What is the difference? (Empathy vs Sympathy and Grateful vs Thankful)

As we all know, English has some words and phrases that confuse us more often than others. These words may sound the same, look the same but have totally different meanings. It’s necessary for us as learners to distinguish between these to improve our English accuracy. Below are two pairs of common confusing words in English that you should definitely know the difference! Let’s dive right in!

Empathy and sympathy

Sympathy is (an expression of) understanding and care for someone else’s suffering.

For example:

She said that she was deeply moved by all the letters of sympathy she had received.

They had great sympathy for the flood victims.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, which means you’re able to put yourself in their shoes.

For example:

Having begun my life in a children’s home I have great empathy with the little ones.

sympathy vs empathy

Grateful and thankful

We use grateful to talk about how we feel when someone is kind to us or does us a favour.

For example:

I’m so grateful (to you) for all that you’ve done.

We are all profoundly grateful for your help and encouragement.

We usually use thankful when we are relieved that something unpleasant or dangerous didn’t happen.

For example:

I was thankful that the meeting didn’t last long, because I had to get home.

Most of the time I’m just thankful that I’ve got a job.

grateful vs thankful


What would you choose to complete the following sentences?

1. I’m very ______ for all the help you gave me when I was in New York.

2. It was nice to get ____ cards from so many friends when Uncle Mike passed away.

3. It looks like all flights to Austin are delayed due to bad weather. I’m really _____ we’re not going today.

4. Having been raised in an orphanage, I have great ____ with those little kids.

What is your most confusing word in English? Share with us in the comments below!

>>> Check out more confusing words in English here

To be able to understand how to use confusing English vocabulary correctly, you need to improve your vocabulary size. One of the best ways to learn English vocabulary is by using eJOY eXtension. This extension is a tool that helps you look up new words, save them to your wordbooks so that you can review them in the future. What’s more, eJOY eXtension allows you to play many interesting word games. Isn’t it cool? Watch. Learn. And get inspired now!


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