January 15


Learn How to Use the Words ‘Avoid’ and ‘Prevent’ Correctly in Your Cambridge Exam – Podcast


Hi everyone, you’re listening to Cambridge Exam Coach, a podcast for learners of English who want to build their vocabulary.

I’m Kristian, your host, and in this episode we’re talking about the difference between the verbs ‘avoid’ and ‘prevent’.

Prevent basically means ‘stop’. According to the Longman English dictionary, it means “to stop something from happening, or stop someone from doing something.”

You can prevent something, prevent something from happening, or prevent someone from doing something.

For example,

“The arrival of the police prevented crime.”

“Losing my passport prevented me from flying.”

“The police prevented the criminals from robbing the bank.”

Now, I believe that the best way to build your vocabulary is to hear loads of examples, so that you get used to the way how we use these words. Learning definitions isn’t practical and it certainly isn’t much fun. It’s better to learn how to use words in natural sounding sentences. (And it’s also more fun)

So, let’s look at some more examples from the Collins English dictionary. They write that the verb ‘prevent’ means “to ensure that it does not happen.”

“These methods prevent pregnancy.”
“Further treatment will prevent cancer from developing.”
“We recognized the possibility and took steps to prevent it happening.”

And here are a few examples from the Longman English dictionary:

“The rules are intended to prevent accidents.” (to stop something from happening)

“We were prevented from entering the site.” (stop someone from doing something)

By the way, both dictionaries have audio recordings of the examples. So if you want to practice your speaking skills while building your vocab, you can kill two birds with one stone when you use Longman or Collins.

Now, let’s talk about the verb ‘avoid’.

Avoid basically means ‘miss’. If you avoid something, you try to make it miss you.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, it means “to stay away from someone or something, or not use something”.

For example,

“I avoided meeting my ex, because I didn’t want to speak with her.”

“I avoided my boss at work today, because he was grumpy.”

“Pregnant women should avoid certain foods such as raw eggs.”

And when you try hard to avoid someone, you could use the expression “to avoid someone like the plague”. For example, 

“Why did you speak to him? You usually avoid him like the plague.”  

You can also ‘avoid doing something’, for example,

“John managed to avoid smoking cigarettes for a long time.”

“You should avoid over-spending in the first half of the year.” 

Alright, now you know how to use ‘prevent’ and ‘avoid’ in different situations.

But be careful!

According to all three dictionaries I’ve used to create this episode, ‘avoid’ also means “to prevent something (bad) from happening”.

For example,

“Unnecessary paperwork should be avoided (= prevented) at all costs.”

“The pilots had to take emergency action to avoid a disaster.” (They took action in order to prevent a disaster from happening.)

So you CAN use ‘avoid’ in the same way as ‘prevent’. Don’t you just love the English language? 🙂

Alright, that’s it for today. You got to hear quite a lot of example sentences, so I feel you should be able to use ‘avoid’ and ‘prevent’ correctly in your Cambridge exam, and in your life.  

However, I would like emphasise that practice & repetition is the key to success when improving your English. So I recommend listening to this episode again while reading the transcript on my website.

And if you want to got the extra mile, try writing your own sentences with ‘prevent’ and ‘avoid’.

If you have any questions about this topic, do send me an email or write a comment on the blog. I’m more that happy to help you!

Last but not least: We’re publishing more and more content on the blog these days. I say ‘we’, because I’m now working together with two smart women, Suraya and Sabahat, and I’m excited about all the content we’ve created so far. You can check out their great articles on the blog if you’re interested.

Suraya has written a piece called “How to Choose Wisely Between IELTS, TOEFL and Cambridge in 2021 (The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need)”. Sabahat has written an article with the headline “Finding the Best Cambridge C2 Course in a Pandemic: 3 Smart Options to Explore”.

Go read both articles on cambridgeexamcoach.com, if you’re interested.  

More relevant and useful content is coming your way soon. I’ll tell you all about it in due course.

For now, I just want to wish you a pleasant day (or night).

Take care of yourself, and each other, alright?

Speak soon, bye bye!

About the author 


Kristian is from The Netherlands, but he lives in Prague, Czechia. He is a CELTA qualified teacher who passed the Cambridge C2 Proficiency exam with grade A. When he's not working, he likes to chill out with music, podcasts or an audiobook.


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