Commonly Confused Word Pairs
English is a pretty tricky language, and often, some words are interchanged in writing. These commonly confused words usually go in pairs, but in some cases, they come in threes. They either look alike or sound alike, or worst, they look and sound alike but have different meanings, which cause writers major trouble, not to mention nonnative English speakers.
Here are a few of the most common word pairs with their correct definition and some sentence examples:
Loose is an adjective that means not tightly fastened, attached, or held, and it rhymes with moose. Lose is a verb that means to fail to win (a game or contest) and to fail to keep or hold (something wanted or valued), and it rhymes with choose.
My tooth is loose. I may have to go to the dentist.
We may lose if we don’t change our game plan for the next quarter.
- Suppose/Supposed and Use/Used
Suppose and use are only misused with the preposition to. In other words, they’re not suppose to and use to. They’re supposed to and used to.
Than is a conjunction used to make a comparison, whereas then is an adverb that means next or when.
The cat is bigger (comparative) than the mouse.
John attended the ten-o’clock meeting, and then he went out for lunch.
Of and have are confused with each other in the phrases of would have, should have, and could have because of their similar pronunciations: a hard V sound.
Accept is a verb that means to receive. Except is a preposition that means not including or other than.
The church accepts donations for the victims of the typhoon.
We’re all going to the movies except for Jonathan because he didn’t do his homework early.
Advice is a noun that means an opinion or suggestion about what someone should do. On the other hand, advise is a verb that means to give an opinion or suggestion to someone about what should be done or to give advice to someone.
My advice to you is to study well because the exams tomorrow are difficult.
Joey advised me to take the bus today because the trains seem to be having technical difficulties.
Affect is a verb that means to produce an effect upon. Effect is a noun that means a change that results when something is done or happens, and it is also a verb that means to cause something to produce the desired result.
Do you think that Chris’s promotion will affect his attitude?
The flood left lasting effects in our neighborhood.
Other commonly confused word pairs:
- Weather and Whether
- Hear and Here
- Principal and Principle
- Personal and Personnel
- Capital and Capitol
- New and Knew
- No and Know
Misused words are not the biggest blunders you can make in writing, but they can affect your piece’s credibility. If you’re in doubt, read what you write out loud. This way, there are less chances of making the mistake.
*Some word definitions borrowed from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary.
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