10 Confusing English Words with OVER

Take over or Overtake?

Take over is a phrasal verb and it is used when one company/country takes control of another. The noun form is takeover.

  • During World War II, Hitler’s army took over many territories in Europe.

Overtake is a verb that means to catch up and get ahead. For example, if you and I are running in a race, and I am faster than you… but then you start running faster and you pass me and win the race, you have overtaken me. This can be used for speed, as in this example, or with progress in general – if China’s economy keeps growing, it will eventually overtake the U.S.

Come over or Overcome?

To come over is a phrasal verb meaning to visit or approach someone:

  • Sure, I’ll help you with your homework. You can come over to my place after class.
    (= visit my house)
  • Mark and Debbie are coming over for dinner tomorrow night.
    (= visit my house)
  • I was talking with my best friend, when John came over and interrupted us.
    (= approached us)

To overcome something is to have victory over it, be more powerful than it. For example:

  • He overcame a lot of obstacles to build a million-dollar business.
    (= he was stronger than the obstacles, and conquered them)
  • I was overcome with joy when I heard the good news.
    (= the joy completely took over my emotions)

Look over or Overlook?

To look over something is to review it, especially checking it for errors:

  • Can you look over this essay before I hand it in? I want to make sure there are no mistakes.
    (checking for errors)
  • We looked over the various brochures in the travel agency.
    (reviewing in general)

To overlook something can mean:

  1. When a high place has a nice view:
    This apartment overlooks the ocean.
  2. NOT to see or notice something, or to ignore it deliberately:
    Here are three interesting vacation destinations that tourists often overlook. (= fail to notice)
    It’s best to overlook small offenses if you want to maintain a friendship. (= deliberately ignore)

Think over or Overthink?

To think something over is to give it a lot of thought and consideration. You should think over big decisions, for example.

  • My company wants to transfer me to another country. I’m not sure yet if I’ll accept the opportunity; I’m still thinking it over.

But if you overthink (or over-think) something, it means you think about it TOO much – more than necessary. For example, if your colleagues spend an hour discussing a very small detail like the color of one button on the company website, you could say, “Aren’t we overthinking this? Does it really matter what color the button is?”

Some people get stressed out because they overthink relationship/life situations, like when a girl’s boyfriend hasn’t called her for the past three days and she starts imagining that he’s angry at her, and the relationship is over, or he has another girlfriend, etc.

Do over or Overdo?

If you do something over, it means you must do it again – usually because there was some problem with the first time you did the task:

  • I wrote a ten-page article, then accidentally deleted the file – so I had to do the whole thing over.
  • The boss said my presentation was too confusing, and asked me to do it over.

You can also use redo in these sentences: “I had to redo it” and “asked me to redo it.”

To overdo something is to do it TOO MUCH, to exaggerate:

  • She overdid her diet and ended up in the hospital, malnourished.
  • If you haven’t exercised in a while, don’t overdo it at the gym – start slow.
  • I thought the decorations at the wedding were overdone. They had 10,000 flowers, for goodness’ sake – it must have cost a fortune!

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