Confusing Words

About one-fifth of the Earth’s population speaks English either as their first or second language, and it’s very unlikely that there’s a big number of people who find this language easy. There are lots of complicated grammar rules, tons of small details that are very important to always keep in mind, many phrases that sound just weird, and thousands of other things to be aware of. One of the biggest problems that both native and non-native English speakers have to deal with, however, is the fact that this language has a lot of words that can be easily confused.

Commonly Confused Words

Commonly Confused Words

Some commonly confused words are homonyms: they are spelled and pronounced exactly the same but they have different meanings. For example, the word kind can mean both caring (“a kind person”) and type (“a kind of food”), while the word book can both be a noun (“an interesting book”) and a verb (“I book a flight”).

Some other commonly confused words are homophones, and these sound exactly the same but their meanings and spellings are different. They might be even worse than homonyms because, with them, you have to be extra careful when writing. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sending a very important e-mail to your professor or boss where you use accept (“to receive”) instead of except (“excluding”), or your instead of you’re, simply because they look and sound so similar.

Finally, there are words that are spelled differently but their meanings are so similar that they have almost everybody stopping to doublecheck which one means what exactly. For instance, how do you tell the difference between a lawyer and an attorney? Or between a lynx and a bobcat? Of course, these might not be words that you’ll use every single day but still, if you do use them, you want to be sure that you do so correctly.

These commonly confused words make our lives a lot more difficult. When talking or writing in English, it’s impossible to relax even for a moment: almost every word might be tricky and might require a lot of thought and attention. So, composing a formal piece of writing, no matter how short it is, might turn out to be a very difficult and exhausting task. Talking with friends isn’t better either: you get two words confused once, and they’ll never forget that and will keep mocking you for the rest of your life.

In short, in the English language, there are plenty of things to be confused about. However, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Even with so many pairs of words that look or sound the same, you will be able to slowly get through every single one of them, remember the differences between commonly confused words and feel more confident when you use them in the future. Sometimes, there even are tricks that will help you associate the spelling of the word with its meaning, making it easier to figure out when each word fits. If you pay some extra attention and constantly practice, commonly misused words won’t be a problem for you anymore.

Commonly Confused Words List

Commonly Confused Words

Commonly Misused Words with Examples

Lose vs Loose

Lose is a verb and has a /z/ sound in pronunciation. Lose means to be unable to get something.

  • He does does not want his team to lose a match.
  • She will lose her necklace if she keeps it in her bag.

Loose is an adjective and has a /s/ sound. Loose means not tight.

  • Window handles fall off because they are loose.
  • Loose clothes are annoying.

Learn more: Lose vs Loose

Farther vs Further

Farther is used when referring to physical distance.

  • He ran farther than me.
  • How much farther until we arrive at the venue?

Further is used when referring to things which are not physical.

  • Do you have any further questions?
  • No further complaints are allowed.

Bear and Bare

Bear when used as a verb means to endure hardship or hold something heavy. When used as a noun it means an animal but we are not referring to that.

  • She cannot bear to see her daughter in pain.
  • A broken bed cannot bear your weight.

Bare is an adjective meaning something that is uncovered or naked. Bare can also be used as a verb to refer to the act to of uncovering.

  • Carpenters with bare hands often get hurt. (adjective)
  • Bare your hand so that we can see your tattoo. (verb)

Compliment vs. Complement

Complement is used when two objects fit each other perfectly while compliment refers to the praise words given when something good has been done. Compliment can also be used as a werb to refer to the act of giving a compliment.

  • She complimented me for my dencent dressing. (verb)
  • She gave me a compliment for my decent dressing. (noun)
  • Her red skirt complements her shoes. (They match perfectly)

Learn more: Compliment vs. Complement

Affect vs. Effect

Affect is a verb while effect is a noun. Both affect and effect are used to show consequences of actions.

  • My bad sleeping habit will affect my word. (My sleeping habit will have a bad effect on my work) Consider the effect of missing school today. (Consider how missing school today will affect you)

Discover more: Affect vs. Effect

Advice vs. Advise

Advice is a noun while advise is its verb. Both of them mean to give good guidance on an issue.

  • I advise her to go to school. (verb)
  • My father gave me advice on how to do homework. (noun)

Explore more: Advice vs Advise

Resign and Re-sign

Resign means to quit a job and is pronounced with a /z/ sound. Re-sign with a hyphen means to sign a contract again or keep a job which you are currently doing.

  • I will resign from my current job because our boss in rude.
  • I re-sign my current job because I love it.

Breath vs Breathe

Breath is a noun referring to air which goes in and out of our lungs while breathe is a verb referring to the act of breath going in and out of our lungs.

  • She held her breath while swimming.
  • She was told to breathe slowly.

Learn more: Breath vs Breathe

Capital vs. Capitol

Capital may mean uppercase letters or money for beginning a business or a central governing city. Capitol is a building where a legislative council meets.

  • New York is the capital city of United Sates.
  • I need capital to start my laundry business.
  • Write heading in capital letters.
  • He witnessed a bill become a law in the capitol.

Find out more: Capital vs Capitol

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathy refers to the ability to someone’s feelings while sympathy is feeling sorry for someone who is suffering.

  • His empathy enabled him avoid a quarrel.
  • Jack’s sympathy made him give money to his sick neighbor.

Learn more: Empathy vs Sympathy

Its vs It’s

Its without an apostrophe is a possessive pronoun which means something belongs to someone. It’s with an apostrophe is a contracted from of it is.

  • She gave her dog food on its plate.
  • He is happy because it’s his birthday.

Learn more: Its vs It’s

Principal vs Principle

Principal can be used as a noun or adjective. As a noun, principal refers to the head of a school while as an adjective it refers to the most important thing. Principle is always used as noun to signify a trusted belief.

  • Their school gave a reception to their new principal.
  • These two medical instruments work on the same principle.

Find out more: Principal vs Principle

Toward vs Towards

Toward is the pronounciation in American English while towards is the pronounciation is standard British English.

  • She gave him a gentle push towards the door.
  • The soldiers were disaffected toward the government.

Learn more: Toward vs Towards

To vs Too

To is a preposition showing direction.

  • Amos ran to school.

To can also be used in infinitive verbs.

  • Ann waited until the last day to do her work.

Too is used to intensify what is being discussed and can mean ‘also’.

  • Jane too waited until the last day to do her work.
  • Good morning to you too.

Discover more: To vs Too

Stationary and Stationery

Stationary refers to anything which cannot move. Stationery is used to refer to letter writing material especially high quality material.

  • Her vehicle remained stationary because it had too much weight.
  • I printed my homework on my best stationery.

Inquiry and Enquiry

Inquiry and enquiry have same meaning. Inquiry is spelling according to American English while Enquiry is spelling according to British English.

  • The inquiry was formally initiated last month.
  • We thank you for your enquiry.

Their vs There

There indicates a place or venue. Their is a possessive pronoun in plural.

  • They walked for more than three miles to reach there.
  • They searched for their dog everywhere.

Learn more: Their vs There

Lay vs Lie

Lay means to put something down. Lie means to put your body in a sleeping position.

  • She lay her bag on my table. 
  • He will lie down after running his race.

Explore more: Lay vs Lie

Imply and Infer

lmply means to point out something without mentioning it directly. Infer refers to deducing something out of a situation that is not clear.

  • Amos implied to Ann that she was in trouble.
  • She inferred that Amos wanted to lean on her from the way he was standing.

Whose vs Who’s

Who’s is a contraction of who is while whose is a possessive pronoun showing ownership.

  • Who’s your best friend at school?
  • Whose friend is at school?

Learn more: Whose vs Who’s

Defence vs Defense

Defence is spelling according to British English while defense is spelling according to American English.

  • I’ve never played in a defence position.
  • He was the then secretary of Defense.

Learn more: Defence vs Defense

Assure and Ensure

Assure means to make it certain to someone that something is true. Ensure means to do all possible things to make sure something happens as required.

  • Assure her that her teacher will reward her performance.
  • Ensure her teacher rewards her performance.

Alot vs Allot

A lot is a quantifying phrase meaning much of something. Allot means to distribute something

  • The baby cries a lot in the morning.
  • James was asked to allot the books to the students.

Accept vs Except

Accept means to come to terms with something.

  • It was hard for james to accept his failure in exams.

Except means to exclude.

  • All the students except James passed their exams.

Accurate vs Precise

Accurate means very exact. Precise means close to very exact.

  • The drawing of the building was accurate.
  • His precise shooting skills in archery have earned him medals.

Adverse vs Averse

Adverse means something os someone is hostile towards you or a situation. Averse means to lie on the opposite to the majority.

  • The adverse weather has forced many people to stay indoors.
  • The president’s averse economic solutions have made him unpopular.

All Ready vs Already

All ready is a phrase that means all is set. Already means prior to or before a specified time.

  • I was all ready for the exams.
  • I was already seated in the hall before James came in.

All vs Every

All is a quantifier meaning each item in a group has something common. Every means each of something.

  • All the students wear a blue shirt.
  • Every student should bring book to school.

All Ways vs Always

All ways means each item of a group of items. Always means every time.

  • The city is receiving visitors all ways.
  • The teacher is always on time for his lessons.

Appraise vs Apprise

Appraise means to commed or praise. Apprise means up to date.

  • An employer should appraise the ability of his employees.
  • We must apprise them of the dangers that may be involved.

Birth vs Berth

Birth means the act of bringing up new life. Berth is a space allocated to ships or cars for parking.

  • The birth of Prince James was celebrated all over the world.
  • The ship has been at the berth for 6 months awaiting clearance by authorities.

Borrow vs Lend

Borrow means to receive something from someone temporary. Lend means to give or borrow something at a cost.

  • I always borrow my books from the school library because it’s cheaper than buying mine.
  • The company lends out cars for events such as weddings.

Bring vs Take

Bring means to move something to or close to. Take means to move something away from.

  • All the students were asked to bring their parents to school.
  • All the trash was taken away from the school by the county waste management team.

Can vs Could

Can means able to. Could implies that there is a possibility but not very sure.

  • James can lift a 59kg weight.
  •  James could lift that 59kg weight.

Discover more: Can vs Could

Cash vs Cache

Cash is money in physical form, cash or bills. Cache is storage used to store valuable items which will be retrieved in future rapidly.

  • The store will discount 5% for cash payment.
  • That box of spark plugs under the counter is a cache.

Comprise vs Compose

Comprise means to include items to make up something. Compose is the act of putting together items to make up something.

  • A car comprises of an engine, gearbox and wheels.
  • In order to compose a good car you need these items: engine, gearbox and wheels.

Desert vs Dessert

Desert it big dry portion of land that has no vegetation cover and is barren such that plants can’t thrive. Dessert is a sweet confection served as the last course of a meal.

  • The northern part of our country is a desert.
  • After finishing our food, James served a dessert composing of ice cream topped with back berries.

Commonly Confused Words | Infographics

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