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Commonly confused verbs: join and attend

The verbs join and attend are both used to talk about taking part in events and activities, but IELTS candidates often confuse them and lose marks as a result. In this blog post, we’ll see how to use these two useful verbs correctly. Key collocations When you join something, you start to be part of it. When you join a club or group, you start to be a member: When you join a company, you start working there and become a member of staff: When you join a conversation, you start to take part in it: When you attend something, you are present and take part, usually for a period of time. When you attend a particular meeting or event, you take part in it: When you attend a place, such as a school or university, you go there regularly: When you attend a ceremony, you go to it: Remember that attend is quite a formal verb. It’s appropriate in an IELTS Writing task, but in conversation, you’d more likely say go to (a meeting, workshop, wedding, etc.). I went to my cousin’s wedding last weekend. Naomi goes to college 3 days a week.   (Click image to enlarge) Online meetings and events In the online world, we also use join and attend. When someone clicks on a link or logs in to start taking part in an online meeting or webinar, they join the meeting or webinar: After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. When you stay online and take part in a whole meeting, class or webinar, you say that you attend it: I attended a webinar about using online dictionaries. The grammar Both join and attend are transitive verbs and they’re always followed by a direct object. You attend + something:  Everyone attends a 2-week training course. You join + something: She joined the school football team. You can also join + someone, when you start to do something or take part in something with them: Several of us go for a run at lunchtime – why don’t you join us? I hope others will join us in our campaign. Used in their main meaning, join and attend aren’t followed by a preposition: A new designer is going to join to our team. Chinh is busy this morning, but she’ll join with us after lunch. Students from across the country attended on the event. Phrasal verbs However, join and attend do form part of phrasal verbs with different meanings: (Click image to enlarge) Join or attend? So, to sum up, use join to talk about taking the first step to become part of something and use attend to talk about spending time at an event or going somewhere regularly.

Julie Moore

8 December, 2021

Commonly confused verbs: join and attend

Woman looking confused

The verbs join and attend are both used to talk about taking part in events and activities, but IELTS candidates often confuse them and lose marks as a result. In this blog post, we’ll see how to use these two useful verbs correctly.

Key collocations

A good place to start is to look at what kind of things we join and what kind of things we attend.

When you join something, you start to be part of it.

When you join a club or group, you start to be a member:

When you join a club or group, you start to be a member: join + a club/group/gym/team Joining a sports club is a good way to keep fit.

When you join a company, you start working there and become a member of staff:

join + a company/firm/the staff Aysen joined the company in 2018.

When you join a conversation, you start to take part in it:

join + a debate/discussion/conversation Scientists and politicians have joined the debate over green energy.

When you attend something, you are present and take part, usually for a period of time.

When you attend a particular meeting or event, you take part in it:

attend + meeting/conference/event/session/seminar/concert/workshop More than 500 delegates attended the conference. All new employees have to attend a health and safety workshop.

When you attend a place, such as a school or university, you go there regularly:

attend + school/college/class/university/church She attended university in Australia.

When you attend a ceremony, you go to it:

attend + a funeral/wedding/ceremony/service Local officials and business leaders attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday.

Remember that attend is quite a formal verb. It’s appropriate in an IELTS Writing task, but in conversation, you’d more likely say go to (a meeting, workshop, wedding, etc.).

  • I went to my cousin’s wedding last weekend.
  • Naomi goes to college 3 days a week.

alse friend warning! Be careful not to confuse the verbs attend and assist. In English, assist means to help someone doing something.

(Click image to enlarge)

Online meetings and events

In the online world, we also use join and attend. When someone clicks on a link or logs in to start taking part in an online meeting or webinar, they join the meeting or webinar:

  • After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

When you stay online and take part in a whole meeting, class or webinar, you say that you attend it:

  • I attended a webinar about using online dictionaries.

The grammar

Both join and attend are transitive verbs and they’re always followed by a direct object.

  • You attend + something: Everyone attends a 2-week training course.
  • You join + something: She joined the school football team.

You can also join + someone, when you start to do something or take part in something with them:

  • Several of us go for a run at lunchtime – why don’t you join us?
  • I hope others will join us in our campaign.

Used in their main meaning, join and attend aren’t followed by a preposition:

  • A new designer is going to join to our team.
  • Chinh is busy this morning, but she’ll join with us after lunch.
  • Students from across the country attended on the event.

Phrasal verbs

However, join and attend do form part of phrasal verbs with different meanings:

Phrasal verbs join in and attend to something

(Click image to enlarge)

Join or attend?

So, to sum up, use join to talk about taking the first step to become part of something and use attend to talk about spending time at an event or going somewhere regularly.

Julie Moore

Julie is a teacher and language researcher who uses data from IELTS test takers to better understand how we can help them improve.

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