< How to Use Avoid, Prevent
By Dr. Jill Robbins
27 January 2023

This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Sergio in Brazil. He asks,


Avoid and Prevent
Avoid and Prevent

I would like to know whether there is any difference between "avoid" and "prevent."

Sergio, Brazil.


Dear Sergio,

Thank you for writing to us with this question. These words are similar – they both express the idea of staying away from something. Let us look at the meaning of each word and then we will compare how they are used.


Avoid means to keep away from a person or thing. Here are some examples:

After we had that fight, my sister has been avoiding me.

Pizza makes my stomach hurt, so I avoid eating it.

Note that in these examples, the word that comes after "avoid" can be a noun or a gerund (the -ing form of a verb).


Now, consider the word "prevent." It means to take some action to stop something from happening. It can be used in a simple way with a noun. So, going back to our previous example:

To prevent stomach problems, I do not eat pizza.

In this sentence, several nouns follow the word "prevent." The meaning is clearly to stop something.

You can also use "prevent" in a more complex sentence with an object followed by a verb. This gives us a more detailed idea of stopping someone from doing something. In fact, you will often find the word "from" in sentences with "prevent."

The city wants to prevent drivers from speeding on that road, so they added some speed bumps.

In this example, drivers cannot go too fast because the city placed some raised areas, speed bumps, on the road, forcing cars to slow down.

So, Sergio, if you are trying to decide between avoid and prevent, think about this difference. "Avoid" is just staying away from something you do not like or want. "Prevent" is to take an action that keeps someone from doing something or keeps something from happening.

Do you have a question for the teacher? Send us an email at learningenglish@voanews.com.

And that's Ask a Teacher!

I'm Jill Robbins.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

bump – n. a raised area

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