Adsorb vs Absorb

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What’s the difference between them?



To collect and hold (a gas, liquid, or dissolved substance) on the surface of a solid or liquid.


1. The activated carbon adsorbed the harmful chemicals from the air.

2. The sponge was able to adsorb a large amount of liquid.

3. The porous material was able to adsorb the spilled liquid.



To take in or soak up (liquid, energy, or other substances) by chemical or physical action.


1. The plant was able to absorb water from the soil.

2. The sponge was able to absorb the liquid.

3. She was able to absorb the information quickly.

Learn similar and opposite words to spot the difference




1. soak up

2. attract

3. take in

4. draw in

5. absorb

1. Desorb

2. Effuse

3. Repel

4. Leach

5. Exude


1. Take in

2. Take up

3. Suck up

4. Assimilate

5. Take on board

1. Disperse

2. Reject

3. Discharge

4. Repel

5. Refrain from Taking In

Tricks for mastery

Useful tips to understand the difference between confusing words "Adsorb", "Absorb".

1. Adsorption is the process of collecting gases and liquids on the surface.

2. Absorption is the process of allowing molecules to enter the body.

3. Always double-check the spelling of 'adsorb' to make sure it is correct.

Practice English with the Promova app and avoid misusing confusing words

Frequently asked questions

In what situations should 'adsorb' be used?

Adsorb is typically used when a gas, liquid, or dissolved substance needs to be collected and held on the surface of a solid or liquid.

When is the appropriate context for using 'absorb'?

Absorb is used when a liquid, energy, or other substances needs to be taken in or soaked up by chemical or physical action.

Do the two words share the same pronunciation?

No, the two words do not share the same pronunciation. Adsorb is pronounced ahd-sawrb and absorb is pronounced ahb-sawrb.

What are some common mistakes people make when using these words?

One common mistake people make is using the two words interchangeably, when they actually mean two very different things. It is important to remember that adsorb is used when a substance needs to be collected and held on the surface of a solid or liquid, whereas absorb is used when a substance needs to be taken in or soaked up by chemical or physical action.

Fill in the gaps to check yourself

1. Activated charcoal is commonly used to _____ toxins from the stomach.

2. The sponge can _____ a large amount of water.

3. Some materials can _____ light, converting it into heat.

4. Certain catalysts can _____ gases on their surface to speed up a reaction.

5. Plants _____ water and nutrients through their roots.

6. The material was designed to _____ pollutants from the air.

1. Adsorb

Explanation: Activated charcoal works by collecting and holding toxins on its surface, rather than taking them in. Hence, adsorb is the correct term.

2. Absorb

Explanation: A sponge takes in water, filling the spaces in its structure, which is a characteristic of absorption.

3. Absorb

Explanation: When materials take in light and convert it, they are absorbing the light.

4. Adsorb

Explanation: Catalysts often work by holding gases or other reactants on their surface to facilitate a reaction, which is a property of adsorption.

5. Absorb

Explanation: Plants take in water and nutrients, meaning they absorb them.

6. Adsorb

Explanation: If a material is designed to collect pollutants on its surface, it is adsorbing them.

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