Words And Phrases Often Confused

Similar in spelling and different in usage; or Similar in spelling and different in pronunciation; or Similar in pronunciation but different in usage and spelling; or Similar in spelling but different in meaning; or Slightly different in spelling but might have similar usage; or Words whose usage is commonly mistaken by non native speaker.

In linguistics, a homonym is one or a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings, usually as a result of the two words having different origins. Some books only require that homonyms share the same spelling or pronunciation (in addition to having different meanings), but these are the definitions most other sources give for homographs and homophones respectively. Examples of homonyms are : 1) stalk (which as a noun can mean part of a plant, and as a verb to follow/harass a person), 2) bear (animal), and bear (carry), leaf (part of plant or the page of a book).

Some sources state that homonym meanings must be unrelated in origin (rather than just different). Thus right (correct) and right (opposed to left) would be polysemous (see below) and not homonyms.

Capitonyms are words that share the same spelling but have different meanings when capitalised (and may or may not have different pronunciations). Such words include polish (to make shiny) and Polish (from Poland). The word “homonym” comes from the conjunction of the Greek prefix homo – (o’uo-), meaning “same”, and suffix – onimus (- wvuino), meaning “name”. Thus, it refers to two or more distinct concepts sharing the “same name” or signifier. Several similar linguistic concepts are related to homonymy. The terms homograph and homophone are, however, usually defined the same way as meaning “same spelling” and “same sound” respectively, and heteronym and homonym can be seen as respective subclasses of these.

Homographs are words that share the same spelling regardless of how they are pronounced. Homographs may be pronounced the same, in which case they are also homophones – for example, ball (toy) and ball (form of dance). Alternatively they may be pronounced differently, in which case they are also heteronyms – for example, bow (the front of a ship) and bow ( a type of knot).

Homophone can be called as words that share the same pronunciation regardless of how they are spelled. Homophones may be spelled the same (in which case they are also homographs) or spelled differently.

Polysemes are words with same spelling and distinct but related meanings. The distinction between polysemy and homonymy is often subtle and subjective, and not all sources consider polysemous words to be homonyms. So they can be treated differently also. Words such as “mouth”, meaning either the orifice on one’s face, or the opening of a cave or river, are polysemous and may or may not be considered homonyms.

Examples below illustrate the above given concept : bough – a branch on a tree. bow – to bend forward at the waist in respect bow – the front of the ship bow – the weapon which shoots arrows bow – a kind of tied ribbon bow – to bend outward at the sides bo – a long staff, usually made of tapered hard wood or bamboo beau – a male paramour In derivation, homograph means “same writing”, homophone means “same sound”, heteronym means “different name”, and heterophone means “different sound”.

 

A - B

  • Adicate / Abrogate
    We abandon things when abadicating.
    We abrogate things when we abolish them.
  • Acced / Exceed
    Acced means “to agree” or “ to allow
    Exceed means “to go beyond” or “to surpass” as in “Drivers who exceed the speed limit are asking for hefty fines.”
  • Accept (receive) / Except (leave out)
    To accept is “to agree to something or to receive something willingly
    To except is “to exclude or omit.”
  • Access (approach) / Excess (too much)
  • Adapt (change) / Adept (skill) / Adopt (choose)
    Adapt means “to adjust”
    adept means “skilled”
    adopt means “to take as your own”
  • Adverse / Averse
    Adverse means “inauspicious” or “hostile”
    Averse means “disinclined” or “replled”
  • Advice (suggestion) / Advise (to recommend)
    Advice is the noun and advise the verb. You advise someone. What you give that person is advice.
  • Affluence / Effluence
    Affluence is wealth:
    Effluence is waste or useless product
  • Aisle / Isle
    An aisle is a narrow passageway, especially in a church or store.
    An isle is an island
  • Aisle (space, between rows)
  • All right / Alright
    All right is the correct form; Alright is grammatically incorrect.
    The misspelling “alright” is nonstandard usage. The two words are separate.
  • Allot (assign, distribute) / A lot (a large amount)
  • Allude (suggest) / Elude (escape)
  • Allussion (suggestion) / Illusion (deception, fantasy)
    Allussion is a reference to something literary or historical with which the reader is presumably familiar.
    An illusion is a false, misleading, idea.
  • Aloud /Allowed
    Aloud means “out loud” or “speaking so that someone else can hear you”.
    Allowed means “permitted”.
  • Already (previously) / All ready (completely prepared)
    Already means “by this time”
    all ready means “prepared”
  • Altar (church table) / Alter (change)
    Altar : I was married at the altar of my church.
  • Altogether (entirely) / All together (complete group)
    Altogether means “wholly”.
    All together means “everybody in a group”
  • Always (at all times) / All ways (all methods)
    All ways means “by every way or method”.
    Always means “all the time, forever.”
  • Among / Between
    Between expresses the joining or separation of two people or things.
    Among refers to a group of three or more.
  • Amoral / Immoral
    “Amoral” is a rather technical word meaning “unrelated to morality.”
    When you mean to denounce someone’s behavior, call it “immoral.”
  • Amount / Number
    Write “number” when things can be counted.
    When things are lumped together write “amount”.
  • Annual / Annul
    Annual means “yearly”.
    Annul means to “make void or invalid”.
  • Anxious / Eager
    “Anxiety” is unpleasant.
    “Eagerness” is joyous. They are not synonyms.
  • Anyone / Any one
    This is quite tricky. Anyone means “anybody, any person at all”
    Any one means “any one person” and is followed by “of”.
  • Appraise / Apprise
    Appraise is “to assess or estimate”.
    Apprise is “to inform or notify”.
  • Ascent (climb) / Assent (agree)
    Ascent is an upward movement;
    Assent means “agreement”.
  • Ascribe / Subscribe
    If you agree with a theory or belief, you ascribe to it, just as you subscribe to a magazine.
  • Assistance / Assistants
    Assistance means “help” or “aid”
    Assistants is the plural of assistant which means “one who gives help”
  • Assume / Presume
    We “assume” things in the absence of evidence.
    We “presume” things when it is reasonable to do so and there is no evidence to the contrary.
  • Assure / Ensure / Insure
    Assure means “to guarantee”
    Ensure means “to make sure”
    Insure means “to protect against loss or damage”.
  • Attain / Obtain
    Attain means “reach”;
    Obtain means “get”.
  • Auger / Augur
    Auger is tool;
    augur means “to predict” or “a sort of an omen”.
  • Affect (influence) / Effect (result)
    Affect is a verb meaning either “to influence” or “to pretend”.
    Effect as a verb means “to accomplish or to produce as a result” as noun, effect means “result”.
    Affect is a verb; effect is more usually a noun. When used as a verb it means “to achieve” or “fulfil” or “realize”
  • Aid / Aide
    We aid people when we help them.
    An aide is a special assistant.
  • Bail / Bale
    You bail the boat and bale the hay. The expression “bail out” meanings “to abandon a position or situation”.
    And bale is a bundle.
  • Baited / Bated
    Baited usually refers to traps or snares.
    When the reference is to someone who is hardly daring to breathe, the correct word is always “bated”.
  • Ball / Bawl
    To “bawl” is to cry out loudly;
    ball is a toy or a plaything.
  • Bare (uncovered) / Bear (carry; the animal)
  • Bazaar (market) / Bizarre (weird)
  • Been / Gone
    Been is the past participle of “be,” gone is the past participle of “go”.
    Been is used to describe completed visits, gone does not specify the return or completion of the visit.
  • Bemuse / Amuse
    When you bemuse someone, you confuse them, and not necessarily in an entertaining way. Don’t confuse this word with “amuse.”
  • Benefactor / Beneficiary
    Benefactors give benefits;
    beneficiaries receive them.
  • Beside / Besides
    Beside means “at the side of”.
    Besides means “in addition to”.
  • Biannual / Biennial
    These two are really tricky! Biannual means happening twice a year;
    Biennial means every two years.
  • Birth (childbearing) / Berth (place of rest)
    Berth is a place to sleep on a boat or ship or train;
    Birth is the beginning (usually of life).
  • Blonde / Blond
    Because these are borrowed from French, there is a feminine and masculine form.
    Blonde is feminine and blond is masculine.
  • Blunt / Brunt
    Some people mistakenly substitute the adjective “blunt” for the noun “brunt” in standard expressions like “bear the brunt.” Brunt means “main force.”
  • Board (plank; food) /Bored (drilled; uninterested)
    Board is a long sheet of wood, also a group of people as in “Board of Directors”, and as a verb means to go onto a ship, plane or other form of public transport;
    Bored means “not interested.”
  • Bore/Boar / Boor
    Bore as a noun is a boring or tiresome person, or something that you don’t like doing;
    Bore as a verb is “to drill”.
    Boar is male pig; Boor is a vulgar person.
  • Born (given birth to, beginning of life) / Borne (carried)
  • Bought / Brought
    Bought is the past tense of “buy”, bought is the past tense of “bring”. So, I bought (paid for) a load of topsoil, and a truck driver brought (delivered) it to my home.
  • Braise / Braze
    Braise means “to cook slowly in liquid (usually meat)”.
    Braze most commonly means “to solder with an alloy of copper and zinc”.
  • Breach / Breech
    Breach is to break and
    breeches are worn by horse riders on their legs.
  • Break (smash, split) / Brake (stopping device)
  • Breath / Breathe
    When you need to breathe, you take a breath.
    “Breathe” is the verb, “breath” the noun.
  • Bridal / Bridle
    Bridal has to do with brides and weddings;
    Bridle as a noun means a halter or restraint and as a verb it means to restrain or to draw oneself up in anger.
  • Broach / Brooch
    A decorative pin is a “brooch” even though is sounds like “broach” – a quite different word. To broach means “to touch upon or start especially a topic”.
  • By / Buy / Bye
    By is a preposition meaning “next to”.
    Buy means “purchase”,
    bye means “farewell” or “goodbye”.

 

C - D

  • Cache / Cachet “Cache” comes from the French verb “Cacher.” Meaning “to hide,” and in English is pronounced exactly like the word “cash.” But speaking of a cache (hidden hoard of weapons, drugs, etc.) Often mispronounced to sound like cachet is a word with a very different meaning: it was originally a seal affixed to a document but now it refers to the quality attributed to anything with authority or prestige.
  • Callous / Callused Calling someone callous is a way of metaphorically suggesting a lack of feeling similar to that caused by calluses on the skin; but if you are speaking literally of the tough build-up on a person’s hand or feet, the word you need is “callused.”
  • Can / May Can refers to one’s ability.. May concerns whether one has permission.
  • Canon / Cannon “Canon” is used for principles or rules and “cannon” refers to a larges piece of artillery.
  • Canvas (fabric) / Canvass (examine, campaign for election)
  • Capital (city; wealth) / Capitol (building)
  • Carat / Caret / Carrot / Karat “Carrots” are those crunchy orange vegetables, but this spelling gets misused for the less familiar words which are pronounced the same but have very different meanings. Precious stones like diamonds are weighed in carats. The same word is used to express the proportion of pure gold in an alloy, though in this usage it is sometimes spelled “karat’ (hence the abbreviation “20k gold”). A caret is a proofreader’s mark showing where something roof. It looks rather like a French circumflex, but is usually distinct from it on modern computer keyboards. Carets are extensively used in computer programming.
  • Career / Careen Careening down the road is swerving from side to side, whereas career relates to your future, job, etc.
  • Censor (prohibit) / Sensor (meaning device) To censure someone, however, is to officially denounce an offender
  • Cereal / Serial Cereal is something you might eat for breakfast, such as porridge. Serial is something in a serial; something that continues one after another.
  • Choose (to select) / Chose (past tense of choose)
  • Chunk / Chuck Chunk is a big piece, whereas chuck means “to throw”
  • Cite / Site / Sight Cite means “to indicate”. A site is a place. Sight is vision.
  • Click / Clique To click is to push a button, or switch; to emit or make a slight, sharp sound, or series of such sounds; and clique is a small exclusive group of friends or associates.
  • Coarse (rough) / Course (way, path)
  • Collaborate / Corroborate Collaborate means “to work with someone”. Corroborate means “to establish the truth of something”.
  • Collage / College You can paste together bits of paper to make a collage, but the institution of higher education is a college.
  • Come over / Overcome Come over is a phrasal verb, that can mean several things. It can mean “to move from one place to another” or “move towards someone”. Overcome is a verb, which means “to defeat or succeed in controlling or dealing with something”.
  • Compare / Contrast You compare like objects for both similarities and differences. You contrast any two thing (like or unlike) by identifying dissimilarities.
  • Complement (make complete, to supplement) / Compliment (praise)
  • Concentrate / Concentrated When you concentrate (verb) you direct all your efforts towards a particular activity, subject or problem. If something is concentrated (asiective) it has had some liquid removed. Note: The simple past of “to concentrate” is “concentrated” and this is where the confusion may arise.
  • Connote / Denote The literal meaning of a word is its denotation : the broader associations we have with a word are its connotations.
  • Conscience (moral sense) / Conscious (aware)
  • Conscience / Conscious / Consciousness Your conscience makes you feel guilty when you do bad things. Consciousness is your awareness. If you are awake, you are conscious.
  • Consul / Council / Councilor / Counsel / Counselor Consul is a diplomat to a foreign country. Council refers to a group to discuss and take action on official matters. A councilor is member of such a group. Counsel is advice or to advise. A counselor is an adviser.
  • Continual / Continuous Continual means “something that happens” frequently, with breaks between the occurrences. Continuous means “something that happens without stopping”.
  • Convince / Persuade We persuade people to act. We convince when using proof to accept a belief. Hence, we usually are “convinced” something is true, but others try to “persuade” us to do something.
  • Cooperation / Corporation Cooperation “(usually spelt without the hyphen in US English)” means working together; Corporation is a business organization.
  • Copyright / Copywrite Copyright is the legal ownership of a book, film, play, piece of artwork, musical composition, etc. or the right to print, publish, film, record or perform them. Copywrite is something you do if you are creating advertising or publicity material.
  • Core / Corps / Corpse Apples have cores. A corps is an organization, like the peace Corps, A corpse is a dead body, a carcass.
  • Correspondence / Correspondents Correspondence is written communication; correspondents are those who write it.
  • Creak / Creek Creak is both a noun and a verb and means “squeak or graon” (for instance, rusty hinges and loose floorboards creak); Creek is noun and means a “waterway” or “stream”.
  • Credible / Creditable Credible means “believable”; Creditable means “praiseworthy” or “deserving credit.”
  • Credible / Credulous “Credible” means “believable or trustworthy.” It is also used in a more abstract sense, meaning something like “worthy”. Don’t confuse “credible” with “credulous,” a much rater word which means “guillible.”
  • Crevice / Crevasse Crevices are by definition tiny, like that little Crevice between your teeth where the popcorn hulls always get caught. A huge crack in a glacier is given the French Spelling, crevasse.
  • Criteria / Criterion Criterion is singular; criteria is plural. Criterion is in the case of a single specification. Criteria is in the case of more than once specification.
  • Cue / Queue “Cue” has a variety of meaning like a clue or a play instrument as in a game of billiard, but all uses of “queue” relate to its original French meaning of “tail,” which becomes a metaphor for a line.
  • Curb / Kerb Curb means “to control” as in “curb your temper”. While kerb is the edge of a footpath or sidewalk.
  • Currant / Current Currant is a fruit, usually dried. Current as an adjective which means “contemporary”, or “fashionable”; as a noun it means “steam.” or “flow”.
  • Cursor (computer marker) / Curser (sweater)
  • Dairy (milk-producing farm) / Diary (daily book)
  • Date / Datum
    The Dictionaries treat data as a group noun meaning information, especially facts or numbers, collected for examination and consideration.
    Strictly speaking datum is the singular form of data which is the plural form.
  • Dateline / Deadline
    The word “dateline” is used today mainly to label the bit of text at the top of a printed news story that indicates where and – often, but not always – when it was written.
    Deadline is most often the date by which something must be accomplished.
  • Decent / Descent
    Decent is an adjective meaning “socially acceptable” or “good”.
    Descent is a noun which means a “movement downwards” or “your ancestry.”
  • Definite / Definitive
    “Definite” means “Certain (a word you can do without since it adds redundant stress).
    “Definitive” means “conclusive and unamendable.”
  • Defuse / Diffuse
    You defuse a dangerous situation by treating it like a bomb and removing its fuse.
    To diffuse, in contrast, is to spread something out.
  • Depreciate / Deprecate
    To depreciate something is to actually make it worse, whereas to deprecate something is simply to speak or think of it in a manner that demonstrates your low opinion of it.
  • Dessert (sweet food) / Desert (dry land) Dessert
    A desert (pronounced des’ert) is a dry region.
    To desert (pronounced desert’) is to leave.
    The dessert is the last part of a meal.
  • Device (a mechanism) / Devise (to arrange)
    Device is a noun, meaning a “gadget” or (particularly in writing terms) an “invention”;
    device is a verb, meaning to “invent” or “plot”.
  • Different from / Different than
    Although both different from and different than are common American usages, the preferred idiom is different from.
  • Dilemma / Difficulty
    A dilemma is a difficult choice, not just any difficulty or problem.
  • Disburse / Disperse
    You Disburse money by taking it out of your purse (French “because”) and distributing it.
    Disperse means “to scatter.”
  • Discreet / discrete
    Discreet means “respectful,” or “prudent;”
    Discrete means “separate” or “detached from others.”
  • Disinterested / uninterested
    Uninterested people are bored, but disinterested people are impartial. We are tried by “a disinterested jury of our peers.”
  • Don’t have to / Mustn’t
    We have to use
    ( or do not have to) to say that there is no obligation or necessary to do something.
    Mustn’t not is a modal verb used to show that something is not allowed. When you use mustn’t you are telling people not to do things.
  • Downside / Underside
    Downside is a noun that means “the disadvantage of a situation”.
    Underside is a noun that means “the side of something that is usually nearest the ground”.
  • Draft / Draught
    Draft refers to the first writing of your novel or story (or any other document). You can also be drafted (enlisted or recruited) into the army, navy, etc.
    Draught is an air movement, a drink (as in ”draught of ale”)
  • Dredge / Drudge / Trudge
    You use machinery to scoop stuff up from underwater called a dredge, to dredge up junk or debris from the bottom of a river or lake.
    To drudge is to do hard, annoying work; and a person who does such work can also be called a drudge.
    When you slog laboriously up a hill, you trudge up it.
  • Dribble / Drivel
  • Dribble means “to drool.”
  • When you mean to criticise someone else’s speech as stupid or pointless, the word you want is drivel.
  • Dual (having two parts) / Dual (fight between two people)
  • Dye (color) / Die (perish)

 

E - F

  • Ecology / Environment Ecology is the study of living things in relationship to their environment.
  • Elicit (draw forth) / Illicit (improper)
  • Emigrant / Immigrant An emigrant is a person who moves out of a country; An immigrant is one who moves into a country. A similar distinction holds for the verbs emigrate and immigrate.
  • Eminent (noteworthy) / Immanent (inherent) / Imminent (impending) Eminent means “distinguished;” or “famous;” Imminent means “near”, or “close at hand”. The rarest of the three is immanent, used by philosophers to mean “inherent” and by theologians to mean “present throughout the universe.”
  • Empathy / Sympathy If you think you feel just like another person, you are feeling empathy. If you just feel sorry for another person, you’re feeling sympathy.
  • Endemic / Epidemic An endemic condition is one characteristic of a particular region, population, or environment: a condition need not affect a majority or even a very large number of people in a population to be endemic. In biology, an endemic disease is one that is maintained locally without the need for outside influence. An epidemic condition is widespread, or rampant.
  • Enormous / Enormity Big things are enormous. A heinous or atrocious thing has enormity.
  • Ensure (make certain) / Insure (Indemnify)
  • Envelop / Envelope To wrap something up in a covering is to envelop it. The specific wrapping you put around a letter is an envelope.
  • Envious / Jealous Although these are often treated as synonyms, there is a difference. You are envious of what others have that you lack. Jealousy on the other hand, involves wanting to hold on to what you do have.
  • Epic / Epochs An epoch is a long period of time, like the pleistocence Epoch. An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events
  • Epigram / Epigraph / Epithet An epigram is a pithy saying, usually humorous An epigraph is a brief quotation used to introduce a piece of writing or the inscription on a statue or building. An epitaph is the inscription on a tombstone or some other tribute to a dead person. In literature, an epithet is a term that replaces or is added to the name of a person. You are more likely to encounter the term in its negative sense, as a term of insult or abuse: “the people hurled epithets at the police who had arrested her.”
  • Etymology / Entomology “Etymology” is the study of the origins of words. ”Entomology” is the study of insects.
  • Everyday (ordinary) / Every day (each day)
  • Everyone / Every one Everyone means “every person in a group”. Every one means “each person” and is always followed by “of”.
  • Evoke / Invoke The action of “invoking” is usually more direct and active. It originally involved calling upon or summoning up a god or spirit. An invocation call upon whatever is invoked to do something or serve a function. Invoke now can also be used to mean “to appeal to, “ or “ to cite”.
  • Exalt / Exult When you celebrate joyfully, you exult. When you raise something high (even if only in your opinion), you exalt it.
  • Exasperate / Exacerbate People get exasperated (irritated); situations get exacerbated (made worse)
  • Exercise (activity) / Exorcise (drive out)
  • Fair (just) / Fare (food;fee) Fair means “average”. “good-looking”. “pale”, “unbiased” (what a lot of meanings for one little word!); Fare is the money you pay to go somewhere by bus, train, plane, etc.
  • Fatal / Fateful A fatal event is a deadly one; A fateful one is determined by fate.
  • Faze (disturb) / Phase (stage) To faze someone is to fluster or confuse them, whereas phase is mostly used in reference to a stage in someone’s life- though it can be a stage in almost anything else.
  • Fearful / Fearsome To be fearful is to be afraid. To be fearsome is to cause fear in others. Remember that someone who is fierce is fearsome rather than fearful.
  • Feel / Believe You can feel tired, feel happy, or feel angry, but a belief describes your assessment of proposition. One way to tell if you are dealing with true feelings is this test: Restate the sentence and substitute the word “am” for the word “feel.” If the sentence makes sense, you have isolated a feeling. If not, substitute the word “belief”.
  • Feint / Faint A feint, whether in chess or on the battlefield, is a maneuver designed to divert the opponent’s attention from the real center of attack. A feint is daring move; It might also mean to make a false show of; simulate. While “faint of heart” (or “faint at heart”), implies timidity or to faint means “to lose consciousness”.
  • Fewer / Less Fewer is used to describe things that can be counted. Less refers to quantity or degree.
  • Fiance / Fiancee Your fiance is the man you plan to marry; Your fiancee is the woman you plan to marry.
  • Flammable / Inflammable The prefix “in” does not indicate negation here; it comes from the word “inflame,” Flammable and inflammable both mean “easy to catch on fire”.
  • Flare / Flair Flare means “to flash” or “blaze” and “(and a noun) is a pyrotechnic device;/it also means to spread gradually outward, as the end of a trumpet, the bottom of a wide skirt, or the sides of a ship.; Flair means “ability” or “skill.”
  • Flaunt / Flout When you show off something or boast about it, you flaunt it. When you flout something you show your contempt for it. In passing, it might be noted that a flautist also is one who plays the flute and in Middle English “to flout” meant to play the flute.
  • Flounder / Founder When something thrashes about, it flounders. When it fails completely, it founders.
  • For/Since The prepositions for and since are often used with time expressions. For indicates a period of time. Since indicates a point in time.
  • Forbear / Forebear Forbear means “to refrain from”; Forbear is an ancestor or forefather.
  • Forego / Forgo The ‘e’ in “forego” tells you it has to do with going before. It occurs mainly in the expression “foregone conclusion,” a conclusion arrived at in advance. Forgo means “to abstain from or do without”.
  • Foreword / Forward Foreword is the preface in a book, usually written by someone who is not the author. Forward means “ahead, near the front.”
  • Formerly (at an earlier time) / Formally (according to a pattern, formal)
  • Forth / Fourth Forth means “forward”; Fourth is after “third”.
  • Fortunate / Fortuitous If something fortunate happens, we got lucky, If it happened by chance, it is fortuitous.
  • Foul / Fowl Foul can mean “dishonourable” (by foul means), “disgusting” (a foul smell), “entangle” (rubbish dumped in the river can foul fishing lines); Fowl is a bird.
  • Found / Founded Found is the past tense of find; Founded means “started”.
  • Full / Fulsome When things are full they contain abundant supplies of something. When things are fulsome they are fat, excessive, and offensive to good taste.
  • Furthest / Farthest Generally, in good usage, farther is used for comparisons of distance and further for anything else. Farther is used for physical distance; further for non-physical.

 

G - K

  • Gaff / Gaffe Gaffe is French word meaning “embarrassing mistake,” and should not be mixed up with gaff: a large hook.
  • Gamut / Gantlet / Gauntlet A gamut is a full range or scope of things. A gantlet is a form of punishment in which people run between rows of people who attempt to beat them. A gauntlet is a glove thrown down when a person is challenged to a duel.
  • Gender / Sex Do not substitute the word “gender” to avoid embarrassment. People and animals differ by sex. Words differ by gender. Thus, unless a study involves gender classifications of words, it is a study of sex differences.
  • Gibe / Jibe Gibe means “to taunt”. Jibe means “to agree, correspond or tally”, in boating it means to shift the sails.
  • Gig / Jig Jig is t move with a quick, jerky motion or hop; or bob. “The jig is up” is an old slang expression meaning “the game is over – we’re caught.” A musician’s job is a gig; also, a gig is a light, two-wheeled one-horse carriage.
  • Gild / Guild You gild an object by covering it with gold; a guild is a group or an organization of people doing similar things.
  • Good / Well Good is an adjective. Do not use it to modify a verb. Well is an adverb except in three uses: (i) When used to mean “healthy,” (ii) When used to mean “neatly groomed” or “attractively dressed,” and (iii) When used to mean “satisfactory.”
  • Gorilla (ape) / Guerilla (fighter)
  • Grisly / Grizzly Grisly means “horrible”; A grizzly is a bear.
  • Hail / Hale Hail means “to greet or to come from”; and a noun it is frozen raindrops; Hale means “healthy or (as a verb) to haul.”
  • Hanged / Hung A criminal is always hanged; A picture is hung.
  • Hard / Hardly Hard is an adjective. It can mean “solid”, “industrious”, or “difficult”. Hardly is an adverb and means only just or certainly not.
  • Hardy / Hearty Hardy is durable, whereas hearty is healthy or happy as in “hale and hearty.”
  • Hear (perceive) / Here (in this place)
  • Hear / Listen Hear is a verb that means “to receive or become aware of a sound using your ears, so you don’t have to make an effort in order to just hear something. Listen is a verb that means “to give attention to someone or something in order to hear them, so you make an make an effort in order to hear something properly.
  • Heard (Perceived) / Herd (group of animals)
  • Heel (part of foot) / Heal (to make better)
  • Heroin (drug) / Heroine (principle female character)
  • He’s / His He’s is the short form of “he is” or “he has”. Hits is a possessive pronoun, it is used to show something belonging to or connected with a man, boy or male animal that has just been mentioned.
  • Historic / Historical An event is historic, whereas a place is historical.
  • Hoard / Horde Hoard means “to stockpile” and as a noun it is a cache of stockpiled stuff; Horde is a large group.
  • Hole (opening) / Whole (entire)
  • Holidays / Weekend A holidays (noun), refers to time, often one or two weeks, when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what he/she wants, such as travel or relax. You usually have to book your holidays with your boss. The weekend (noun) refers to the time from Saturday and Sunday, or Friday evening until Sunday night. It’s the part of the week in which most paid workers living in the West do not go to work. It is a time for leisure and recreation, and/or for religious activities.
  • Holy (sacred) / Wholly (entirely)
  • Home / Hone Home is your house or abode. Hone means to sharpen.
  • Homework / Housework Homework (noun) refers to tasks assigned to students by teachers to be completed mostly outside of class, and derives its name from the fact that most students do the majority of such work at home. Housework (noun) refers to domestic household chores such as cleaning and cooking.
  • “How do you do?” / “How are you?” / “How do you do?” This is not a question. It is another, very formal way of saying “Hello”. It is also very British. We only really use it the first time we meet someone.
  • Human (of people) / Humane (merciful)
  • I / me Usually we choose the correct form by instinct. I like tea. Give me my tea. There are other times when people make mistakes with these two pronouns .I / me is difficult when it is coupled with another pronoun or with a noun. This is when you have to think about the subject/object in a sentence.
  • Idea / Ideal Any thought can be an idea, but only the best ideas worth pursing are ideals.
  • If / Whether Use whether when alternatives are involved (“I do not know whether I should complain or remain silent”). Otherwise if is acceptable (“I do not know if I should reconsider my decision”).
  • Illude / Elude Ilude is a very rare word, most of whose former meaning are obsolete, but which can mean “to deceive” or “lead astray.” But elude means to “escape” or “evade”.
  • Illusion / Delusion Illusions are images of nonexistent things. Delusions are misguided beliefs people hold despite evidence to the contrary. Thus, “Daydreams can be enjoyable illusions, but delusions of grandeur come from self deceit or mental imbalance.”
  • Immemorial / Immortal Immemorial means ancient beyond memory (as in the cliché “since time immemorial”); Immortal means “deathless” or “eternal.”
  • Immigrate (come in) / Emigrate (leave)
  • Imply / Infer Imply means “to suggest something”. Infer means “to derive a certain meaning from a remark or an action”. We imply things when we suggest them without actually saying so. We infer conclusions from evidence by reasoning from data to claims.
  • In / Into In means “inside something”. Into tells of motion from the outside to the inside of something.
  • Incredulous / Incredible Use incredible in the casual sense of “unbelievably good” and use incredulous to mean “unbelieving” or “skeptical”, which is the only standard usage for this word.
  • Inside of / outside of Inside of and outside of generally should not be used as Compound prepositions. Inside of is acceptable in most formal writing when it means “in less than”. The more formal term is within. Both inside of and outside of are appropriate when inside or outside is a noun followed by a phrase.
  • Insight / Incite An insight is something you have: an understanding of something, a bright idea about something. To incite is to do something: to stimulate some action or other to be taken.
  • Install / Instill You install equipment and you instill feelings or attitudes.
  • Interested / Interesting Interested is a past participle. When used as an adjective it says how someone feels. Interesting is a present participle. When used as an adjective it describes the people or things that cause the feelings.
  • Intolerable / Intolerant Intolerable means “tiring, onerous, crushing.” Someone cannot be intolerable of another’s beliefs.
  • Intricate / Integral An integral part of a machine, organization, or idea is a necessary, inseparable part of it. Whereas intricate means small or complex.
  • Irregardless / Regardless There is no such word as irregardless; the correct word is regardless.
  • Its (possessive of it) / It’s (contraction of it is) This is confusing because possessives normally have an apostrophe, but in this case it’s is short for it is and its is possessive-always.
  • Knew / New Knew is the past tense of know; New is the opposite of old.
  • Know (be aware) / No (negative, not yet)

 

L - M

  • Later (subsequently) / Latter (last thing mentioned) Later means “afterwards”; Latter is the second of two things.
  • Laudable / Laudatory Something laudable is worth praising. Laudatory activity is the expression of such praise.
  • Lay down / Lie down Lay down has several different meanings. If you lay something down, it can mean you officially establish a rule, or officially state the way in which something should be done. If you lay down your weapons, it means you stop fighting. If you lay wine down, it means you are storing it for drinking in the future. Lie down means to move into a position in which your body is flat, usually in order to sleep or rest.
  • Lay / Lie Lay is an irregular transitive verb (lay / laid / laid-laying). It needs a direct object. It means “to put something or someone down” (often in a horizontal position). Lie is an irregular intransitive verb (lie / lay / lain-laying). It does not take a direct object. It means “to rest in a horizontal position” or “to be located somewhere.” Lie also means “to say something that isn’t true”;it takes the following form (lie / lied / lying).
  • Leach / Leech Water leaches chemicals out of soil or colour out of cloth, while leech is a bloodsucking creature.
  • Lead / Led / Lead Lead (pronounced leed) means “to go first”. Led is the past tense of lead. Lead is a heavy metal; also the graphite in a pencil.
  • Least / Lest There are uses of old word lest in phrases like “lest we forget,” referring to something to be avoided or prevented. Least means something that is very less; it is the opposite of most.
  • Legend / Myth Myths are generally considered to be traditional stories whose importance lies in their significance, whereas legends can be merely famous deeds.
  • Lend / Loan Lend is a verb meaning “to give something temporarily to someone”. Loan is a noun, meaning the temporary transfer to something to someone else. So, “Dad, can you loan me a few dollars until pay day?”
  • Lesson (instruction) / Lessen (reduce) Lessen means “to make less”. Lesson is something you learn.
  • Liable / Libel Liable means “subject to” or “answerable for” or “likely”; Libel is written (as opposed to spoken) untruths about someone, for which you may be taken to court.
  • Licence / License In British usage, licence is always the noun and license the verb.
  • Lie / Lay Lie means “to recline”. When you recline, you lie down. If you tell someone you will lay down, you may risk embarrassment. For reclining, the past tense is lay and the past participle is “lain.” Thus, you may say “I have lain on my bed for half an hour,” but you cannot write “I have laid on the lounge chair for half an hour.” On the other hand, You may, “lay the plate on the table, “in which case all past tense forms are the word “laid.” By the way, once you “lay” the plate on the table, it lies there until moved.
  • Lightening / Lightning Lightening means making “lighter” or “brighter”;
  • Lightning (which is always a noun) is what comes out of the sky, usually followed by a crack of thunder.
  • Like / As As if While the use of like as a conjunction is common in speaking, its use as a conjunction is not fully established in writing. Like is better used as a preposition.
  • Look at / Watch In this context, look is usually followed by the preposition at. When you look at someone or something you are interested in the appearance. Generally we look at things that are static. Watch is a verb. When you watch someone or something you are interested in what happens. Generally we watch things that move or change state.
  • Like / As Do not confuse them. Like means that one is drawing a similarly from dissimilar groups. The error is created when one uses “like” as a conjunction. The person should substitute “as” for “like”.
  • Literally / Figuratively Do not confuse these words. Literally means that one’s words describe what actually occurred. Most of the time, the word is tossed into sentences in which it is unnecessary. The word “figuratively” means that one is using language metaphorically.
  • Look after / Overlook Look over is a phrasal verb. When you look over something or someone you quickly examine it or them. Overlook is a verb. When you overlook someone or something, you fail to notice or consider it or them. Note: If you look forward/forwards, it simply means you are looking ahead of you, Look forward to is a phrasal verb. When you look forward to something, you feel happy and excited about something that is going to happen.
  • Loose (not snug) / Lose (to misplace, fail to wing) Loose means “to be free, not close together.” To lose means “to suffer loss”. Lose always means “mislaying or dropping something and not being able to find it”, While loose means “stack” or “free”. Loose is an adjective. If something isn’t fixed properly or it doesn’t fit, because it’s too large, or because its not tight enough, it’s loose. Lose is a verb that means “to no longer possess something because you do not know where it is, or because it has been taken away from you.”
  • Luxurious / Luxuriant Luxurious living means that you enjoy luxuries. Luxuriant means that something (such as a plant) is growing abundantly.
  • Madding / Maddening “A madding crowd” is a group of people who can drive you insane. “A maddening crowd” is a group of people who make you angry. Hardy’s novel is Far from the Madding Crowd.
  • Mantel / Mantle Mantel is the shelf above a fireplace, or the fireplace surrounding; Mantle is a cloak or blanket.
  • Manufacture / Manufacturer When your company makes stuff, it manufactures it; but the company itself is a manufacturer.
  • Marshal / Marshall Marshal is a military officer or a sheriff; Marshall is a verb, as in marshalling yard.
  • Maybe (perhaps) / May be (could be)
  • Me / My As between I and me we usually choose the correct form by instinct. Me is used as the object of a verb or preposition. You use me to refer to yourself. In short answers, we usually use this form. My is a possessive adjective.
  • Meat (food) / Meet (encounter)
  • Medal / Metal / Meddle / Mettle A person who proves his or her mettle displays courage or stamina. The word mettle is seldom used outside of this expression. Metals are nouns like silver, gold, etc. Medal is a prize given and meddle means “to interfere”.
  • Media / Medium / Median “Media” is a plural word. One mass media form is a medium. Medium is also a size between large and small’ Median is the mid point.
  • Meet / Mete / Meat The two more often confused are meet and mete. Meet means “to encounter” (and can also mean fit or suitable); mete means “to allot, apportion or distribute”; meat refers to flesh as food.
  • Militate / Mitigate Militate is usually followed by “against” in a phrase that means “works against”. Mitigate means almost the opposite: “to make easier” or “to moderate”. It should not be followed by “against.”
  • Miner (excavator) / Minor (person under a given age) Children are minors (unless they are violating child-labour laws, and) those who work in mines are miners.
  • Minimal / Minimum A minimal amount is the minimum in a data set. “Minimal” is an adjective and “Minimum” may be used either as a noun or an adjective.
  • Moral / Morale Moral means good ; it is also a lesson on conduct. Morale is a mental condition, spirit (“The team’s morale was low?”).
  • Most / Almost Almost is an adverb meaning “nearly”. Most is an adjective meaning “the greater part”.
  • Mucus / Mucous Mucous membranes secrete mucus. Mucus is the noun and mucous is the adjective.
  • Mute / Moot Mute as a verb means “to silence or quieten down”; as a noun it’s a little gadget used by string players to soften the sound from their instruments; as in “He looked at me in mute appeal”.) Moot means “debatable”. So, It’s a “moot point”.
  • Most / the Most Most without an article is usually used as an adjective, which means “almost all”. The most is usually used to form the superlative of many adjectives and adverbs.
  • Mutual / Common Mutual refers to two people who share the same emotion, as in “My friend and I have mutual respect”. Common refers to something shared by at least two people, such as “a common goal” or “a common point of departure”.

 

N - R

  • Naïve / Knave A knave is an uprincipled, untrustworthy, or dishonest person, whereas naïve means “having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality” or “unsophisticated or ingenuous”.
  • Naval / Navel Your belly button is your navel, and “navel oranges” look like they have one; all terms having to do with ships and sailing require naval.
  • No / Know Strange that these two should get confused, but they do. No is always the opposite of “yes”; to know is to be certain.
  • Once / Ones Once always has to do with time and answers the questions, “how many times?” or “when?” In contrast, ones have to do with things.
  • Oppress / Repress Dictators commonly oppress their citizens and repress dissent, but these words don’t mean exactly the same thing. Repress just means “keep under control.” Sometimes repression is a good thing. Oppression is always bad, and implies serious persecution.
  • Oral / Verbal Some people insists that verbal refers to anything expressed in words, whether written or spoken, while oral refers exclusively to speech; but in common usage verbal has become widely accepted for the latter meaning. However, in case of a legal context, an written agreement is still an “oral contract,” not a “verbal contract.”
  • Oriental / Asian Oriental is generally considered old-fashioned now, and many find it offensive. Asian is preferred for telling about Asia. It baffles me that people get these mixed up, but they do.
  • Overdo / Overdue Overdo means “to exaggerate” or “carry to something too far”; Overdue is what your bills are, when you forget to pay them!
  • Overtake vs Takeover / Take over Overtake is a verb. It can mean to go beyond something by being better, or if you’re driving to come from behind another vehicle or a person and move in front of it. Takeover as a noun is used when one organization gains control of a company by buying most of its shares.
  • Pair (two) / Pare (peel; reduce) Palate/Palette/Pallet/Pellet Your palate is the roof of your mouth, and by extension, your sense of taste. A palette is the flat board an artist mixes paint on (or by extension, a range or colours). A pallet is either a bed (now rare) or a flat platform onto which goods are loaded. A pellet is a bullet.
  • Parameter / Perimeter A parameter is a number that describes a population or, metaphorically, a distinctive characteristic of a population of events. A perimeter is a boundary.
  • Paramount / Tantamount Paramount means “best” or “top”. Tantamount means “equivalent”.
  • Partake / Participate Participate means “take part”. The main modern meaning of partake is “consume,” especially in relation to food.
  • Past (an earlier time) / Passed (went by)
  • Patience / Patients Patience means “forbearance”; Patients are people under medical care.
  • Peasant / Pheasant Pheasant is a favorite game bird whereas peasants are rural people or farm workers. Pedalled/Peddled Pedalled is the past tense of “pedal”, which as a verb means to use your feet to turn the pedals on something, such as a bicycle, to make it move; or to operate the pedals on a piano, or the lower keys on an organ; Peddled is the past tense of “peddle”, which means “to sell”.
  • Peek / Pique / Peak Pique means “to excite or irritate”; Peek means “to peep or snoop”; Peak as a noun means the summit or tip, and as a verb means “to climax”.
  • Peer / Pier Peer as a noun means “a person who is your equal” and as a verb it means to squint or look obliquely at something; Pier is a type of wharf or dock. Two other words that sound similar are pear (a fruit) and pare ( to peel).
  • Percent / Percentage Use percent when identifying a particular number. Use percentage when there is no definite figure.
  • Perfect / Perfectly Perfect is as singular as it gets. Perfectly is an adverb used to emphasie another concept.
  • Precedence / Precedents Things have precedence over others if they are given preference. Precedents are events that serve as standards.
  • Persecute / Prosecute When you persecute someone, you’re treating them badly, whether they deserve it or not; But only legal officers can prosecute someone for a crime.
  • Personal (private) / Personnel (staff) Personal means “of a person”: “a personal opinion,” “a personal matter.” Personnel refers to the people in an organisation, especially employees.
  • Persons / People Use “people” if you can. Persons usually involves a collection of people who are counted or numbered. People can refer to a large group of people, usually unnumbered. Thus, people often can be substituted for persons, but persons cannot be substituted for people.
  • Perspective (angle of view) / Prospective (in the future)
  • Phenomenon / Phenomena On phenomenon or many phenomena may exist.
  • Piece (part, portion) / Pease (absence of war)
  • Plain (simple; flat land) / Plane (flat surface; smooth off)
  • Podium / Lectern Strictly speaking, a podium is a raised platform on which you stand to give a speech; The piece of furniture on which you place your notes and behind which you stand is lectern.
  • Pole / Poll A pole is a long stick. You could take a poll (survey or ballot).
  • Pour / Pore Your pour sauces, gravies, etc.., over your dinner, while pore means to study something- so, ”pore over the book”, not “pour over the book”.
  • Practice / Practise In usage, practice is always the noun and practise, the verb.
  • Pray (ask, implore) / Prey (hunt down; What is hunted)
  • Perpetuate / Perpetrate Perpetrate is something criminals do – they perpetrate a crime. When you seek to continue something, you are trying to perpetuate it.
  • Premiere / Premier / Debut An actor makes a debut, whereas a movie has a premiere. The prime minister of a parliamentary government is known as a premier. The opening night of a film or play is its premiere.
  • Premise / Premises Premise usually means “assumption” or “supposition” while premises means “an apartment, house or building and its grounds”.
  • Presence / Presents Presence means “being near at hand”; Presents are gifts.
  • Pretty / very Do not use pretty as a synonym for very.
  • Principle (rule) / Principal(chief, chief person, sum of money) Proceed/Precede To proceed to “go forward”; To precede means “to go ahead of”.
  • Prodigy / Progeny / Protégé Your progeny are your kids. If your child is a brilliantly person he or she may be a child prodigy. In fact, anything amazingly admirable can be a prodigy. But a person that you take under your wing in order to help promote his or her career is your protégé.
  • Profit / Prophet Profit means “gain”, “earnings”, “advantage”, and is usually associated with business. A prophet is a seer, a diviner.
  • Prophecy (noun) / Prophesy (verb)
  • Purposely / Purposefully Actions are done purposely if they are intended. Actions are done purposely if the person doing them is very determined.
  • Quiet (silent) / Quite (really, positively, very much)
  • Quotation / Quote Quote is a verb; Quotation is a noun. You quote people, but you read quotations.
  • Rain / Reign / Rein Rain is the water that comes down from clouds; Reign means “to rule”; Rein is a strap, usually leather, for controlling an animal, especially a horse.
  • Raise / Raze These two are exact opposites. Raise means “to lift” or “build up” and raze means “to pull down”.
  • Rapt / Rapped / Wrapped Rapt means “enchanted” or “engrossesd”; Rapped is the past tense of “rap”, which means “to hit” or “criticize”; Wrapped is the past tense of wrap, to coat or enfold.
  • Rational / Rationale Rational is an adjective meaning “reasonable” or “logical”. Rationale is a noun which most often means underlying reason.
  • Reality / Realty Reality is real life. Reality is real estate.
  • Rebut / Refute When you rebut someone’s argument you argue against it. To refute someone’s argument is to prove it incorrect.
  • Refer back / Look back A confusion between “look back” and “refer”. This usage is objected to in formal writing on the ground that since the re- of refer means “back,” “refer back” is redundant, Refer back is acceptable when it means “refer again”.
  • Reference / Reverence Reference is something referred to, reverence means “respect”.
  • Refute / Reject To refute someone’s argument is to prove it incorrect. If you attempt no such proof but simply disagree with an argument, the word you want is reject.
  • Regimen / Regiment Regimen is a noun and is mostly used to refer to a prescribed way of life, or diet or exercise. It is also the action of governing. Regiment as a verb means “to direct” or “to command”; as a noun it refers to a military unit.
  • Remember / Remind To remember means “to be able to bring back a piece of information into your mind’, or “to keep a piece of information in your memory.” To remind means “to make someone aware of something they have forgotten or might have forgotten.
  • Replete / Complete Replete usually means “stuffed,” “full to over flowing.” Complete means “finishing or total.”
  • Residence / Residents Residence is a house; Residents are the people who live there.
  • Respectfully / Respectively Respectfully means “politely”; Respectively means “in the order stated.”
  • Retch / Wretch Retch means “to gag” or “try to vomit”; Wretch is a groveling person, a creep.
  • Rifle / Riffle Rifle (apart from being a firearm) means “to steal”; Riffle means “to leaf through or browse.”
  • Right (proper, entitlement) / Rite (ceremony)
  • Right/Rite / Write Right means “correct”; Rite is a ceremony, usually religious; Write means “to make words”.
  • Risky / Risque French-derived word “risqué” means “slightly indecent” whereas risky is dangerous.
  • Road (path) / Rode (past of ride) Road is a long surface for cars and other vehicles; Rode is the past tense of ride.
  • Role / Roll Role is a part in a play or film. Roll as a noun is a document or something that is cylindrical in shape and as a verb, it means to make something into a cylindrical shape, to turn or spin.
  • Root / Rout/Route You can “root” for your team (cheer them on) and hope that they utterly smash their opponents – rout, then come back in triumph on the straight Route (a road).
  • Rye / Wry Wry means “bent” or “twisted.” Even if you don’t have a wry sense of humor you may crack a wry smile. A rye is the seed or grain of this plant.

 

S - T

  • Sacred / Scared Gods are sacred. The damned in Hell are scared (afraid).
  • Sail / Sale / Sell You sail a boat which has a sail of canvas. (Sail is part of a ship or boat.) You sell your old pot at a yard sale. Sale is either offering something for purchase (“for sale”) or offering it at a special price (“on sale”).
  • Salsa / Sauce / Salsa Salsa is Spanish for “sauce,” so “salsa sauce” is redundant. Salsa is also a type of dance.
  • Sarcastic / Ironic Not all ironic comments are sarcastic. Sarcasm is meant to mock or wound. Irony has an element of sadness.
  • Say / Said vs tell / told Said (verb) is the past simple and past participle or “to say”. It can be used in direct speech: It can be used in indirect (reported) speech (followed by that). Said (adjective) is used before the name of a person or thing you have already mentioned. Told (verb) is the past simple and past participle of “to tell”. It is normally used in reported speech, i.e. It is used to talk about what people say (followed by an object + “that”). When told has the meaning of “instruct”, it can be followed by an object and an infinitive.
  • Scene (setting, stage setting) / seen (perceived) Scene is the place where something happens. Seen is the past participle of ‘see”.
  • Scone / Sconce A jam or cream filled biscuit is a scone. If you are describing a wall-mounted light fixture, the word is “sconce”.
  • Seam / Seem Seam is most often used to refer to the joining of two pieces of fabric with thread, but it can refer to other types of joints. Seem means “appear”.
  • Sell / Cell Sell means “to exchange for money”. Cell is a small room (invariably lacking in comfort). Cell is also an organism (as in “stem cells”) Cell is also used to refer to the small divisions in something large such as a container or a table in a webpage or word-processed document.
  • Sense (perception) / Since (from that time)
  • Sensual / Sensuous Sensual usually relates to physical desires and experiences, and often means “sexy.” Sensuous is more often used for aesthetic pleasures like “sensuous music.”
  • Serf / Surf Serf means slave or servant. Surf is a wave and as a board or using a computer to find something on the internet.
  • Set (to put) / Sit (to be seated)
  • Sever / Severe Sever means “to separate” or “detach”. Severe means “grim” or “stern”.
  • Shear / Sheer Shear means “to cut or clip”. Sheer means “transport” (as in “sheer nylon hosiery”) or “steep” (as in “a sheer drop”) or “total” or “absolute” (as in “sheer stupidity”).
  • Sheath / Sheaf If you take your knife out of its sheath (case) you can use it to cut a sheaf (bundle) of paper.
  • Shone (past of shine) / Shown (displayed)
  • Shore / Sure Shore as verb means “to brace or support” and as a noun, it is usually a beach but can also be “a support” or “a brace”. Sure means “certain” or “confident”. So you do not sure up a company by borrowing more capital; you shore it up.
  • Shortage / Shortness Shortage is a noun meaning when there is not enough of something. Shortness is a also a noun meaning the condition of being short spatially (in length).
  • Sick / Ill Use “sick” when you mean a person is nauseated. Use “ill” when the person is not well but not necessarily nauseated.
  • Silicon / Silicone Silicon is a chemical element, the basic stuff of which microchips are made. Sand is largely silicon. Silicones are plastics and other materials containing silicon.
  • Singly / Singularly Singly means “individually” or “one-by-one”. Singularly means “strangely” or “uniquely”.
  • Site / Sight / Cite Site always refers to location or place- building site, archaeology site, etc. Sight always refers to vision, as in the cliché “a sight for sore eyes”. Cite means “to summon” or “to refer to a source”.
  • Slither / Silver Slither means “to slip” or “to slide”. Silver is a noun, meaning a thin piece, such as a flake, paring or chip.
  • So / Such So when used as in front of an adjective or an adverb means “very”. Such when used as a determiner can be used in front of a noun or an adjective and a noun to show extremes, you can’t use it front of adverbs. Remember that without the noun you need to use “so”.
  • Soar / Sore Sore refers to aches, pains and wounds – sore feet, sore backs, and sores on your skin. The more unusual word used to describe the act of gliding through the air or swooping up in the sky is soar.
  • Sojourn / Journey A sojourn is actually a temporary stay in one place. If you’re constantly on the move, then it is a journey.
  • Sole / Soul Sole as an adjective means “single” and as a noun it is a type of fish and the under part of a foot or a shoe. Soul generally refers to the invisible part of you that lives on after you die; it also refers to heart or mind or a human being.
  • Some time / Sometime This is a common confusion. Some time is period of time and sometime means at some time which is not specified.
  • Specially / Especially When something is special, it is not ordinary. Especially refers to things that are pre-eminent or primary.
  • Stand / Stance When you courageously resist opposing forces, you take a stand. Your stance, on the other hand, is just your position-literal or figurative- which may not be particularly militant.
  • Stationary / Stationery Stationary means “standing still”. Stationery refers to writing paper.
  • Statue / Statute / Stature Statue is a carved or moulded likeness. Statute is law. Stature means “height” or “status”.
  • Stint/Stent When the time to work comes, you’ve got to do your “silent”. The medical device installed to keep an artery open is a “stent”.
  • Straight (not curved) / Strait (narrow place) Straight means “without bends”. Strait is passage of water.
  • Suit / Suite Your bedroom suite consists of the bed, the nightstand, and whatever other furniture goes with it. Suit is your formal dress.
  • Sulking / Skulking That guy sneaking furtively around the neighborhood is skulking around. Sulking is related to your not being in a good mood.
  • To see / To watch To see means to be aware of what is around you by using your eyes. To watch means to look at something for a period of time, especially something that is changing or moving. We watch things that move, such as TV, a film, sport, etc. While we look at static things, such as a photograph, a painting, the stars, etc.
  • Tack (angle of approach) / Tact (sensitivity, diplomacy)
  • Taken Back / Taken Aback When you’re startled by something, you’re taken aback by it. When you’re reminded of something from your past, you’re taken back to that time.
  • Taut / Taught / Taunt Taut means “tight” or “firm”. Taught is the past tense of teach. Taunt means “jeer” or “insult”.
  • Tenant / Tenet Tenant is one who rents a property. Tenet is a principle or belief.
  • Than (word of comparison) / Then (at that time)
  • That / Which / Who That refers to persons or things. Which refers to things, and Who refers to persons.
  • There / Their/They’re There is a location. There is the possessive form of “they”. They’re the short form of “they are”.
  • Threw (past of throw) / Through (by way of)
  • Throes / Throws Throes are violent spasms or painful struggles, though not always physical. Throes can also mean the “midst of”. Throws means “to hurl” or “to toss”. As a noun, it means blankets or other types of covering.
  • Throne / Thrown A throne is a chair for a king to sit on. Thrown is the past participle of “throw”.
  • Tic / Tick The word for a spasmodic twitch or habitual quirk of speech or behavior is spelled the French way; “tic”. Tick, as a noun, is a parasitic insect and, as a verb, it is “a mark”.
  • Timber / Timbre Timber is a type of wood. The quality which distinguishes the sound produced by one instrument or voice from others is timbre.
  • To (in the direction of ) / Too (the number) To is a preposition meaning “towards”. Too means “also” or “extremely” (as in “you are walking too fast for me”) Two is the number after one.
  • Trainee / Trainer A trainee is a person who is learning and practicing skills of a particular job. A trainer is a person who teaches skills for a particular job, activity or sport.
  • Troop / Troupe A group of performers is a troupe. Any other group of people, military or otherwise, is a troop.
  • Tussle / Tousled Tussle is a struggle, fight or scuffle Tousled means “messed up”.

 

U - Y

  • Unchartered / Uncharted Unchartered means “lacking a charter” whereas Uncharted means “unmapped” or “unexplored.
  • Undo / Undue The verb “undo” is the opposite of “do” Undo means “to erase or remove something that was done”. The adjectives “undue” is the opposite of “due” and means “unwarranted” or “improper.” It is used in phrases like “undue advantage”.
  • Unique / Uncommon The formal meaning of unique is “sole” or “only” or “being the only one of its kind”. The meaning of “uncommon” is “rare” or “unusual”.
  • Upmost / Utmost Upmost means “uppermost” referring to something on top. Utmost means “extreme or greater or maximum”.
  • Used to / Used to do Used to can be used as an adjective and we use it to talk about things that have become familiar, and are no longer stranger or new. You can also be used to doing something. Used to do- If we say something used to happen we are talking about repeated events and actions in the past, usually things that happened a long time ago and are now finished.
  • Vane / Vain / Vein Vane is an instrument that shows from which direction the wind is blowing; it also means the sail of a windmill, the flat part on either side of the shaft of a feather, a revolving fan or flywheel. Vain means too concerned about how one looks or being too conceited and also means useless as in “a vain attempt”. Vein is a blood vessel, a channel.
  • Vary / Very Vary means “to change”. Very describes an extreme form of anything like “very nice”; “very bad”, etc.
  • Venal / Venial Venal means “dishonest” or “dishonourable”. Venial means “forgivable” or “unimportant” (as in “venial sins”)
  • Veracious / Voracious Veracious means “truth, honest”. A truthful person has “veracity”. Voracity means “extreme appetite” and voracious means “insatiable” or “ravenous”.
  • Verses / Versus Verses are the plural of verse, something a poet writes. Versus means “against” or “in comparison with”
  • Viable / Vie / Workable Something that is viable is capable of living (from the Latin vita or “life”). Vie means “compete for”. Workable means “feasible”.
  • Vicious / Viscous Vicious means “savage” or “cruel”. Viscous means “thick and gummy”.
  • Wail / Whale One informal meaning of “whale” is “to beat.” Whale also is a large mammal (fish-like). To “wail” means “to cry loudly”.
  • Waist (middle of torso) / Waste (squander) Waist is the part of your body around which you fasten your belt. Waste as a noun mostly refers to stuff that’s thrown away and as a verb it usually means “to squander”.
  • Wander / Wonder Wander (verb) means “to travel aimlessly”. Wonder (verb) means “to consider or question or think about some issue”. Wonder (noun) means “the feeling aroused by something strange and surprising.
  • Wary / Weary Wary means “careful”. Weary means “tired”.
  • Wave / Waive Wave means “to flap your hand in farewell” as a verb. As a noun, it is a also a breaker on the beach. Waive means “to give up one’s rights or claim”.
  • Waver / Waiver Waver means “to be undecided”. Waiver means “to giving up of rights or claims”.
  • Ways / Way Use “way” when referring to distance. Use “ways” when referring to methods
  • Weak (feeble) / Week (seven days)/ Wear (carry on the body)/Where (in what place)
  • Weather (atmospheric conditions) / Whether (if, in case) Use whether as in the phrase “whether or not”. Use weather when referring to atmospheric or climatic conditions.
  • Wet / Whet Wet as a verb means strictly to pour liquid on something. Whet means “to sharpen or stimulate”.
  • Which (what one, one of a group) / Witch (sorceress)
  • Who / Whom Who is the nominative case (“He is the one who will be elected”), while Whom is the objective case (“He is the one whom you have been seeking”)
  • Whole / Hole Whole means “entire” (“He ate the whole pie”), while a hole is an empty hollow (“My dog dug a hole in my yard”)
  • Whose (possessive of who) / Who’s (contraction of who is)
  • Wont / Won’t Wont means “accustomed”. Won’t is short form for “will not”.
  • Write / Right / Rite Write means “to scrawl” or “to pen” or “to put thoughts into readable format”. Right means “correct”. A rite is a “ceremony”.
  • Yoke / Yolk The yellow center of an egg is its yolk. The link that holds two oxen together is a yoke; they are yoked. Your (possessive of you/You’re (contraction of you are)
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