30 Most Commonly Confused & Misused Words in English

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Hey you, how are you today? I expect that you are hanging in nicely, regardless. If you are not, then remember I am a DM or an email away via – @elsieisy on Instagram and twitter. I am having my down moments as well, like right now as I type, I really just want to shut everybody out and curl on my bed but I can and I cant. I just need to find a balance until I can pull myself out of this low mood. I was speaking with my friend this morning and he genuinely wanted to help me figure out why I am not so great at the moment, but I couldn’t let him because I wasn’t ready to dig deep, neither do I want to face my fears, demons and some hard truth. I have been here before, it’s a familiar place and I know I will pull through. So yes, if you feel low, you are not alone. And if you are doing pretty good, I am happy for you…Don’t let anyone ruin it. Protect it very jealously.

So back to why you are here; As a Television presenter and producer, I consciously make an effort to consume contents that would improve my fluency and vocabulary. One of the platforms I have found useful over the years is – Word Guru. I get to learn new words daily and periodic use of English articles. (You should check them out HERE). I got this article about 5days ago and I made a mental note to share – Here are some of the most commonly confused and misused words in English: (Examples have been modified for Nigerian audience)

1. Advice/Advise 

Advice is a noun: Tolu gave Opeyemi good advice. Advise is a verb: Tolu advised Opeyemi to avoid the questionable chicken salad.

2. Affect/Effect 

Affect is usually a verb: Ogechi humming affected Nneka’s ability to concentrate. Effect is usually a noun: Ogechi was sorry for the effect her humming had. If you find yourself stumped about which one to use in a sentence, try substituting the word “alter” or “result.” If “alter” fits (Ogechi’s humming altered Nneka’s ability to concentrate), use affect. If “result” fits (Ogechi was sorry for the result her humming had), use effect.

3. Among/Amongst

Among is the preferred and most common variant of this word in American English. Amongst is more common in British English. Neither version is wrong, but amongst may seem fussy to American readers. But as a Nigerian, choose your poison. LOL

4. Assure/Ensure/Insure 

Assure means to tell someone that something will definitely happen or is definitely true: Emeka assured Tobi that no one would cheat at PS4. Ensure means to guarantee or make sure of something: Emeka took steps to ensure that no one cheated at the game. Insure means to take out an insurance policy: Emeka was glad the game hall was insured against damage caused by rowdy players.

5. Breath/Breathe 

Breath is a noun; it’s the air that goes in and out of your lungs: Tobi held his breath while Emeka skateboarded down the stairs. Breathe is a verb; it means to exhale or inhale: After Emeka’s spectacular landing, Tobi had to remind himself to breathe again.

6. Capital/Capitol 

Capital has several meanings. It can refer to an uppercase letter, money, or a city where a seat of government is located: Tobi visited Brasίlia, the capital of Brazil. Capitol means the building where a legislature meets: Emeka visited the cafe in the basement of the capitol after watching a bill become a law.

7. Complement/Compliment 

A complement is something that completes something else. It’s often used to describe things that go well together: Tobi’s lime green boots were a perfect complement to his jacket. A compliment is a nice thing to say: Amaka received many compliments on her purple dress.

8. Disinterested/Uninterested 

Disinterested means impartial: A panel of disinterested judges who had never met the contestants before judged the singing contest. Uninterested means bored or not wanting to be involved with something: Emeka was uninterested in attending Tobi’s singing class.

9. Defence/Defense 

Defense is standard in American English. Defence is found mainly in British English.

10. Emigrate/Immigrate 

Emigrate means to move away from a city or country to live somewhere else: Tobi’s grandfather emigrated from Canada sixty years ago. Immigrate means to move into a country from somewhere else: Emeka’s sister immigrated to Canada in 2004.

11. E.g./I.e. 

These two Latin abbreviations are often mixed up, but e.g. means “for example,” while i.e. means “that is.”

12. Empathy/Sympathy 

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective or feelings. Sympathy is a feeling of sorrow for someone else’s suffering. A sympathizer is someone who agrees with a particular ideal or cause.

13. Farther/Further 

Farther refers to physical distance: Emeka can run farther than Tobi. Further refers to metaphorical distance: Tobi is further away from finishing his project than Emeka is.

14. Flaunt/Flout 

Flaunt means to show off: Tobi flaunted his stylish new outfit. Flout means to defy, especially in a way that shows scorn: Nneka flouted the business-casual dress code by wearing a tiara and flip-flops.

15. Gaff/Gaffe

 A gaff is a type of spear or hook with a long handle: Tobi completed his sailor costume with a gaff borrowed from his uncle’s fishing boat. A gaffe is a faux pas or social misstep: Amaka made a gaffe when she accidentally called Tobi by the wrong name.

16. Gray/Grey 

Gray is the standard American English spelling. Grey is the standard British English spelling.

17. Historic/Historical

Historic means famous, important, and influential: Tobi visited the beach in Kitty Hawk where the Wright brothers made their historic first airplane flight. Historical means related to history: Emeka donned a historical bonnet for the renaissance fair.

18. Imply/Infer 

Imply means to hint at something without saying it directly: Tobi implied that Emeka was in trouble, but he wouldn’t tell him why. Infer means to deduce something that hasn’t been stated directly: Emeka inferred that Tobi was nervous about something from the way he kept looking over his shoulder.

19. Lay/Lie 

To lay means to put or to place. One way to remember this is that there is an a in both to lay and to place: Emeka will lay out her outfit before she goes to bed. To lie means to recline. One way to remember this is that there is an e in both to lie and to recline: Tobi will lie down for a nap. Be careful, though. The past tense of to lay is laid: Amaka laid out her outfit. The past tense of to lie is lay: Tobi lay down for a nap over an hour ago.

20. Lead/Led

Lead, when it rhymes with “bed,” refers to a type of metal: Emeka wore a lead apron while the dentist X-rayed her teeth. Led is the past tense of the verb to lead, which means to guide or to be first: Tobi led the way.

21. Learned/Learnt

Learned is standard in American English. Learnt is standard in British English.

22. Loose/Lose 

Loose is usually an adjective: Emeka discovered that the cows were loose. Lose is always a verb. It means to misplace something or to be unvictorious in a game or contest: Tobi was careful not to lose his ticket.

23. Principal/Principle 

Principal can be a noun or adjective. As a noun, it refers to the person in charge of a school or organization: Emeka was called into the principal’s office. As an adjective, it means most important: The principal reason for this meeting is to brainstorm ideas for the theme of Tobi’s birthday party. A principle (always a noun) is a firmly held belief or ideal: Emeka doesn’t like surprise parties as a matter of principle.

24. Inquiry/Enquiry 

Inquiry and enquiry both mean “a request for information.” Inquiry is the standard American English spelling. Enquiry is the British spelling.

25. Stationary/Stationery 

Stationary means unmoving: The revolving door remained stationary because Emeka was pushing on it the wrong way. Stationery refers to letter writing materials and especially to high quality paper: Tobi printed his résumé on his best stationery.

26. Than/Then 

Than is used for comparisons: Emeka runs faster than Tobi. Then is used to indicate time or sequence: Bisi took off running, and then Nneka came along and finished her breakfast.

27. Their/There/They’re 

Their is the possessive form of “they”: Tobi and Emeka took their time. There indicates a place: It took them an hour to get there. They’re is a contraction of “they are”: Are Tobi and Emeka coming? They’re almost here.

28. To/Too 

To is a preposition that can indicate direction: Emeka walked to school. She said hello to Tobi when she saw him. To is also used in the infinitive form of verbs: Tobi waited until the last minute to do his homework. Too is used as an intensifier, and also means “also”: Amaka waited too long to do her homework, too.

29. Toward/Towards 

Toward is standard in American English. Towards is standard in British English.

30. Who’s/Whose 

Who’s is a contraction of “who is”: Who’s calling Tobi at this hour? Whose is a possessive pronoun that means “belonging to [someone]”: Tobi, whose phone hadn’t stopped ringing all morning, barely ate anything for breakfast. 

Also check out The 5 Most Misused English Words HERE

Feature Image Source – Kissclipart

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