Commonly Confused Words in English

Commonly Confused 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 ofwordsthat can be easily confused.

Commonly Confused Words

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

Some other commonly confused words arehomophones, 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 useaccept(“to receive”) instead ofexcept(“excluding”), oryourinstead ofyou’re, simply because they look and sound so similar.

最后,还有单词拼写不同tly 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 Misused Words with Examples

Lose vs Loose

Loseis a verb and has a /z/ sound inpronunciation. Lose means to be unable to get something.

  • He does does not want his team tolosea match.
  • 上海e will lose her necklace if she keeps it in her bag.

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

  • Window handles fall off because they areloose.
  • Looseclothes are annoying.

Learn more:Lose vs Loose

Farther vs Further

Fartheris used when referring to physical distance.

  • He ranfartherthan me.
  • How muchfartheruntil we arrive at the venue?

Furtheris used when referring to things which are not physical.

  • Do you have anyfurtherquestions?
  • Nofurthercomplaints are allowed.

Bear and Bare

Bearwhen 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.

  • 上海e cannotbearto see her daughter in pain.
  • A broken bed cannotbearyour weight.

Bare是一个形容词意思是uncovere吗d or naked. Bare can also be used as a verb to refer to the act to of uncovering.

  • Carpenters withbarehands often get hurt. (adjective)
  • Bareyour hand so that we can see your tattoo. (verb)

Compliment vs. Complement

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

  • 上海e complimented me for my dencent dressing. (verb)
  • 上海e 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

Affectis a verb whileeffectis a noun. Both affect and effect are used to show consequences of actions.

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

Discover more:Affect vs. Effect

Advice vs. Advise

Adviceis a noun whileadviseis its verb. Both of them mean to give good guidance on an issue.

  • Iadviseher to go to school. (verb)
  • My father gave meadviceon how to do homework. (noun)

Explore more:Advice vs Advise

Resign and Re-sign

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

  • I willresignfrom my current job because our boss in rude.
  • Ire-signmy current job because I love it.

Breath vs Breathe

Breathis a noun referring to air which goes in and out of our lungs whilebreatheis a verb referring to the act of breath going in and out of our lungs.

  • 上海e held herbreathwhile swimming.
  • 上海e was told tobreatheslowly.

Learn more:Breath vs Breathe

Capital vs. Capitol

Capitalmay mean uppercase letters or money for beginning a business or a central governing city.Capitolis a building where alegislativecouncil meets.

  • New York is thecapitalcity of United Sates.
  • I needcapitalto start my laundry business.
  • Write heading incapitalletters.
  • He witnessed a bill become a law in thecapitol.

Find out more:Capital vs Capitol

Empathy vs Sympathy

Empathyrefers to the ability to someone’s feelings whilesympathy为痛苦的人感到难过。

  • Hisempathyenabled him avoid a quarrel.
  • Jack’ssympathymade him give money to his sick neighbor.

Learn more:Empathy vs Sympathy

Its vs It’s

Itswithout anapostropheis apossessive pronounwhich means something belongs to someone.It’swith an apostrophe is a contracted from of it is.

  • 上海e gave her dog food onitsplate.
  • He is happy becauseit’shis birthday.

Learn more:Its vs It’s

Principal vs Principle

Principalcan 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.Principleis always used as noun to signify a trusted belief.

  • Their school gave a reception to their newprincipal.
  • These two medical instruments work on the sameprinciple.

Find out more:Principal vs Principle

Toward vs Towards

Towardis the pronounciation in American English whiletowardsis the pronounciation is standard British English.

  • 上海e gave him a gentle pushtowardsthe door.
  • The soldiers were disaffectedtowardthe government.

Learn more:Toward vs Towards

To vs Too

Tois aprepositionshowing direction.

  • Amos ran to school.

Tocan also be used ininfinitiveverbs.

  • Ann waited until the last daytodo her work.

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

  • Janetoowaited until the last day to do her work.
  • Good morning to youtoo.

Discover more:To vs Too

Stationary and Stationery

Stationaryrefers to anything which cannot move.Stationeryis used to refer to letter writing material especially high quality material.

  • Her vehicle remainedstationarybecause it had too much weight.
  • I printed my homework on my beststationery.

Inquiry and Enquiry

Inquiry and enquiry have same meaning.Inquiryis spelling according to American English whileEnquiryis spelling according to British English.

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

Their vs There

Thereindicates a place or venue.Theiris a possessive pronoun in plural.

  • They walked for more than three miles to reachthere.
  • They searched fortheirdog everywhere.

Learn more:Their vs There

Lay vs Lie

Laymeans to put something down.Liemeans to put your body in a sleeping position.

  • 上海elayher bag on my table.
  • He willliedown after running his race.

Explore more:Lay vs Lie

Imply and Infer

lmplymeans to point out something without mentioning it directly.Inferrefers to deducing something out of a situation that is not clear.

  • Amosimpliedto Ann that she was in trouble.
  • 上海einferredthat Amos wanted to lean on her from the way he was standing.

Whose vs Who’s

Who’sis acontractionof who is whilewhoseis a possessive pronoun showing ownership.

  • Who’syour best friend at school?
  • Whosefriend is at school?

Learn more:Whose vs Who’s

Defence vs Defense

Defenceis spelling according to British English whiledefenseis spelling according to American English.

  • I’ve never played in adefenceposition.
  • He was the then secretary ofDefense.

Learn more:Defence vs Defense

Assure and Ensure

Assuremeans to make it certain to someone that something is true.Ensuremeans to do all possible things to make sure something happens as required.

  • Assureher that her teacher will reward her performance.
  • Ensureher teacher rewards her performance.

Alot vs Allot

A lotis a quantifying phrase meaning much of something.Allotmeans to distribute something

  • The baby criesa lotin the morning.
  • James was asked toallotthe books to the students.

Accept vs Except

Acceptmeans to come to terms with something.

  • It was hard for james toaccepthis failure in exams.

Exceptmeans to exclude.

  • All the studentsexceptJames passed their exams.

Accurate vs Precise

Accuratemeans very exact.Precisemeans close to very exact.

  • The drawing of the building wasaccurate.
  • Hispreciseshooting skills in archery have earned him medals.

Adverse vs Averse

Adversemeans something os someone is hostile towards you or a situation.Aversemeans to lie on the opposite to the majority.

  • Theadverseweather has forced many people to stay indoors.
  • The president’saverseeconomic solutions have made him unpopular.

All Ready vs Already

All readyis a phrase that means all is set.Alreadymeans prior to or before a specified time.

  • I wasall readyfor the exams.
  • I wasalreadyseated in the hall before James came in.

All vs Every

Allis a quantifier meaning each item in a group has something common.Everymeans each of something.

  • Allthe students wear a blue shirt.
  • Everystudent should bring book to school.

All Ways vs Always

All waysmeans each item of a group of items.Alwaysmeans every time.

  • The city is receiving visitorsall ways.
  • The teacher isalwayson time for his lessons.

Appraise vs Apprise

Appraisemeans to commed or praise.Apprisemeans up to date.

  • An employer shouldappraisethe ability of his employees.
  • We mustapprisethem of the dangers that may be involved.

Birth vs Berth

Birthmeans the act of bringing up new life.Berthis a space allocated to ships or cars for parking.

  • Thebirthof Prince James was celebrated all over the world.
  • The ship has been at theberthfor 6 months awaiting clearance by authorities.

Borrow vs Lend

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

  • I alwaysborrowmy books from the school library because it’s cheaper than buying mine.
  • The companylendsout cars for events such as weddings.

Bring vs Take

Bringmeans to move something to or close to.Takemeans to move something away from.

  • All the students were asked tobringtheir parents to school.
  • All the trash wastakenaway from the school by the county waste management team.

Can vs Could

Canmeans able to.Couldimplies that there is a possibility but not very sure.

  • Jamescanlift a 59kg weight.
  • Jamescouldlift that 59kg weight.

Discover more:Can vs Could

Cash vs Cache

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

  • The store will discount 5% forcashpayment.
  • That box of spark plugs under the counter is acache.

Comprise vs Compose

Comprisemeans to include items to make up something.Composeis the act of putting together items to make up something.

  • A carcomprisesof an engine, gearbox and wheels.
  • In order tocomposea good car you need these items: engine, gearbox and wheels.

Desert vs Dessert

Desertit big dry portion of land that has no vegetation cover and is barren such that plants can’t thrive.Dessertis 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 adessertcomposing of ice cream topped with back berries.

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List of Commonly Confused Words

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Commonly Confused Words in English

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Commonly Confused Words List

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Last Updated on May 14, 2023

16 thoughts on “Commonly Confused Words in English”

  1. I read a website where some people misuse “that” and “than.” They seem to be used interchangeably. I cannot understand why except that they might be using it like that word in French.


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