Wise old owl – tips and hints

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

What’s the difference between a tip and a hint?

Why can’t we use these two words interchangeably?

The answer is simple – they don’t mean the same thing.

I’ve sometimes seen my students using “hint” when they mean “tip”, so let’s look at the difference in meaning.

A tip is a useful piece of information. I’ve put together a document called 20 tips for improving your reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. These tips are ideas about what people can do to improve their language skills. They are small pieces of advice, recommendations, or suggestions about things that people can try.

A hint is more like a clue. Perhaps I’m working with a student. They don’t know the answer, but I think they can work it out if I give them a small clue to help them find it. This small clue is a hint.

With hints, we generally assume there is a right answer and the other person is looking for that answer. With tips, there may not be a right answer, just a lot of suggestions or good ideas about things that have worked for other people in the past.

More articles in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.

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If your question is more specific and you would like one-to-one help, have a look at my lessons page.


2 Comments on “Wise old owl – tips and hints”

  1. Really interesting, these subtle little differences are so important for people who’ve already got a good standard of English, but want to take things a step further!

  2. Indeed – my students really get me thinking sometimes with questions like “what’s the difference between safe and secure?”!


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