There are words in English that are similar but are used for different reasons and different situations. Some adjectives (words that describe a noun) are very close in meaning, but we use them at different times.
This week we’ll talk about the words big, large, and tall. They all mean a version of “not small”, but we’re here to help explain the difference!
Big and Large
Big and large are words that are very close in meaning. However, we use them in different situations. Big and large both describe something that is above average in size (how big or small something is) or weight (how heavy or light something is-think kilos or pounds).
He has a big backyard. OR He has a large backyard. (size)
The truck is carrying a big load. OR The truck is carrying a large load. (weight)
Both of these examples mean that he has a bigger/larger backyard or load than a normal sized backyard or load. You can use either word in these sentences because they mean exactly the same thing. Large can, however, sound a little more formal sometimes.
This means that big and large are used with countable nouns (things or amounts that can be counted with numbers: friends, books, houses, backyards, loads).
Neither big nor large can be used with uncountable nouns (things that can’t be counted with numbers: sugar, water, rain). If you want to describe an above average amount of sugar, for example, you would use a lot.
We got a lot of rain last week. OR This cake has a lot of sugar in it!
Big and large are quite similar, right? But there are some cases when they’re not.
When Big and Large are Different
Big can also mean important, older, or successful.
Moving in together is a big decision. (Important.)
I have a big sister. (She is older than me.)
The Hollywood Sign is a big place for tourists. (Successful)
Large cannot be used in place of big in these cases because large doesn’t have these meanings. However, large is used more often than big to indicate quantity (how much of something there is).
A large coffee.
A large part of…
A large area….
To a large extent…
Big and tall are easily confused. If you want to talk about how high someone is off the ground, you would say tall instead of big. If you use big, you could accidentally be calling someone fat!
Tall is used to describe how high something is (without the exact measurement).
Those trees are very tall. (They are very high off the ground, but we don’t know exactly how tall they are.)
She is very tall.
There are lots of tall buildings in the city center.
Try coming up with (thinking of) some practice sentences to test if you understand the difference. Send them to us and we’ll let you know if they are correct! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin (but not for long!), is a live English teacher, yoga and breath instructor, and is really sorry that sometimes, English isn’t so Easy. Good luck!