For example, if I'm looking forward to spending a month in Spain, I could say:

  1. I will take advantage of the opportunity to learn Spanish.
  2. I will make the most of the opportunity to learn Spanish.

What could the possible difference between them be?

  • 1
    Welcome to ELL.SE! Actually, neither of your statements are grammatically correct!
    – M.A.R.
    Feb 5 '15 at 19:23

As you might have noticed, both phrases need an "..of" - we have edited your question.

"to take advantage of" and "to make the most of" have an overlapping meaning of "using an opportunity". So you might use them synonymously. But:

  • to take advantage of sth. or so. also has the meaning of exploiting a weakness of someone or seducing someone, implying gaining something that is perhaps not rightfully yours either in an illegitime or immoral way. It has a negative undertone.

  • to make the most of sth. rather focuses on using limited resources in an ingenious or demure way. It has a positive connotation.

So, if your employer sends you to spain, you could take advantage of the fact by learning Spanish in addition to your work. But usually you would say you make the most of your limited time there and learn as much Spanish as you can manage.

  • 1
    Thank you very much for your help @Stephie. It was an awesome explanation! Thank you also for taking care of the new members who are trying to improve their English! lol Thanks! Feb 5 '15 at 20:36
  • 5
    keep in mind that "take advantage of" doesn't always have a negative undertone. like @stephie said, both phrases have an overlapping meaning that has no negative connotation (ex. "Let's take advantage of the fact that no one is at the beach today"). the answer does cover this, but i wanted to make it explicit.
    – user428517
    Feb 5 '15 at 23:24
  • Agree with sgroves. Clicking on the link given in the post, I immediately found out that "to take advantage of" can be used in the sense 'to make good use of'. I don't see any negative connotation here.
    – user11470
    Feb 6 '15 at 8:15

To "take advantage" is to use an opportunity (or advantage). It might be justified, as in learning Spanish, or it could be something completely unethical. When it's ambiguous the negative sense is probably the one more likely to be understood.

"Make the most of" has more to do with maximizing the potential within the constraints of some limits. Often it would be used to express optimism in the face of adversity but it might also fit a scenario as with your perfectly enjoyable trip where the amount of time is the primary "problem".


In the context of your example sentence ("I will take advantage of/make the most of the opportunity to learn Spanish"), there is little difference.

However, "take advantage of" can carry connotations of exploitation (in the sense of abuse) and "make the most of" can carry connotations of doing the best you can in a bad situation. For example,

I will take advantage of my wife's broken leg by reading War and Peace to her

means "Bwahaha! She can't run away so I can do whatever I want!", whereas

I will make the most of my wife's broken leg by reading War and Peace to her

means "It sucks that she can't leave the house but that gives us the opportunity to spend some quality time together and share some great literature."

So, going back to learning Spanish, there's no abuse in learning Spanish on your month in Spain, so there's no problem saying "take advantage of". I suppose it's possible that people might imagine that you mean "It sucks I have to go to Spain but, hey, at least I'll get to learn Spanish." However, the very first thing you said is that you're looking forward to being there, so you obviously don't think it sucks, so nobody will think you mean that. It's obvious that what you really mean is "Spain is going to be great! And, as well as the fantastic weather and amazing food, I get to learn some Spanish, too! Awesome!" (Especially if you're talking to somebody and they can hear your positive tone of voice.)

If we consider an alternative situation where you've been asked to host a Spanish person for a month, you'd have to be a bit more careful. Taking advantage of their presence to learn Spanish would suggest you were going to bug them to teach you Spanish the whole time, whereas making the most of their visit by learning Spanish could suggest you were reluctant to host them. But, as with the example of going to Spain, nobody would think you were unhappy if you sounded happy.

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