“Different” and “tautology”

This word you will know. However, it is often used incorrectly even by the Cambridge University exam organisation.

If you have done a Cambridge listening exam, say at the level of “First” or “Advanced” you may have read and heard this:

“You are going to listen to 5 different people talking about…”. Where is the error? The error is in the use of “different”.

If one speaks about five people, it is obvious that they are different. The five speakers are not going to be the same person. So why not say “you are going to listen to five people talking about…”.

This type of error is called a “tautology “(tautología), that is, an unnecessary repetition of the same idea that gives us no more information (una repetición innecesaria usando la misma idea o palabra que no avanza información). So, why does this happen? The answer is simple: unthinking minds (las mentes irreflexivas). Please do not make the same mistake


“Different” (distinto, diferente) you will know. However, many unthinking minds (muchas mentes irreflexivas) abound (abundan) and make stupid mistakes with this word.

Perhaps you have done a Cambridge First or Advanced exam and you have heard the following in the Listening test: “You will hear eight people talking in eight different situations”. Where is the error? Eight situations can only be different situations, and therefore “different” is redundant (redundante). The correct form would be “eight people talking in eight situations”.

You may also have heard someone say “I spoke to eight different people”.

This is confusing. Why? Is “different” redundant?  Or does the speaker mean that the people were very different in character, profession, or appearance? One was a gangster, another a charity worker, and another a circus clown. Confused? You should be.

So, be different from the Cambridge examiners, and use “different” – and all adjectives – with care so that you do not confuse mortals. The golden rule in English: accuracy (la exactitud), brevity (la brevedad), clarity (la claridad) = ABC.