Today on Ask a Teacher, we answer an email from a reader.
Question: Recently, I met three words that confused me: "enhance," "improve" and "increase." I hope you can help me, thank you.
Answer: Hi, Meishui! I can help. These three verbs all have similar meanings, but there are some differences in their use.
Let’s start with “enhance.”
Of the three words we are studying today, “enhance” is the least common. You can probably use “improve” instead of “enhance” in many sentences you want to say or write.
“Enhance” means to raise the quality of something, usually of something that is already good. In these next sentences, I will explain what is happening.
Students use reading strategies to enhance understanding. (They already understand but now they will understand more.)
Adding a little lemon juice enhances the flavor of the rice. (The rice tastes good but now it will taste great.)
The verb “improve” means to make (something) better or to become better. This can be something that is not so good to begin with. The meaning often includes the idea of adding to something. For example, mobile phone batteries do not often stay charged for a whole day. A new way to make batteries could let you use your phone all day without charging it.
The new battery designs improve their performance. (Before the batteries did not last long enough, but the new ones are better.)
Or think of a person with little education. She may return to school.
Hilda took a night class to improve her chances of getting a good job.(Hilda cannot get a good job now, but maybe she will after taking the class.)
“Increase” is a little different from the other two. It means to become or to make something larger or greater in size, amount or number. When you increase something, you can probably say a larger number to tell about the change.
Online teachers are trying to increase their earnings. (They will get 30 percent more money by teaching online.)
The shoe company moved to a bigger space to increase production. (The company will make 1,000 more shoes a day.)
Our town leaders want to increase the number of homeowners. (There will be 10 percent more homeowners in the town.)
- Use “enhance” to talk about making a good thing even better.
- Use “improve” to talk about making a thing better that is not so good now.
- Use “increase” when you want to talk about larger numbers or amounts.
And that’s Ask a Teacher!
I’m Jill Robbins.
Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
confuse – v. to make (something) difficult to understand
strategies – n. steps taken by students to enhance their own learning.
flavor – n. a substance that is added to food or drink to give it a desired taste
mobile phone – n. a wireless phone
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