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  • dismal is sad and without hope
  • hapless is out of luck

how can I use both of them correctly ?

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    You probably don't really want to ever use hapless. It's hopelessly (not dismally) "dated, poetic". – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '17 at 16:28
  • I don't understand hapless is not a English word or It's old(outdated) and it's replaced – Towfik Alrazihi Jul 24 '17 at 16:31
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    It's not like there's a committee somewhere deciding to retire old words and replace them with new ones (no-one would take any notice of them even if they did). Most native speakers would recognise the word, but you'd almost never hear it in a conversational context today unless the speaker was deliberately mimicking a poetic and/or dated style. – FumbleFingers Jul 24 '17 at 16:38
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    I would say dismal conveys more than "sad and without hope" such as a weather forecast, and hapless implies continually unlucky or even inexpert such as in "a hapless fool". – Weather Vane Jul 24 '17 at 18:12
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    @FumbleFingers This will seem needlessly contrarian of me, but I wouldn't advise someone never to use hapless. It's a fine word, it might even be the best word in some contexts, and if it regains currency, I say all the better. Let's have more words, not fewer. Let's have some churn. I hear my offspring say that so-and-so "vexes" them. Twenty years ago, mightn't someone have said "Oh, don't use that, it's archaic?" – P. E. Dant Jul 24 '17 at 19:03
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Hapless means "without hap", and "hap" came to English from the same folk who brought the Danegeld to England and lutefisk to Minnesota: the Scandinavians. It's a very old word, and means "good fortune", and at its root, chance or eventuality. It's at the root of countless other words like happy, mishap, and happen, (which may be a vestige of the inflected verb hap). "Hapless" in English conjures a vision of Joe Btfsplk: enter image description here
It's much unluckier than just unlucky. It's downright dismal.

The adjective Dismal was originally a noun, and comes to English from the Latin dies mali ("evil days") by way of the Old French dis mal. Until the 1400's, there were still noted on many calendars some days which were deemed unlucky. The OED tells us:

The dies mali were Jan. 1, 25; Feb. 4, 26; March 1, 28; April 10, 20; May 3, 25; June 10, 16; July 13, 22; Aug. 1, 30; Sept. 3, 21; Oct. 3, 22; Nov. 5, 28; Dec. 7, 22. They are said to have been called ‘Egyptian days’ because first discovered or computed by Egyptian astrologers; though some mediæval writers connected them with the plagues of ancient Egypt...

By extension the noun "dismal" was used to describe anyone or anything that smacked of evil, the Devil, death, gloom, or ill fortune. By 1621, it was a familiar adjective, and Robert Burton writes in the abstract to his Anatomy of Melancholy:

Doleful outcries, and fearful sights,
My sad and dismal soul affrights

It was still used attributively and as a noun in the 18th century; President John Adams of the United States wrote to his wife in 1774:

"Their mutual reproaches, their declamations..their triumphs and defiances, their dismals and prophecies, are all delusion."

Dismal is still in use today, both as an adjective that means "boding or bringing misfortune and disaster; unlucky, sinister, malign, fatal" and as "A local name of dreary tracts of swampy land on the eastern sea-board of the United States, esp. in North Carolina." :

enter image description here
A Dismal in North Carolina

In commentary to your question, you mention that in studying for your ITELS and TOEFL tests, you learned a "bunch of words that looked close to each other in meaning and weird to use." It's certainly true that hapless and dismal could sound weird in the wrong context; yet consider that a "weird" word may be just the right choice. Hapless is very widely used today to describe the unfortunate:

"The hapless Sean Spicer is only the latest to get the message
that his services were no longer required"
*

enter image description here
(The New Yorker, Jul 4, 2017)

The best advice to a student of English is to cherish the depth and richness of our polyglot tongue, to savor its oddities, to read everything you can get your hands on, and to listen to conversation to understand when a choice of words is dismal, or a speaker hapless. Someday, you may well overhear teenagers leaving a concert and saying:

"Dude, that set was totally dismal."
"Ya think? He's like hapless!"

Oxford English Dictionary

* The Week, June 25, 2017

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