Finally, a common point of confusion.
The main differences
- “Problem” is the general word.
- “Issue” is more diplomatic and less negative.
- “Trouble” is uncountable.
“Problem” is the most common of the three. We use it in all kinds of situations. We can have big problems (our house is falling down) or small problems (my cat is sitting on my laptop again).
In other words, you can use “problem” in any negative situation.
“Issue” actually has three meanings. The most common meaning is the diplomatic alternative to “problem.”
Especially in politics or the business world, the word “problem” is sometimes too negative. It focuses on the bad side of things and suggests someone made a mistake. To be more diplomatic, we use the word “issue.”
“Issue” suggests that we can solve things easily and no one gets angry.
Another meaning of “issue” is simply “topic” or “subject.” We usually use “issue” like this when we’re talking about news or politics:
It seems crazy now, but giving women the right to vote was a great issue of the day.
The final meaning of “issue” is completely different. It actually means “magazine or journal publication.”
We can use “issue” in two ways here.
To show the number of the issue:
The 27th issue of a magazine
Or to show the theme of the issue:
New Year’s issue
The big giraffe issue
This magazine cover shows both uses at once:
Finally, “trouble” is used as the uncountable sister to “problem.” There are a couple of different ways we can use it.
A common use of this word is with the phrase “in trouble.” This suggests a power dynamic: the less powerful is always in trouble with the more powerful.
- You can be in trouble with the police, or more worryingly, the mafia.
- A child can be in trouble with her parents.
- A husband can be in trouble with his wife.
We also use this word in the phrase “to have trouble with something” or “to have trouble -ing,” which simply means “to find something difficult.”
At the beginning, he had trouble performing in public, but now he does it all the time.
What words do you find confusing in English? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in a future post.
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It s really useful.
Very good explanation, I really like it .
Thanks Fatim. I’m happy it’s helpful.
Are there any other words that you find confusing? Please let me know. Perhaps I can write about them. 🙂
I really like your post a lot, it helps clarifying concepts and meanings which for long time seemed ambiguous to me.
Thanks for the positive comment.
Are there any other topics that are ambiguous to you? Let me know and I’ll consider writing about them.
Great! Thank you for this clear and detailed explanation. I really enjoyed reading and grasping the subtle nuances of these terms.
Thanks for your feedback. I’m glad it helped you with the details — that’s what it’s all about! 🙂
Thanks for these reviews, they are so useful
Thanks Anastasia. So glad that we could help.
Do you have any other problems (issues) with words with similar meanings?
Thank you. Great effort.
Thanks. So glad to help!
I’m confused about ‘through’, ‘via’ and ‘by’.
That’s a good one. We’ll add it to the list and include it in our next post on words with similar meanings.
please explain “dispersal”
It’s the noun form of “disperse.”
You can use it when something distributes itself, or spreads, over a relatively large area.
So you can talk about a dispersal of food as humanitarian aid.
Or a the dispersal of fumes around a city.
Thanks for such a great explanation and mainly for the examples, which illustrate the content better.
Thanks, it help me a lot!
What’s difference between Affect and effect? In meaning and uses?
In short, the difference between “affect” and “effect” is that one’s a verb and one’s a noun.
So you can say, “The weather is probably going to affect the performance.”
And you can also say, “The storm had a huge effect on the performance.”
Hope that helps! 🙂
We resolve issues, we solve problems
Thank’s for your clearly explained article. It helped me so well.
Thanks a lot, Gabriel
That’s exactly what I was looking for. Your explanation has been good enough to understand the difference clearly.
I’d like you to help with the difference between remember and recall, and how we can use them.
Nice one Dainer. Glad it helped!
“remember” and “recall”? That’s a good one.
It’s on the list… 🙂