alone vs lonely

English, like all languages – though maybe to a greater extent -, is full of words with similar meanings and different usage, which can cause problems for the foreign learner. One of those common vocabulary problems I’ve seen over the years (especially at elementary and pre-intermediate level) is the use of alone and lonely. In this post I’ll be looking quickly at how we can use these words to avoid mistakes.

Alone indicates a person (or thing) is separate, i.e., there’s nobody or nothing else around. Lonely (also lonesome in American English) is about how you feel (usually unhappy) when you are alone. Compare:

Sally’s fine when she’s alone for a day or two.

But after that she starts getting really lonely/lonesome.

Alone is not normally used attributively (before a noun). Lone and solitary can be used instead; lone is literary.

There was a lone/solitary tree by the road.

Hope you found it useful.

Take care

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