This post is a compilation of the commonly confused and misused English terms. Much too often, I see writers making very basic mistakes without realizing it. Either they didn't know the definition, or they made a simple typo. These days, writers rely on spellcheckers on Word or grammar software to fix all the errors. But do you know what? The spellchecker will only highlight the misspelled words, not fix the incorrect usage of the words. Yes, this job is for the humans. Writers and editors. I hope this helps~
Adapt/Adopt adapt: adjust adopt: choose, take
Adverse/Averse adverse: unfavorable, harmful averse: reluctant, opposition to something
Advise/Advice advise: verb (I advised him.) advice: noun (I gave him an advice.)
Affect/Effect affect: produce an effect, verb (She affected him) effect: noun, (Headache is the effect of stress.)
Aggravate/Annoy aggravate: make worse annoy: pester or irritate E.g.: Peter was annoyed when his boss aggravated the situation by telling the other co-workers.
Aid/Aide aid: help, assistance (verb, adjective, noun) aide: assistant (the person who is giving the aid/help)
All ready/already all ready: completely prepared (Dinner is all ready.) already: by or before stated time (You’re done already?)
Altogether/All together altogether: entirely all together: everything in one place, gathered
Allusion/Illusion allusion: reference illusion: false impression e.g.: Not understanding the allusion, he was under the illusion that his turn would be next.
A lot/Alot a lot: right alot: wrong
All right/Alright all right: right alright: wrong
Altar/Alter altar: the table in a Christian church used to worship alter: change (The length of the dress was altered to match her height.
Among/Between among: more than two (Among all contestants, only seven were good enough to qualify.) between: only two, in the space separating two points (It’s just between you and me.)
Anybody/Any body anybody: any one person and interchangeable with anyone (Anybody can do the job.) any body: a noun phrase referring to an arbitrary body (They were looking for not just any body but a body that was more than a hundred pounds.)
Anyway/Anyways anyway: used to end or change conversation, transitional word anyways: not a real word
*Alumnus: one male graduate Alumni:plural of alumnus or alumna, several male or female graduates Alumna: one female graduate Alumnae: plural of an alumna, several female graduates (Informally, people use the slang "alum" or "alums.")
Bare/Bear bare: without, unconcealed, undisguised bear: to hold up, support
Beside/Besides beside: by the side of (I want the table beside the bed.) besides: in addition to (Besides, I wanted to sit beside my dad.)
Biannual/Semiannual/Biennial biannual: twice a year semiannual: every half year biennial: every other year
Brake/Break brake: a device to stop a moving vehicle break: separate into pieces or interrupt
Breath/Breathe breath: noun- inhaled/exhaled air breathe: verb-to inhale/exhale
Capital/Capitol capital (n): city serving as a government center Capitol: a U.S. state or federal legislature building
Canceled/Cancelled (canceling /cancelling) It angers me whenever I see some TV news (by journalists and editors) and airports misusing it so much! In America, use American English. Canceled is American English, and cancelled isn't (use in Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) Same goes for travel. It's traveling/traveled, not travelling/travelled.
Cite/Site/Sight cite: to quote, to summon site: position or location of a town, building, etc. sight: vision or a view
Concurrent/Consecutive concurrent (adj.): simultaneous or happening at the same time as something else (The concurrent C's in this quarter lowered the GPA for the entire semester.) consecutive (adj.): successive or following one after the other (He made the honor rolls 3 consecutive time this year.)
Conscious/Conscience conscious: awake conscience: inner guide to right or wrong
Continuous/Continual continuous: constant with no interruption continual: occurring repeatedly or recurring but could pause/have interruption
Council/Counsel council: a group that advises counsel: to advise
Complement/Compliment complement: supplement, makes complete compliment: praise
Connote/Denote connote (v): imply or suggest (Her designer bags connote her high sense of style and her wealth.) denote (v): indicate or refer to specifically (The date is marked red to denote a particular holiday.)
Convince/Persuade convince (v): cause (someone) to believe firmly in the truth of something persuade (v): cause (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument
Course/Coarse course: a route, a class, or part of the idiomatic phrase "of course." coarse: rough (Her hair was coarse, so it was hard to comb it.)
Dessert/Desert dessert: food served after the main meal desert: arid, dry land
Discreet/Discrete discreet: showing prudence, careful (For her privacy, be discreet.) discrete: consisting of or characterized by distinct or individual parts
Disinterested/Uninterested disinterested: impartial, having no personal interest uninterested: not interested
Dual/Duel dual: two (He meets both dual requirements.) duel: a fight or a contest (He challenged me to a duel.)
ELICIT/Illicit elicit: to draw or bring out illicit: illegal
Emigrate/Immigrate emigrate: leave one's country to live in another immigrate: come into a country to live permanently (Migrate is to move like birds in the winter.)
Envy/Jealous envy: wanting someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck jealous: feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages
Envelope/Envelop envelope: the paper container you put your letter in envelop: wrap (I felt his arms envelop my body in a warm hug.)
Everyday/Every day everyday: routine or daily (This is my everyday exercise plan.) every day: every single day (We need to check it every day without skipping a day.)
Farther/Further farther: physical distance (It’s farther than xxxx.) further: metaphorical distance (This requires further consideration.)
Few/Less few (adj.): countable - small in numbers (This class has few students.) less (adj.): uncountable - small in amount or degree (less in love)
Forego/Forgo forego: to precede, to go before (Pianist will forego the violinist since the violin part doesn't start until the middle of the song.) forgo: to go without (I'm forgoing my birthday party this year.)
Forward/forwards forward: right forwards: British English Same goes for toward, backward, etc.
Good/Well good (adj.): high-quality manner or correctly well (adv.): in a good or satisfactory way (You did well on the test because the score was good.)
I/Me I: subject of a verb (Sam and I are studying.) me: object of a verb (It’s between you and me.)
It’s/Its it’s: contraction for it is or it has its: indicates possessive like his or theirs
i.e./e.g. i.e.: therefore, that is e.g.: for example
Imply/Infer imply: suggest, state indirectly, hint infer: deduce, make an educated guess, conclude (Give & Take: One person gives an implication, and the other takes it and then infers it.)
Impact (n): a powerful or major influence or effect NOT to be used as a verb. And "impactful" is not a real word. It's a nonstandard English.
In/Into in: within, expressing the situation of being enclosed or surrounded by something into: from the outside to the inside (e.g. Go into the house, and stay in my room.)
Incite/Insight incite: to stir up, to stimulate (Your bad attitude will only incite more negative feedback.) insight: deep understanding, awareness (It offers insight to the minds of the writers.)
Insure/Ensure insure: insurance, secure (We'll insure ourselves for further damage.) ensure: to guarantee, make sure (She must ensure that she doesn't miss this appointment.)
Intend/Intent intend: verb, to plan or want to do intent: noun, the thing that you plan to do
Interrupt/Interject interrupt: break the continuity interject: say, insert something abruptly
IRREGARDLESS is not a standard English word!! Actually, it used to be a couple of hundred years ago, but people figured out it was redundant to have 2 negatives that cancel each other out. Prefix "ir" means not, and suffix less also means not. So, you have regard left, which IS a real word. And for the love of everything cuddly and fluffy like a new born puppy, use regard. And if you mean the opposite, use disregard or regardless.
Jive/Jibe jive: to tease or to dance jibe: to agree or be in accord
Lay/Lie lay: to put down, not to be used for humans as humans lie down, not lay down lie: to recline as in lie down or tell untruth
Lightening/Lightning lightening: illuminate, brightening lightning: accompany thunder
Like/As like: followed by a noun (cute like a puppy, sings like her father) as: followed by a verb (cute as a puppy I bought, sings as her father would like to sing)
Lose/Loose lose: no longer have (lost) loose: not tight, careless (My belt is loose.)
Loath/Loathe loath: reluctant, unwilling loathe: intense hate, disgust (I'm loath to join a gym, but that doesn't mean that I loathe exercising.)
Moral/Morale moral: lesson (noun-the moral of the story is...) or righteous (adjective-he has the moral of a saint) morale: enthusiasm, confidence (Flowers sent by strangers increased the morale of the patient.
Nauseous/Nauseated Nauseous is what causes one to feel nauseated. Saying "I'm nauseous" is like saying "I'm gross." Correct way is "I feel nauseated because of that nauseous smell."
Necessary/Necessity necessary: adjective- being essential necessity: noun- the fact of being necessary
Passed/Past passed: verb in past tense past: can be adjective, adverb, preposition, noun, but never verb
Peak/Peek/Pique peak: pointed top of anything peek: a quick look pique: intrigue or stimulate
Poor/Pore/Pour poor: low quality, unfortunate, impoverished pore: tiny opening in a surface or think intently, scrutinize pour: transfer liquid
Principle/Principal principle: doctrine, truth principal: first, main (school principal)
Purposely/Purposefully purposely: intentionally purposefully: demeanor or manner of someone determined or resolute (To show them you mean it, you might purposefully widen your eyes.)
Recur/Reoccur recur: to occur over and over (like a recurring nightmare) reoccur: happen again
Riffle/Rifle riffle: rapidly flip or shuffle through rifle: flip/shuffle though or ransack with intent to steal
Role/Roll role: function or position, characteristic of a person, portrayal of an actor, etc. roll: to move forward on a surface, to travel (Elvis played a big role in the history of rock and roll.)
Staring/Starring staring: looking starring: have someone as a performer in a movie, play, etc.
Stationary/Stationery stationary: not moving stationery: writing paper
Tenant/Tenet tenant: pays rent to reside on a property tenet: a principle held as true, especially by a group
Than/Then than: comparative (I’m bigger than you.) then: refers to time (I’ll see you before then.)
There/Their there: in or at that place (It’s right there.) their: possessive of they (It’s their TV.)
Toward/Towards toward: right towards: wrong (never ‘s’ ending, maybe in U.K.)
To/Too/Two to: in a direction toward too: also two: 2
Troupe/Troop troop: group of people troupe: group of actors
Try to/Try and try to is grammatically correct and is used in American English try and is less formal and often used in British English. (e.g. The lady said she would try to get the dress in my size; I hoped she would try and keep looking.) "Try and" results in two verbs/two actions, which changes the meaning. Conclusion? Just use "try to."
Use to be/Used to be It’s always used with a “d.”
Vain/Vane/Vein vain: conceited vane: a thin, rigid, flat, or sometimes curved surfaces radially mounted along an axis vein: blood vessel
Waist/Waste waist: middle of a body around the tummy waste: to use, consume, spend, or trash
Was/Were was(singular): could be true E.g.: If he was here, he'd be controlling the TV as usual. were(plural): hypothetical or fantasy
E.g.: If I were God, I'd get rid of snow.
Weather/Wether/Whether weather: climate, temperature, etc. wether: a castrated ram whether: used to introduce alternative possibilities (We don't care whether you eat or not.)
Who/Whom who: subject whom: object
E.g.: The easiest way is by looking at the answer. Is the answer a subject or an object? Who is that? I did. (The answer is I, subject) To whom are you speaking? I’m speaking to him. (The answer is him, object)
Who/Which/That who: people which: never for people that: okay for a group of people
Which/That which: non-restrictive and a comma comes before it. The phrase can be taken out without changing the meaning of the sentence. (I had breakfast, which was in the morning.)
that: restrictive and NO comma. If the phrase that follows is taken out, the meaning changes. (I saw a man that the police was looking for.)
Your/You're I can't believe I have to explain this, but I've seen it so many times just on Twitter alone. I detest it. your: possessive form of you, belonging to, etc. you're: contraction of you are ("You're not your mother!")
Bated Breath/baited breath Bated breath is correct. Bated means in great suspense; very anxiously or excitedly. e.g. He waited for his SAT score with bated breath.
Beckon call/Beck and call beck and call is correct, meaning you’re available at someone’s command. (I'm not your beck and call! I won't be on standby just waiting for you in case you might want me. I'm done!)
Buck Naked is correct, not butt naked.
Can I/May I can: it denotes ability may: used in asking for permission
(E.g.: "Can I drink coke?" "You can since you have the physical ability to drink it, but you may not drink it since you didn't ask properly." "Fine. May I drink coke?" "Yes, you may.")
Couldn’t care less shows indifference. Basically, you don't give a crap. Wrong way: "could care less," which means you could or would care. So, this is saying if you could, you would.
Deep seeded/Deep Seated seated is correct as it means something is established firmly below the surface
Did a 360 is wrong because that means you did a full circle and returned to the same spot. The intended meaning of this term is to say you did/are a complete opposite. So, did a 180 (which would have you turn around/complete opposite point) is correct.
First-come, first-served indicates the participants will be served in the order in which they arrive. The wrong way: first-serve, which is the wrong tense.
For all intents and purposes officially or effectively Wrong way: for all intensive purposes
Free reign/rein Some might say "reign" makes more sense since it's ruling as a monarch. However, you're allowing a horse to determine its own path with its reins loosened, so metaphorically speaking, you have more power/freedom as a person.
In this day and age means now, at the present time. Wrong way: "day in age," which means day inside an age? It's plainly dumb.
It's a dog-eat-dog/dog eat dog world, not doggy dog world, which looks and sounds stupid.
Mano a mano: hand to hand
Nip it in the bud (not butt) the literal meaning: to stop a flower or plant from growing, but it's used say to stop something before it gets out of hand.
One and the same Same thing or same person. Wrong way: "one in the same."
E.g.: When Mia was homeschooled, her teacher and her mother were one and the same.
Pawned off/Palmed off When you want to dump something/someone you don't want to someone else, it's actually "palming" off because it means trickery.
Peaked/Piqued my interest pique is correct because it means to stimulate.
Pour over/Pore over If you’re carefully inspecting something, intently studying, or reflect upon something, you're poring over it. (Pore over) pour: spill, flow of liquid
Scot-free/Scott-free Scot is correct. It means getting away with no punishment, unharmed
Should have (should've) & Could have (could've) are correct. Should of & could of are wrong.
Shoe-in/Shoo-in It's a shoo-in,” meaning something easily ushered in, guaranteed win.
Slight of hand/Sleight of hand sleight: describes a form of trickery, as in “sleight of hand magic so sleight is correct.
Statue/Statute of limitations Statue is a stone sculpture, so it's wrong. A statute of limitations is a law that describes the limited time frame in which legal measures can be taken.
Supposed to be (correct)/Suppose to be (wrong) It’s always supposed with a “d.”
Supposedly (correct) Supposably: NOT a real word, nonstandard English
Unfazed is correct, not unphased as you're trying to say one is not fazed (disturbed, troubled)
Wet your appetite/Whet your appetite (correct) whet: a thing that stimulates appetite or desire
Worst-case scenario is correct, not worse-case because worst is at the top of the level.
There are more, and it's very difficult to remember all of them. Do yourself a favor and hire an editor.
Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy writing~