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02 / 03 / 2004

FALSE FRIEND: CASUALTY: meaning and examples

Good morning.

Lately I have noticed that a lot of my students use the word casualty to mean chance, accident or coincidence. However, in reality casualty means something very different in English: someone who is killed or injured in military action or in an accident. The word that English students are really trying to express is coincidence.

Coincidence means: a situation in which separate things happen in the same way or at the same time by chance.

Consider the following examples that demonstrate the important difference between these words.

Example 1
Since the official "end" or the war in Iraq, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of casualties; people from both sides are dying every day.

Example 2
When I was in Amsterdam last weekend with my wife, I saw my maths teacher from secondary school. I hadn't seen him for years and suddenly he appeared in Amsterdam at the same time we were there. What a coincidence!

As you can see, these words are very different.

Have a good day.

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