15 Common Words You Are Probably Mixing Up

Here are some of the most commonly confused English word pairs...


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1. Affect vs. Effect

  • Affect

Affect when used as a verb means to influence or change

E.g. The results of your exam will affect which school you go to.

  • Effect

While effect when used as a noun means the result or consequence.

E.g. Seeing that awful road accident had a really bad effect on her.

2. Your vs. You're

  • Your

Your is the possessive form of you

  • You’re

You’re is the contraction you are.

E.g. Please ensure you bring your wellingtons with you to the nature trail, as you’re going to need them.

3. Accept vs. Except

  • Accept

While the word accept meant to agree to or receive something.

E.g. I opened the door to accept the parcel from the courier.

  • Except

The word except means aside from or other than.

E.g. I would like to go to Oxford university, except I live too far away.

4. It’s vs. Its

  • It’s

“It’s” is a contraction for it is.

  • Its

Whereas “its” is the possessive form of it.

E.g. It’s a shame that we cannot talk about its size.

5. Compliment vs. Complement

  • Compliment

A compliment is a noun or verb that is an expression of admiration, appreciation or praise

E.g. I’ll received a compliment about my new outfit.

  • Complement

Complement, which is a noun or verb, means to enhance, improve something or make up a whole.

E.g. Please raise a glass to Sarah and Jeff, a pair who complement each other perfectly.

6. Few vs. Less

  • Few

Few is an adjective that means small in number. It is used with countable objects.

E.g. This department has few employees.

  • Less

Less is an adjective that means small in amount or degree. It is used with objects of indivisible mass.

E.g. Which jar holds less water?

7. Discreet vs. Discrete

  • Discreet

Discreet is an adjective that means prudent, circumspect, or modest:

E.g. Her discreet handling of the touchy situation put him at ease.

  • Discrete

Discrete is an adjective that means separate or individually distinct

E.g. Each company in the conglomerate operates as a discrete entity.

8. Foreword vs. Forward

  • Foreword

Foreword is a noun that means an introductory note or preface.

E.g. In my foreword explained my reasons for writing the book.

  • Forward

Forward is an adjective or adverb that means toward the front.

E.g. Please step forward when your name is called.

Forward is also a verb that means to send on.

E.g. Forward the letter to the customer’s new address.

9. Hanged vs. Hung

  • Hanged

Hanged is the past tense and past participle of hang when the meaning is to execute by suspending by the neck.

E.g. They hanged the prisoner for treason.

The convicted killer was hanged at down.

  • Hung

Hung is the past tense and participle of hang when the meaning is to suspend from above with no support from below.

E.g. I hung the painting on the wall.

The painting was hung at a crooked angle.

10. E.g. vs. I.e.

  • E.g.

The abbreviation e.g. means for example

E.g. Her talents were legion and varied (e.g. deep sea diving, speed reading, bridge, and tango dancing).

  • I.e.

The abbreviation i.e. means that is or in other words

E.g. The joy of my existence (i.e., my stamp collection) imbues my life with meaning.

11. Make vs. Do

  • Make

Creation of a physical object, an action/reaction, a sound/speech or food.

E.g. My dad likes to make furniture.

  • Do

Jobs or activities, with “anything” or “something”, also indicates generic action.

E.g. I need to do housework.

12. Refuse vs. Deny

  • Refuse

To decline to accept/give; unwillingness

E.g. I refuse to argue.

  • Deny

Declaring untruth, disagreement, to withhold or disown something, to reject or contradict.

E.g. Most deny that the sky is orange.

13. Say vs. Tell

  • Say

A verb usually used without an object

With an object + “to”

E.g. She know what to say to her sister.

  • Tell

Informs or Instructs

E.g. Tell your brother to make his bed.

14. Stay vs Remain

  • In most cases, these words are interchangeable

Both words have also developed unique idiomatic uses.

E.g. Don’t stay out late.

  • Remain: Though the team lost, fans remain loyal.

15. Sit/seat/seated

Sit: Most prefer to sit when they eat. (a verb)

Seat: Please find a seat. (a verb and a noun)

Seated: Please wait to be seated. (a verb)


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