Never one to evade his responsibilities, Tim Bowen avoids any confusion with a thorough explanation of two popular collocates.

The verbs avoid and evade are similar in meaning but the words they collocate with reveal some important differences.

In the sense of ‘prevent something happening’, you can avoid a particular feeling, such as disappointment, embarrassment or stress, as in ‘please book early to avoid disappointment’. You can also avoid a bad situation, such as a collision, a confrontation, a delay, an injury, a mistake or temptation, as in ‘To avoid delays in processing your application, please complete the form in full’. A further group of things that can be avoided includes words for various types of confusion such as confusion itself, ambiguity and misunderstanding, as in ‘To avoid any misunderstandings, always carry your registration card with you’. 

To evade, on the other hand, has the meaning of ‘to avoid (sorry!) doing something, paying something or dealing with something’. There is often the idea of cleverness, trickery or subterfuge being involved as well as intention. Thus you can evade your obligations, duty or responsibilities and you can also evade paying duty or tax, as in ‘Attempts to evade excise duty and VAT are taken very seriously indeed’. Politicians, in particular, are skilful at evading questions, problems or issues, as in ‘He managed to evade the question of how much the scheme would actually cost’. It is also possible to evade arrest, capture, justice, prosecution, the law and the authorities in general, as in, ‘The police intend to stop offenders from evading justice’. Finally, it is important to remember that tax avoidance is legal but tax evasion is not.