dictionary and thesaurus

Why might "library" be a confusing word?

this is confusing to the french speaking student, it get confusing with bookstore cause bookstore in french is "Librairie"

Indeed.  And it's just as confusing for English speakers learning French.  So let's clarify and put "library" into the Glossary of Confusing Words.

A bookstore is where you go to buy books.  A library is where you go to borrow books. It's as simple as that.

On a college campus, libraries and bookstores often take on additional functions, but that core distinction remains.

In addition to being a place to borrow books, the university library is one of the most popular places on campus to study. University libraries usually have tables or cubicles where students can bring their books and computers for a quiet place to concentrate, and often have meeting rooms available for group work.

Many university libraries also have special collections of rare books, archives, manuscripts, or whatever other unique items that particular library curates.  The Princeton University library, for example, houses the Princeton University Numismatic Collection, a collection of currency.

Students wearing Columbia University sweatshirts.
Students wearing Columbia University sweatshirts. Creative Commons photo by Flickr user airsoenxen

Likewise, the university bookstore is usually a bit more than just a place to buy books.  The bookstore does sell books, of course, including all the required textbooks for courses being offered that semester.

But university bookstores are also famous for selling clothing and other items bearing the university's logo, like the quintessential college sweatshirt.

Do you have a word to contribute to our Glossary of Confusing Words? Share words that have confused you or that might confuse others about studying in the U.S. Leave your suggestions in the comments, or use the form below.