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Care home or home care? And other confusing English words

nurses during home care and at a care home
Care home or home care, do you get confused which one to use during the OET Writing sub-test? Compound nouns can be confusing. Make sure you read through this article to help you pick the correct word. 


Have you ever been confused by ‘care home’ and ‘home care’ when practising for the OET Writing sub-test? It’s common to confuse compound nouns.

Perhaps you know the difference between ‘them’ and ‘then’. But, you accidentally wrote the words in the wrong order,  therefore creating a meaning you didn’t intend?

It’s easy to do and perhaps a good reason to take a few seconds extra when using them in your speaking or writing. Take a look through these examples, to help you better understand when and how to use them.

Care home and home care

To be clear, here are the definitions (and differences) between the two nouns:

Care home – sometimes known as an aged care home or aged care facility, this is a residential facility for the elderly who can have a range of health needs.

Home care – is the support provided to a patient within their own home. For example, support with their activities of daily living, wound care etc.

Doctors and surgeons working on a patientTwo meanings of surgery

Another cause for confusion is ‘surgery’, which has two healthcare meanings!

As an uncountable noun, its meaning of a surgical procedure is very familiar. For example, “he underwent emergency surgery two days ago”.

But as a countable noun, it means a place where a doctor works. Particularly in the UK, a doctor’s surgery has the same meaning as a clinic or healthcare centre.

Here’s an example about how to use it in a sentence:

  • Mr X presented at the surgery following a workplace injury.

There is an example of surgery being used this way in the Notes section of the case notes in Medicine Sample Test 4 on the OET website:

  • You are a GP in a city clinic. Mr Knowles is a new patient in your surgery. 

The way the two meanings of surgery are used is quite different. Helpfully, their meaning should be clear from the case notes.

Is a doctor’s clinic a hospital?

Finally, one other confusion, which is similar to surgery, is the use of a doctor’s clinic. Due to the meaning of clinic in other countries, some candidates believe surgery to mean ‘hospital’. Doctor’s clinic, community clinic, healthcare clinic are where a doctor conducts consultations or nurses provide treatment. It’s important to remember it is not the same as a hospital.

It may feel a little confusing now but learning the different meanings in English now is important. Understanding how these words are used in English versus in your home country will mean you are not confused in front of a colleague or patient in the future.

Learn more about the OET Writing test and how to craft a clear and purposeful letter with the OET Writing Guide. Broken into six parts, the guide covers each of the assessment criteria. It also provides examples to help you prepare for OET Writing.

OET Writing Guide