corpus
created by COBUILD at Birmingham University.
Here are some more examples from the Cobuild Corpus with
realizeand notice taken out. Can you guess
which ones originally had realize and which ones
originally had notice?
...Chinese prestige had plummeted so low in Lhasa that imperial edicts
were openly disobeyed and Chinese sovereignty was barely given lip
service. If a small number of officials did indeed realize that
Kawaguchi was Japanese, they also recognized that it would not be in
Tibet's interest to provoke a potentially friendly ally....
- ...conflicts and your natural weight limitations you can reduce the
importance of fat as a measure of self-worth. You'll see how looksism
causes weight preoccupation. And I hope you'll begin to realize
that getting thin isn't really the antidote to feeling fat. After all,
many thin women still fear fat. A central theme of Bodylove is that you
shouldn't have to suffer
or torment yourself...
- ...does not make much of in this particular report. But leaving
aside blame for a moment, this list of things done wrong in the Sahel
suggests that only now are people beginning to realize how the
climate, in human terms, actually operates. The climate is defined by a
relationship between the weather, rain or no rain, and what use people
have tried to make of the natural
- ... his arrival describing him as a famous physician, he was obliged
to treat several patients. With the festivities in Lhasa lasting another
ten days, there was reason to hope that no one would notice his
absence, or have the means to do anything about it, for some time. All
the same, Kawaguchi was taking no chances. At Palti he began what became
a routine, setting out just after midnight...
..."By the way, you know the other day when you went out rowing," he
said, stalling for time, "did you happen to notice a painting in
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"Oh good, I've been looking for it."
"One of Dr. Jonsen's, right? What was it doing there, Frank?"
... Although I knew he was unusual, I didn't realize that his
difference made him disgraceful, an embarrassment my family always tried
to hide from outsiders. However, I soon started to notice that he
was always sent out of the room to some quiet, distant part of the house
when we had visitors. If we were outdoors and another person approached,
family members whispered ...