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refuge ~ refuse ~ refuse ~ (deny)

These words in this set are very confusing: the spelling and the pronunciation have caused a lot of embarrassment even to some experienced writers.  Therefore, we are advised to look up these words in a good monolingual dictionary – Oxford Advanced Dictionary or Longman Contemporary Dictionary for the right pronunciation, or even better, to listen to the CD accompanying either of these dictionaries — or ‘The Free Dictionary’ online!

Refuge” (noun — the letters ‘ge’ rhyme with the letter ‘j’ in “judge”) is ‘1. some shelter or protection from danger, trouble; a place of shelter, protection or safety when somebody or something is followed by some danger; 2. a place, usually in the middle of a road or street, for people to wait until it is safe to cross {In American English is ‘safety island’}; [A person who takes or asks for shelter is a “refugee” — said with a long end ‘e’ sound.]

a refuge (a cabin in a remote place where tavellers rest)


During the heavy storm, the hunters were given refuge by a lone farmer.

The UNO formally asked the Indian government to give refuge to the Bangladeshi refugees.


Refuse” (noun — the letters ‘re’ rhyme with the letters ‘re’ in “red”, and the letters ‘fu’ rhyme with the word “few” and the letters ‘se’ are said with an ‘s’ sound, as in “sun”) is ‘rubbish, waste, garbage; the waste matter, such as the peels of vegetables, the left-over food, the dust and dirt swept from the floors of rooms of a building, but not the watery waste matter that comes from a toilet or bathroom’,

piles of refuse (garbage)


It’s my duty to clean out the refuse bin every day.

The Municipality workers called for a sudden strike and all the streets were strewn with piles of refuse.


Refuse” (verb — the letters ‘re’ rhyme with the letters ‘re’ in “return”, and the letters ‘fu’ rhyme with the word “few”, and the letters ‘se’ are said with a ‘z’ sound, as in ‘zoo’) is ‘not to do or give or accept something; say ‘no’ to do or say or accept something’; ‘unwilling to accept or allow something or someone’,

(to refuse to eat)


She refused to marry him.

The police refused to open fire on the innocent farmers who were agitating for regular power supply.


Deny” (verb ~~~  deny – denied – denied – denying) is ‘to say that something is true or false; not accepting when anyone says that one is a thief or murderer or something like that, or not accepting when some says that one has done or not done something; not allowing someone to have or not to have something, such as freedom, happiness, etc’,

denying charges (Bill Clinton denied all charges against him — lied under oath)


He denied all charges of theft and murder.    [i.e. he said he did not steal or murder]

In some communities a woman who lost her husband (a widow) is denied all pleasures.


“Refuse, decline, reject and deny” — these four words express the same idea of saying ‘no’ or unwilling to do something, or not allowing somebody or oneself to do or not to do something; however, they are not interchangeable in most contexts.  Therefore, let’s have a quick look at them to get some idea of how and where to use each of them.

refuse = to do or not to do something, like to give or take permission, an offer, an invitation

decline = to do or not to do something; not to accept an invitation, a suggestion, an offer

reject = not to accept a suggestion, an offer, a plan or proposal

deny = say no to a statement, a story, a fact, an accusation that was said or told before

Common Errors:


The dog declined to chase the cat.   [wrong]

The dog refused to chase the cat.    [right]


He rejected my invitation to the party.  [wrong]

He declined my invitation to the party.  [right]


He refused her plan of buying a new car.  [wrong]

He rejected her plan of buying a new car. [right]


[Return to “refugee” in People & Professions.]

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About the Author:BC Kumar

BC Kumar, an English Language Teacher, taught in numerous countries including Ethiopia, Oman and India, shares his knowledge and passion for the English Language. Disclaimer: This is a free educational website and all content has been compiled by the author. All copyrights to images and videos belong to their respective owners.

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