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TEACH Yourself ENGLISH : Frequently confused words Synonyms

By Gabriel  A. Osoba

Shake – Tremble – Shudder – Quiver – Quake

These words – shake, tremble, shudder, quiver and quake are all related in meaning. ‘To shake’ is shared by the rest synonyms. Tremble, shudder, quiver and quake are all modes of ‘shaking’. To be able to use each word accurately, note the various shades of meaning that distinguish one word from the other.

To tremble is ‘to shake in a way that you cannot control, especially because you are very nervous, excited, frightened etc’. Thus, to tremble is ‘to shake from an inward cause or what appears to be so’.

To shudder is ‘to shake because you are cold or frightened or because of a strong feeling’. It implies ‘to tremble violently’. To quiver is ‘to shake or tremble slightly’.

To quake (of a person) is ‘to shake because you are very frightened or nervous; (of the earth or a building) to move or shake violently’.

He opened the letter with trembling hands.
First thinking of the accident makes me shudder.
His voice quivered with emotion.
Her lip quivered and she started to cry.
She was quaking in her boots at the thought of a meeting with her boss.

Shall – Will
In British English, the two words- shall and will – are often used interchangeably with no difference of meaning in most circumstances- I shall/will. We shall/will.

Note that in modern English, the traditional rules regarding the two words have almost disappeared. Will is now the choice for expressing future plans and expectations. People are more likely to say I will/ won’t be late. Shall often sounds formal and old-fashioned.

Nonetheless, in British English, shall is still used (the first person) ‘I’ or ‘We’ for polite questions (Shall we order some coffee? Shall I call a taxi?) or to give order/  instruction (Candidates shall remain in their seats until all the papers have been collected). Shall is also used when you want to make a suggestion or an offer.


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