Avoid and Prevent – avoid mistakes with these confusing words

The verbs avoid and prevent have similar meanings in English. They are both followed by a noun or gerund but the grammatical patterns they follow are rather different. Watch this video lesson to learn how to use them correctly and avoid mistakes.

Oh Jay! It’s like he’s avoiding me.

Today’s lesson is about two useful verbs with very similar meanings. In this video you’ll learn how they’re similar and how they’re different so you can use them correctly. Let’s start with ‘prevent’.

I always wear a helmet when I’m cycling. Helmets prevent head injuries. And I always use a security lock to prevent theft.

Injuries and thefts are bad. Prevent means stop something bad from happening.

I’ve got a joke.
What’s that?
How do you prevent a summer cold?
I don’t know. How do you prevent a summer cold?
Catch it in the winter.

Nobody wants a cold or other illnesses so we take action to prevent them.

Hi, I’m here at the gym today where there are lots of healthy people. Let’s find out what vitamins they take.
Excuse me. Can I ask a question?
Sure.
What vitamins do you take?
Well, I take vitamin C to prevent colds.
Uhhuh.
And vitamin E, that prevents heart attacks and strokes.
I see. Anything else? Yes, I take vitamin B for energy.
Uhuh. I think it’s working!

Prevent is followed by a noun here – the thing we prevent. And there’s another structure we often use with prevent.

We live on a very busy street in Philadelphia. There’s lots of traffic.
When we first moved here, the traffic prevented us from sleeping at night.
But we’re used to it now.

Preventing someone from doing something – it means stopping them from doing it. Let’s look at another example.

What are you wearing?
It’s none of your business.
Don’t tell me. It’s a helmet to prevent me from reading your mind.
How did you know?
I read your mind.

Prevent someone from doing something. Prevent someone from doing something. Don’t forget that! OK, now let’s look at ‘avoid’. Avoid can also mean to stop bad things from happening. Accidents for example. We need to keep our cars in good repair and we need drive carefully. These are things we can do to prevent and to avoid accidents. But if we see an accident up ahead we might swerve our car to avoid it, steer it in another direction, so we keep out of the way. Prevent is just about stopping something happening, but avoid can also mean keeping away from something.

Let’s go home.
But it’s only 4.30.
But if we leave now we’ll avoid rush hour.
Oh, good idea.

We want our journey to be fast so we’re trying to avoid heavy traffic. We can’t prevent the rush hour but we can try to stay away from it. So there’s a little difference in meaning here. When we avoid something, we try not to go near it. We might avoid people we don’t like – stay away from them. If we’re dieting we might avoid fatty or sugary foods. And when we’re having conversations, there might be topics we want to avoid.

So what did you think of my presentation?
Oh, I wonder if the coffee’s ready? Let’s get some?
No. I want to know what you thought of my presentation.
Maybe they’ll have doughnuts.
Stop avoiding the question. If you didn’t like it, tell me.
You pronounced the name of the product wrongly
Really?
Eight times. The customer complained.
Oh.
But never mind. What did you think of your presentation?
I wonder if the coffee’s ready. Let’s get some.

Do you remember the two structures we use with prevent? Here you are. Great. Notice prevent is always followed by a noun. And notice we use a gerund here. A gerund is a noun made from a verb by adding -ing. We can’t use infinitives after prevent so these structures are wrong. And it’s the same with ‘avoid’. It’s always followed by a noun or a gerund. You can’t use an infinitive so this sentences is wrong. Great. And that’s it. Now you know what these verbs mean and how to use them correctly.I hope this lesson has been fun, and I hope it will help you avoid making mistakes. Remember to subscribe to our channel for more lessons like this. Let’s finish with one more example.

Did you manage to get a new car, Jay?
Yes, it’s fantastic. It’s a Lamborghini
Really?
Yeah. It can go over 200 miles an hour.
I’m surprised. I thought Vicki wanted a small family car.
Yeah, but this car’s amazing. It’s a convertible.
How much did it cost?
Uh oh. Gotta go.
Hi Kathy
Hey Vicki
Was that Jay?
He said he had to go.
I’ve been trying to talk to him all morning. There’s this sports car parked in our drive way and I don’t know whose it is.
Ah…. I think he’s trying to avoid you.

Starting this autumn we’re going to run live classes on Youtube where we’ll be able to communicate with you in the chat. We’ll be broadcasting live from Philadelphia and other people will be joining us from around the world. Subscribe to our email list to get updates on live classes. I’ll put a link in the description below. Go on now. Go subscribe. You don’t wanna miss this.

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