Commonly Confused Words

Commonly Confused Words

Let's face it. Commonly confused words can be difficult. (Yes, even for native speakers ;-)

I have included the following commonly confused words because over the years, many ofmy students have found them to be the most confusing.

In fact, these words have caused great difficulties for those students who never takethe time to learn them.

They are a must if you intend to succeed on the Michigan Proficiency Exam.

A short description of the commonly confused words is included as well as a brief example. It might be a good idea for you to print these pages so that you have them to look at whenever you want.

I recommend frequent review to clear up any commonly confused words confusion you might have.

If you have any particular words that you find confusing and don't see them included here, why not send me an e-mail so that I can update my list? My goal is to help you pass your exam.

Who knows… maybe you can help someone else pass their exams!

Commonly Confused Words  

Accept / Except / Expect

  Accept is a verb that means to "receive or take" or "to give a positive answer to a proposition or offer."

  "Do you accept travelers' checks?" (receive, take)

  Susan accepted his offer of a job. (gave a positive answer)

  The club accepted three new members. (received)

  Except as a preposition, meaning "with the exception of." (Commonly used)

"Everybody except John went to the party." (John didn't go)

  Except as a verb means, "to exclude," "to keep out." (Rarely used)

The boys excepted Frank from their club. (They did not accept him)

  Expect is a verb that means, "waiting for sth to happen" or "believed to be the state of sth"

She expected her husband home from work at any minute.

"I expect you are hungry after such a long trip?"


Advice / Advise (note spelling differences between British English and American English)

  Advise is a verb.

The doctor advised her to quit smoking.

  Advice is a noun.

She gave me some good advice.


All ready / Already

  All ready is an adjective phrase meaning "completely ready."'

We were all ready to leave at eight o'clock.

  Already is an adverb of time meaning "by or before a specific time."

They had already left by three o'clock.

He had already eaten when I arrived. (before I arrived)


Altogether / All Together

Altogether is an adverb meaning "completely."

"I am altogether upset with you."

All together is an adjective phrase meaning "in a group."

The children sang a song all together.


Besides / Beside

  The preposition besides means "except."

  Everyone besides Jane went to the party.

  The preposition beside means "next to."

  Jane was standing beside me." (NOT: besides me)


Cloth / Clothes

  Cloth is a noun (usually as a non-count noun) that means "material or fabric."

  She bought some cloth to make a new dress.

  Clothes is a plural count noun meaning "garments used to cover the body."

  She bought a lot of clothes in Paris.

  I feel nice when I wear new clothes.


Desert / Dessert

  A desert is "a dry area with little vegetation and rainfall."

  The Sahara desert in Africa is the largest in the world.

  A dessert is "sweet food usually eaten after a meal."

  We had chocolate cake and ice cream for dessert.


Differ from / Differ with

  To differ from is "to be dissimilar."

  Men differ from women physically.

  To differ with is "to disagree with."

  I differ with you on this issue. (I disagree with you)

Commonly Confused Words   

Emigrate / Immigrate

  To emigrate means, "to leave one country to live in another."

  My grandfather emigrated from Europe to the USA in 1864.

  To immigrate means, "to move to a new country."

  Many immigrants living in Greece work on farms and in construction.

*** It's probably easiest to remember that to emigrate means to leave a country while immigrate means to enter to live. 

Farther / Further

  Farther means "towards a more distant point in space." (actual distance)

  The beach is a few miles farther away.

  Further means "towards a more distant point in time, degree, or quantity." (figurative distance)

  Let us consider this problem a bit further. (time)

  We should do further research on this matter. (quantity)

  Be careful not to excite the children any further. (degree)


Formally / Formerly

  Formally means "in a formal way."

  He was formally charged with the crime.

  Formerly means "previously," or "at an earlier time."

  She was formerly a dancer in a club.


Healthful / Healthy

  Healthful means "good for ones health."

  Vegetables and fruits are healthful foods.

  Healthy means "in a good condition of health."

  Due to their outdoor lifestyle, all of his children are healthy.


Illusion / Allusion

  An illusion is "a false idea" or "unreal image."

  The magician's illusion convinced the crowd that he was flying.

  An allusion is "an indirect reference."

  The professor made an allusion to modern art.


Imply / Infer

  To imply is "to suggest without saying directly." A speaker or writer can imply.

  Susan implied that she was not happy with her studies.

  To infer is to "to make a conclusion based on evidence not stated."

  Only a listener or reader can infer.

  I inferred from the report that our taxes would be raised again.


Its / It's

  Its is the singular possessive pronoun for things.

  The car had its tires stolen last night.

  It's is the contraction for "it is."

  It's a nice day today. (It is a nice day today.)


Leave / Let

  To leave means, "to go away from."

  He leaves work at five o'clock every day.

  To let means, "to permit."

  Jane let me borrow her bike.


Loose / Lose

  The adjective loose means "not tight."

  This shirt is too loose. I need a smaller size.

  To lose is a verb meaning "to leave (forget) behind by accident"

  I often lose my house keys.


Most / Almost

  The adjective most is the superlative of many or much; meaning " largest number/ amount."

  Most coffee comes from Brazil.

  Almost is an adverb meaning "not quite," or "very nearly" or "nearly all"

  Almost all the students are here.

  He is almost ready to leave.

  He almost won the race.


Plane / Plain

  The noun plane usually means "airplane."

  His plane arrives in New York at 9:00am.

  The adjective plain means "simple," "not fancy."

  Her dress was very plain.


Principal / Principle

   The adjective principal means "chief" or "very important."

   The noun principal means "chief official."

  The principal reason for his failure was lack of support.

  I am the principal of this school.

  The noun principle means "fundamental truth."

  He is studying the principles of accounting.


Quiet / Quite

  Quiet is an adjective meaning "not noisy."

  It was a very quite party."

  Quite is an adverb meaning "completely" or "to a degree."

  He is quite upset today.

  He is quite short.


Respectfully / Respectively

  Respectfully means "with respect."

  The audience rose respectfully when the President entered.

  Respectively means "in the order given."

  The Suttons lived in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York respectively.


So / So that

  So is a conjunction joining a clause of result to a main clause.

   It rained a lot last year, so there were lots of wildflowers. (result)

  So that joins a clause of purpose to a main clause.

  We wore raincoats so that we would not get our clothes wet. (purpose)


Stationary / Stationery

  Stationary means "in a fixed position."

   The car was stationary parked in the driveway.

  Stationery refers to writing supplies.

  That stationery store sells writing paper, envelopes and office supplies.


Their / There / They're

  Their is the third-person plural possessive pronoun.

     They sold their car last week.

  There is (1) an adverb of place or (2) an expletive that tells of existence.

  "Your package is there on the counter."

  "There are fifty states in United States."

  There're is the contraction of "they are".

  "They're ready to see you now."


To / Too / Two

  To is (1) part of the infinitive form or (2) a preposition.

  "I like to walk in the snow."

  "I walked to the park on Saturday."

  Too is an adverb indicating an excess.

  "It is too cold to go swimming."

  Two is a number (2).

  "I have two cats; one named kitty and one called whiskers."

Commonly Confused Words

Weather / Whether

  Weather is a noun meaning "atmospheric conditions."

  "The weather was not nice enough to go out."

  Whether is a conjunction meaning "if."

  "I don't know whether he will stay at home or not."


Who's / Whose

  Who's is the contraction for who is.

  "I don't know who's coming tonight."

  Whose is (1) a question word or (2) a possessive relative pronoun.

  "Whose pen is this?"

  "I met the man whose child scored the winning goal."


I thought the words above were all the commonly confused words... was I ever wrong! When I told my students what I was up to, they came up with many more commonly confused words.

For even more commonly confused words click on the preceding link and find commonly confused words from students just like you!