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FORESTS and WOODS have no clear delineation in scientific terms, although they are widely considered to be different. 

"Woods are probably closer to civilization and less teeming with wildlife than I would expect a forest to be."

Both are expanses of land covered in trees and inhabited by animals such as deer, bears, mice, chipmunks, squirrels, owls, weasels and other critters. 

"I'd say a forest is a more defined set of trees than woods."

However, woods are smaller and their canopy cover significantly less dense than those of forests. 

"Loch Arkaig pine forest in Scotland is 2,500 acres, while St. John’s Woods in Devon is just three acres."

In some forests, the canopy of trees will block out the sunlight. The Black Forest so named because it's so dense that very little light enters it. 

"To me, a wood is a fairly friendly place, whereas a forest is not only bigger but wilder as well - something that you'd find in the highlands of Scotland or even further afield."

Forest has a slightly more official, formal feel to it. In a less formal conversation you might call a forest 'woods'.

"I wouldn't consider the half-acre of trees behind my house a forest, but I frequently describe it as 'the woods out back'."

A WOOD is an area covered in trees, larger than a copse or a grove.

"If it's just a clump of trees that may or may not end after ten feet, it's woods; if you know that it stretches for five miles in each direction, then it's a forest."

We normally go into the woods and not into the forest.

"I went for a walk in the woods up there". 

Although, in BrE 'woods' is usually a mass noun, it also exists in the singular.

"There are (some) woods nearby/There is a wood nearby." 

Most Americans don't use 'a wood'. Some Americans say "a woods", while others say "(some) woods".

"There is a woods/(some) woods near our house."

'Wood' can also be used as a verb. It can mean to plant trees or get supplies of wood.

"Americans use the word forest more than the British do and I often hear 'wood' where I'd have said 'forest'."

A FOREST is also an area covered in trees, but it is larger than a wood. 

"Let's say a national park as a forest, I might also say that someone lost there is 'lost in the woods'."

While the word 'wood' refers to the material in a tree, ‘forest' only means a collection of trees. As a verb it means to establish a forest where none existed before.

"Another distinction could be that you think of 'woods' as being around farm land, whereas a forest more or less isn't."

Historically woods and forests were not the same thing. Woods were simply areas covered in trees. Forests, however, were similar to modern wildlife preserves, regardless of whether they were wooded or not. They were places where deer and other creatures could wander freely, protected by the king's laws. 

"The New Forest in Hampshire is barely wooded at all: it is mostly heathland and pasture."

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