Top 25 commonly confused words

Hello lovely students. Today I’m going to be going through some of the most commonly confused words in the English language with you.

All the words in the comprehensive list below sound alike, but trust me, they aren’t. They all have different meanings but are easily confused, even with advanced speakers who sometimes say the wrong word when they mean another!

Let’s take a look at easily confused words and their examples below. You won’t believe how many similar words there are out there.

You won’t feel confused aboyt similar words after you read this article, trust me

Commonly confused word pairs

1) Accept vs Except

Accept is a verb which means to say ‘yes‘ to an invitation or offer. Except is a preposition used before mentioning a person or thing after a false statement. A phrase that is a synonym for except is apart from.

I accepted the position and the company.

Everyone is invited to my party except Ruth.

2) Access vs Excess

Access is a verb and a noun meaning to have the right to use something or see someone. Excess is a noun and an adjective. However, excess means more than is necessary.

I have access to the files.

To save money, don’t throw away any excess food. Instead, freeze it.

3) Advise vs Advice

Advise is a verb used when telling someone what they should do in a particular scenario. Advice is the noun of the verb advise. Instead of it being the action, it’s the suggestion about what someone should do in a particular scenario.

My lawyer advised me to take the money. It was great advice!

4) Affect vs Effect

Affect is a verb meaning to change something or someone. It is usually used for a negative change (not always, but most of the time). Effect is a noun. It is a result of said change.

Your decision to reduce my pay affected my passion for my job.

An effect of growing your own vegetables is better health.

5) Allusion vs Illusion

Allusion is a noun. This noun means when something is said or written about someone or something with an indirect reference. Illusion is also a noun, meaning a false belief about someone or something.

She made several allusions to her new relationship in her song.

Virtual reality could be considered an illusion.

6) Appraise vs Apprise

Appraise is a verb meaning to assess someone or something to judge their qualities or value. Apprise is also a verb meaning to tell someone about something, usually in an official manner. To notify is a synonym for apprise.

The teacher appraised his colleague’s class management.

The deputy has been apprised of the ongoing incident downtown.

7) Capital vs Capitol

Capital and Capitol are both nouns. Capital has two meanings. The first is to be the seat of a country or smaller political area. The second refers to money or possession for producing more money.

The capital of New Zealand is Wellington.

You can live off the interest if you leave your capital in the bank.

Capitol is a building where the US Congress meets.

Member of Congress Green was seen entering the Capitol last night.

8) Climactic vs Climatic

Climactic is an adjective meaning the most exciting part of a story or situation. Climatic is an adjective too, but it relates to weather conditions.

The climactic battle scene from The Lord of The Rings had everyone at the edge of their seats.

Venice is experiencing climatic changes.

Venice is experiencing climatic changes not climactic changes

9) Collaborate vs Corroborate

Collaborate means to work with someone. It is a verb. Corroborate is to add information to support an idea or opinion. It is also a verb.

I collaborated with my classmate for this group project.

The new evidence corroborates his account of what happened.

10) Complement vs Compliment

Complement is to make something seem more pleasing to the eye by combining it with something else. It’s a noun and a verb. A compliment is when someone expresses approval, which is a positive thing to receive. It’s also a noun and a verb.

Cream is a perfect complement to strawberries.

I love getting compliments!

11) Compose vs Comprise

Compose(v) is when you produce something arty, usually music or poetry. Comprise (v) is when things or people are part of a whole.

Sylvia Plath composed a lot of poetry.

The summer camp was comprised of French and Italian students.

12) Desert vs Dessert

A desert (n) is an area covered with sand, rocks and not much vegetation. Dessert (n) is something sweet you eat at the end of your meal. Remember, dessert has two s’s.

People who live in the desert must love hot weather

Apple crumble is a classic British dessert.

This is the Sahara Desert not the Sahara Dessert

13) Elicit vs Illicit

Elicit (v) means to produce a response or information. Illicit (adj.) is when something is illegal or not approved by wider society.

The survey elicited information on travel habits.

Poaching is an illicit trade.

14) Emigrate vs Immigrate

Emigrate (v) means to leave your country and go and live in another. Immigrate means to live in another country after leaving your own. It is also a verb.

I know this isn’t very clear but think of it like this. First, you emigrate and then you immigrate.

Martha wanted to move to Georgia permanently after spending a year there. She packed everything, got her visa and booked a one-way flight. She planned on emigrating from the UK.

Two weeks later, Martha arrived in Georgia. She has successfully immigrated.

15) Ensure vs Insure vs Assure

I know there are three words here, but you must know the difference between the three. All of them are verbs.

Ensure is to make something happen. Insure is to protect yourself against risk (insurance is the noun). Assure means to tell someone something to make them feel more secure.

I will ensure that he gets to school on time.

We need to insure our items before we go away. I will buy travel insurance.

He assured her that she looked wonderful. She felt less anxious after.

16) Farther vs Further

Now, this one is a tricky one. They mean exactly the same thing when used in the comparative form to compare distance. And they are both adjectives and adverbs.

Rome is further/farther from London than Paris.

However, that’s where any similarity ends.

Further means more than farther. It’s not just used for distance but also for a greater degree or a more advanced level.

Take this sentence: I watched a further two episodes of Game of Thrones last night. 

This wouldn’t work with farther.

17) Imitate vs Intimate

Imitate (v) means to copy or mimic someone. Intimate (v) means to make clear what you think without directly saying it.

Like many other younger siblings, my brother imitated me when I was younger.

She intimated that the legislature meets the requirements but didn’t say it exactly.

18) Imply vs Infer

Imply means to communicate an idea without directly saying said idea. Infer means to form a guess that something is true because of information you know. Think of it like detective work. Both are verbs.

She implied my cooking was terrible when she suggested that a takeaway would be better.

I inferred he wanted to leave the company because he had no meetings for next month on his calendar.

19) Its vs It’s

Many people get confused by these two words, so don’t be ashamed if you do.

Its is a possessive form. It belongs to something that has already been mentioned. It’s is the short form of it is.

The cat licked its paw.

It’s raining a lot.

Please remember these two.

20) Led vs Lead

Led and lead also get commonly confused.

Led is a verb and a noun. As a verb, it is the past tense of to lead. As a noun, it means light emitting diode (LED).

He led them into battle.

LEDs are cost-effective.

Lead is also a verb and a noun, and it has several definitions for both. Its principal definition as a verb is to manage a group of people or situations. As I mentioned above, led is the past of this.

I will lead them into battle.

Lead is also a type of metal

Lead mining was important in the past.

For more information on led vs lead, read this article.

21) Lose vs Loose

Lose (v) means no longer having something because you do not know where you have placed it. Loose is an adjective meaning slack.

I think I have lost my letter. It must be somewhere in the house.

My seatbelt is loose. I must tighten it.

22) Passed vs Past

Passed (v) is the past tense of to pass, which means to go past someone or something.

I passed Peter on the stairs this morning. He wasn’t feeling well.

Past is a preposition, adverb and noun. As an adverb and preposition, past means going to a position further than a particular point. It is good for directions.

To reach the post office, go past the church.

Past as a noun means a period before now.

In the past, people used to ride horses instead of driving cars.

I hope this is easy to understand.

23) Stationery vs Stationary

Stationery (n) are items needed for writing, such as pens and pencils. Stationary (adj.) means not moving.

I need stationery for school.

The train was stationary, much to the commuters’ annoyance.

24) Wander vs Wonder

Wander (v) means to walk around aimlessly, usually in a leisurely fashion. Wonder means to ask questions.

The best part of going to cities is wandering. Getting lost is perfect for seeing new things.

I wonder where Bill is?

25) Who vs Whom

And last but not least, who vs whom. Who is a pronoun which is used in questions and in reference to people. Whom is a formal pronoun used as a direct object of a verb or preposition.

Who is ringing me this late at night?

There were 100 students, all of whom made a speech.

Because there are so many confusing words and phrases in English, I’d like to treat you to more information. Have a look below. I hope you find it useful!

One word or two words?

Everyday vs Every day

Everyday (adj.) means used or happening regularly. Every day is an adverb meaning each day.

My everyday chores include making the bed and hoovering.

I go to the gym every day.

Altogether vs All together

Altogether is an adverb and means in total. All together is a phrase meaning with each other.

I paid £1200 altogether for my holiday.

I love it when we are all together.

Maybe vs May be

Maybe is an adverb meaning perhaps. May be is a phrase meaning might. May is a modal verb in may be.

Maybe they are lost?

I may be going to the concert.

UK vs US spell check

And to top it off, I’ve included US and UK differences. Sometimes American and British English words are spelt differently (or should that be spelled differently?) Don’t think you’ve made a faux pas if you get the two spellings mixed up. Here’s a short list to make sure you don’t get confused.

British EnglishUS English

Is that everything?

Absolutely not. Check out the YouTube videos below for more information on commonly confused words.