30 Commonly Confused Sets of Words in English-Part 2

Welcome!

Here I am as promised to finish my list of “30 commonly confused sets of words in English”.  I really hope you have fun reading about them and learning.

Continuing where I left off here is number 16 of my list.


16.  Affect vs. Effect

Affect” and “effect” are similar but have very different meanings and are very easily mixed up.  They are known as homonyms.

Affect” is usually a verb meaning impacting or changing.  “Effect” is usually a result of a change.

Examples:

  • Winning the writing contest positively affected Jenny’s overall grades in school.
  • The storm had a terrible effect on the town.

17.  Accept vs. Except

These two words can be confused very easily because they are written and sound very similar but their meaning is very different.

Accept” is a verb having several different meanings.  It can mean to hold something as being true, to receive something like a gift, and to say yes to an invitation.

Except” is mostly used as a preposition, however, it can sometimes be used as a conjunction.  It is used to express that something is not included.

Examples:

  • Mary graciously accepted her birthday gifts.
  • He accepted the invitation to the party.
  • I like all types of cars except convertibles.

18. Root vs Route

The words “root” and “route” are homophones.  They sound the same although they have a different spelling and meaning.

Root” has several meanings; the more common one being the part of a plant that goes underground. It can also have a meaning related to emotional attachment to a community.  “Route” is another word for road as well as the road or way taken to get from point A. to point B.

Note:  The word route is not always pronounced the same as root. The pronunciation of the word depends on where the person comes from.

Examples:

  • The roots of plants should always be underneath the soil.
  • My family has European roots.
  • We were trapped after the earthquake but luckily we found and escape route.

19.  Lead vs. Led vs. Lead

Here we have three words, two are verbs and one is a noun.  Two are pronounced led and one is pronounced (leed).  The noun “lead” (led) is a metallic substance.

Lead“(leed) is a verb meaning to guide or come before someone or something. “Led” (led) is the past tense of the verb “to lead“.

Examples:

  • Power cables contain lead.
  • I will lead you to your destination.
  • He led us in the wrong direction.


20.  There vs. Their vs. They’re

Here once again, we have a group of three words which have different spelling but are pronounced the same.

Let’s look at each one and their meaning.

Generally “there”  is an adjective meaning in or at a certain place.  “They’re” is the verb “to be” conjugated in the simple present with the pronoun they, and “their” is a third person plural possessive, meaning belonging to them.

Examples:

  • The math book is over there.
  • There are thirty people in my English class.
  • They’re very nice people.  (they are)
  • Most parents are proud of their children. (possessive- the children belonging to them)

21. Whose vs. Who’s vs. Who

The first two words have the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning.  “Whose” is the possessive form of who and used when asking questions. “Who’s” is the contracted form of who is. The third word who” is an interrogative pronoun used to ask what or which person.

Example:

  • I would like to know whose car is parked in my space?
  • Who’s going to the movies with me? (who is)
  • Who wants some apple pie?

22.  Me and I

Me and  I” are pronouns that confuse many people.

I” is the first person singular subject pronoun. It is used to talk about the person performing the action in a sentence.  “Me” is the first person singular object pronoun which means it is the one receiving the action of the verb.

Examples:

  • want you to come visit me in my new home.
  • I can’t understand why she is being so mean to me.

23.  Prey vs. Pray

Both of these words have the same pronunciation.   “Prey” is an animal or person who is the object of an attack, be it physical or verbal, by another person or animal. “Pray” is associated with religion.  You pray when you talk to God, a Saint or a Prophet.

Examples:

  • Clara prays to God every day.
  • Lions always chase down their prey.

24.  Less vs. Fewer

Here we have two words that have a completely different spelling and pronunciation.  Their meaning, however, is similar.  Let’s look at each one to discover when to use them.

Less” means a smaller amount of something while “fewer” refers to a smaller number of something.  We use “fewer when talking about plurals and “less” when talking about uncountable objects or things that don’t have a plural.  Also, we use “less” when talking about measurements and time.

Examples:

  • I have fewer friends in my class than I did last year.
  • I don’t understand why you’re working here when you make less money than you did at your previous job.
  • They’ve studied English for less than 2 years.

25.  Assure vs. Insure Vs. Ensure

These three words are often confused because although they have small differences in spelling and pronunciation their meaning is very closely related.  All three words have meanings related to a sure outcome.

Assure” is to promise or say something confidently. “Ensure” is to have or to do whatever necessary to succeed. “Insure” means to purchase insurance which is to have a property covered by a policy that will pay you if it’s lost or damaged in any way.

Examples:

  • I assure you that I never intended to cause you any problems.
  • I will do what is necessary to ensure your comfort.
  • She was lucky to insure her house just before the storm destroyed it.

26.  Farther vs. Further

What happens with these two words? Their spelling is very similar and they basically have the same meaning, however, their pronunciation is different.  So, how do we determine when to use each one?

As a basic rule, we use “farther when talking about a real, physical distance and “further” when referring to a figurative distance.  Sometimes these rules are broken.   English speakers may use either farther or “further when referring to physical distance, however, when referring to figurative distance the word to use is “further.

Examples:

  • How much farther is it to the hotel? or How much further is it to the hotel.
  • Before the cure is available to the public it needs further testing.

27.  Compliment vs. Complement

These two words are pronounced practically the same.  The slight difference is where the stress is put on the word.  As you can see the spelling is practically the same with only a one letter difference but they have completely different meanings.  Both of these words can be used as nouns or verbs.

Compliment” is used to show admiration for someone. “Complement is used when referring to people or things that are better together.

Example:

  • Peter always compliments his girlfriend on how well she dresses. (verb)
  • A nice compliment is always well received. (noun)
  • That wine really complemented the meal. (verb)
  • The right wine can be a perfect complement to a meal. (noun)

28.  Advice vs. Advise

These are two very tricky words.  As you can see, their spelling differs by only one letter and their pronunciation is exactly the same.  So, how do we know when to use each one?

The difference between these two words is very subtle.  Their meaning has to do with giving an opinion or suggestion about what someone should do.  The spelling depends on what part of speech we use the word as. “Advise” with an “s” is a verb and “advice”  with a “c” is a noun.

Examples:

  • He advised me about how to resolve the problem.   (Here the word is a verb, advise is an action)
  • I want to give you the right advice. (Here advice is a noun)

29.  Emigrate vs. Immigrate

Emigrate” and “Immigrate” are both nouns.  Their pronunciation is similar and so is their spelling but they have different meanings. “Emigrate” means to leave your country to live somewhere else permanently while “immigrate means to move into a country and make it your new home.

Examples:

  • He emigrated from Italy and settled in the U.S.A.
  • How long has it been since Mary immigrated to Canada?

30.  Lay vs. Lie vs. Lie

We have come to the final set of three words. In this case, we have two words that are pronounced the same and one that is pronounced slightly different.  Two of the words have very similar meanings while one has a completely different one.  So let’s start with the word that has a different meaning.

The word “lie” can be a noun or a verb and it means to tell an untruth.

Example:

  • She always tells lies. (noun)
  • She lies constantly. (verb)

Now, we will talk about the remaining two words, “Lay” and “Lie.

Lay” is a verb meaning to put something down flat on a surface.  This is a regular verb which becomes irregular when conjugated in the simple past.  The correct simple past form is laid (not layed).

Examples:

  • Do you think I should lay the present on the bed? (simple present)
  • I can’t go to sleep because Michael laid all his books on my bed. (simple past of lay)

Lie” is also a verb but this one means to put yourself down on a flat surface.  This verb is irregular.  Its continuous form is lying while the simple past is lay.” 

Examples:

  • I’m tired so I’m going to lie down for a few minutes.
  • Peter has been lying in bed all day.
  • When I went to the park I lay on the grass all afternoon.

Comparison Chart

 


 

I have now come to the end of my list.  The sets of words mentioned in this and the previous article are by no means all of the sets that exist.  I’ve only mentioned 30 here but I will be writing articles on homophones very soon so, keep visiting the site so you don’t miss out.

If you can think of any other sets of commonly confused words used daily that I’ve missed, let me know below.

I hope you had as much fun reading as I did writing the articles.

Thank you for visiting.

 

8 Comments

  1. Vicky

    Love, love, love this list. Since English is my second language this will come in very handy.

    I find there being two kinds of people, 1. people like you that want to help others and 2. the grammar police that are just out to leave nasty comments…

    Thank you! Will bookmark and come back!

    • Hi Vicky,
      I’m so glad you liked the article and found it valuable. Thank you for your kind comment. I will do my very best to continue producing helpful articles.
      Thanks for taking the time to visit my site.
      Regards,
      Chris

  2. This post is very interesting because it not only helps those new to the language, it also helps people like me who have to stop to assure myself that I have chosen the right word. For example no and know.

    • Hi Maurice,
      Thank you for reading my article. I’m happy you found the article interesting and helpful. It’s funny you mention “no and Know” because I had another native-speaker mention the same set in a comment on my previous article. So, I guess that set is causing problems for a lot of people.
      Regards,
      Chris

  3. HA HA HA I love this list. Effect and Affect are my big trouble spots, or so I thought, until I saw the complete list, it never occurred to me how many other words I’d have to make sure I use correctly! Great post, I love this!

    • Hi Wenda,
      Thank you for reading my post. I’m glad you found it helpful. I sometimes have to look twice myself. I think that in general native-speakers don’t pay as much attention to grammar as English learners do, thus some of the mistakes.

      Regards,

      Chris

  4. I get there, their and they’re confused all the time. And I don’t think I’m the only one, haha.
    This post helps clear it up.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Joyce,
      Thank you for reading and you’re right, “there, they’re and their” cause problems for a lot of people. I’m glad the article helped to clear things up for you.
      Regards,
      Chris

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