Sometimes one word in a certain language can mean a number of different things in English. Of course, having multiple English words for just one word makes it very difficult for English learners.


One of the best examples is ‘hope’, ‘expect’, and ‘look forward to’. To make things worse, ‘hope’, ‘expect’, and ‘look forward to’ have very different and distinct meanings in English. They are usually not interchangeable. Let’s examine them more closely.


Hope: To wish for something with anticipation of its fulfillment.

‘Hope’ means you want something to happen. We use ‘hope’ when we desire something but are uncertain whether it will happen.



I hope it doesn’t rain on our wedding day.


Expect: To regard as probable or likely.

‘Expect’ usually means you believe something will happen, whether you want it to or not. It’s an emotionally neutral term.



I don’t expect to ever win the lottery, but I still enjoy trying.


Look forward to: To think of a future event with eager anticipation.

‘Look forward to’ is only used for events that are actually going to happen. We don’t use ‘look forward to’ for things that might happen.



I’m looking forward to my 17th birthday.


Most common mistake:

By far the most common mistake that is made with these words is using ‘expect’ to mean ‘look forward to’. People often say “I’m really expecting your birthday party.” To an English speaker that sounds like, “I’m almost certain you will have a birthday party.” Here are some other examples of how not to use ‘expect’:

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  1. I’m expecting to see your baby. (You should say, I’m looking forward to seeing your baby.)
  2. I’m expecting my vacation next week. (You should say, I’m looking forward to my vacation next week.)



“Canada is playing England tonight. I hope Canada can manage a victory. England is usually a stronger team, though, so I expect they will win the game. Whoever wins, I’m really looking forward to watching the game!”

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