Hi Guys, Now we are going to talk about Confusing Words! Sometimes I found my self doubt in using some words, so let’s learn English with me…
accept vs except
Accept is a verb, which means to agree to take something .
For example: “I always accept good advice.”
Except is a preposition or conjunction, which means not including.
For example: “I teach every day except Sunday(s).”
advice vs advise
Advice is a noun, which means an opinion that someone offers you about what you should do or how you should act in a particular situation.
For example: “I need someone to give me some advice.”
Advise is a verb, which means to give information and suggest types of action.
For example: “I advise everybody to be nice to their teacher.”
!Often in English the noun form ends in …ice and the verb form ends in …ise.
affect vs effect
Affect and effect are two words that are commonly confused.
affect is usually a verb (action) – effect is usually a noun (thing)
Hint: If it’s something you’re going to do, use “affect.” If it’s something you’ve already done, use “effect.”
To affect something or someone.
Meaning: to influence, act upon, or change something or someone.
For example: The noise outside affected my performance.
To have an effect on something or someone
!Note: effect is followed by the preposition on and preceded by an article (an, the)
Meaning: to have an impact on something or someone.
For example: His smile had a strange effect on me.
!Effect can also mean “the end result”.
For example: The drug has many adverse side effects.
all right vs alright
All right has multiple meanings. It can mean ok, acceptable, unhurt.
The single word spelling alright has never been accepted as standard.
However in a search on Google you’ll get around 68,700,000 hits for alright and 163,000,000 for “all right”. So, it might become a respected alternative spelling. Personally I have no problem with it, but what do other people think:-
Kingsley Amis The King’s English 1997: “I still feel that to inscribe alright is gross, crass, coarse and to be avoided, and I now say so. Its interdiction is as pure an example as possible of a rule without a reason, and in my case may well show nothing but how tenacious a hold early training can take.”
Bill Bryson Troublesome Words 1997: “A good case could be made for shortening all right to alright. … English, however, is a fickle tongue and alright continues to be looked on as illiterate and unacceptable and consequently it ought never to appear in serious writing.”
Robert Burchfield The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage 1997: “Alright … is the demotic form. It is preferred, to judge from the evidence I have assembled, by popular sources like the British magazines The Face … New Musical Express and Sounds, the American magazine Black World, the Australian journal Southerly, the Socialist Worker, by popular singers … and hardly ever by writers of standing … It is commonplace in private correspondence, especially in that of the moderately educated young. Almost all other printed works in Britain and abroad use the more traditional form … ”
(At which point in there did you first get the urge to smack him?)
Graham King The Times Writer’s Guide 2001: If we accept already, altogether and almost, why not alright? Although it carries with it the whiff of grammatical illegitimacy it is and has been in common use for a century …”
alone / lonely
Alone, can be used as an adjective or adverb. Either use means without other people or on your own.
For example: “He likes living alone.”
“I think we’re alone now.” = There are just the two of us here.
Lonely is an adjective which means you are unhappy because you are not with other people.
For example: “The house feels lonely now that all the children have left home.”
!Note – Just because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you’re lonely.
a lot / alot / allot
A lot, meaning a large amount or number of people or things, can be used to modify a noun.
“I need a lot of time to develop this web site.”
It can also be used as an adverb, meaning very much or very often.
“I look a lot like my sister.”
It has become a common term in speech; and is increasingly used in writing.
Alot does not exist! There is no such word in the English language. If you write it this way – imagine me shouting at you – “No Such Word!”
Allot is a verb, which means to give (especially a share of something) for a particular purpose:-
For example: “We were allotted a desk each.”
all ready vs already
All ready means “completely ready”.
For example: “Are you all ready for the test?”
Alreadyis an adverb that means before the present time or earlier than the time expected.
For example: “I asked him to come to the cinema but he’d already seen the film.”
“Are you buying Christmas cards already? It’s only September!”
All together (adv) means “together in a single group.”
For example: The waiter asked if we were all together.
Altogether (adv) means “completely” or “in total “.
For example: She wrote less and less often, and eventually she stopped altogether.
!To be in the altogether is an old-fashioned term for being naked!
any one vs anyone
Any one means any single person or thing out of a group of people or things.
I can recommend any one of the books on this site.
Anyone means any person. It’s always written as one word.
Did anyone see that UFO?
any vs some
Any and some are both determiners. They are used to talk about indefinite quantities or numbers, when the exact quantity or number is not important. As a general rule we use some for positive statements, and any for questions and negative statements,
I asked the barman if he could get me some sparkling water. I said, “Excuse me, have you got any sparkling water?” Unfortunately they didn’t have any.
!Note – You will sometimes see some in questions and any in positive statements. When making an
offer, or a request, in order to encourage the person we are speaking to to say “Yes”, you can use some in a question:
For example: Would you mind fetching some gummy bears while you’re at the shops?
You can also use any in a positive statement if it comes after a word whose meaning is negative or limiting:
A. She gave me some bad advice.
B. Really? She rarely gives any bad advice.
Apart (adv) separated by distance or time.
For example: I always feel so lonely when we’re apart.
A part (noun) a piece of something that forms the whole of something.
For example: They made me feel like I was a part of the family.
been vs gone
been is the past participle of be
gone is the past participle of go
Been is used to describe completed visits. So if you have been to England twice, you have travelled there and back twice. If you have gone to England, you have not yet returned.
! Now you’ve been and gone and done it!
beside vs besides
Thanks to Dheepa Arun
beside is a preposition of place that means at the side of or next to.
For example: The house was beside the Thames.
besides is an adverb or preposition. It means in addition to or also.
For example: Besides water, we carried some fruit. = “In addition to water, we carried some fruit.”
bored vs boring
bored is an adjective that describes when someone feels tired and unhappy because something is not interesting or because they have nothing to do.
For example: She was so bored that she fell asleep.
boring is an adjective that means something is not interesting or exciting.
For example: The lesson was so boring that she fell asleep.
!Note Most verbs which express emotions, such as to bore , may use either the present or the past participle as an adjective, but the meaning of the participles is often different.
borrow vs lend
Meaning: to hand out usually for a certain length of time.
Banks lend money.
Libraries lend books.
For example: “My mother lent me some money, and I must pay her back soon.”
Meaning: to take with permission usually for a certain length of time.
You can borrow money from a bank to buy a house or a car.
You can borrow books for up to 4 weeks from libraries in England.
For example: “I borrowed some money off my mother, and I must pay her back soon.”
! For a happy life – Never a borrower nor a lender be.
bought vs brought
bought past tense of the verb to buy
For example: “I bought a newspaper at the newsagents. ”
brought past tense of the verb to bring
For example: “She brought her homework to the lesson.”
!There is an ‘r’ in brought and an ‘r’ in bring = they belong together.
by vs until
Both until and by indicate “any time before, but not later than.”
Until tells us how long a situation continues. If something happens until a particular time, you stop doing it at that time.
They lived in a small house until September 2003.
(They stopped living there in September.)
I will be away until Wednesday.
(I will be back on Wednesday.)
We also use until in negative sentences.
Details will not be available until January.
(January is the earliest you can expect to receive the details.)
If something happens by a particular time, it happens at or before that time. It is often used to indicate a deadline.
You have to finish by August 31.
(August 31 is the last day you can finish; you may finish before this date.)
We also use by when asking questions.
Will the details be available by December?
(This asks if they will be ready no later than December.)
To check means to examine. To make certain that something or someone is correct, safe or suitable by examining it or them quickly.
For example: “You should always check your oil, water and tyres before taking your car on a long trip.”
To control means to order, limit, instruct or rule something, or someone’s actions or behaviour.
For example: “If you can’t control your dog, put it on a lead!”
What you shouldn’t do is use the verb control in association with people and the work they do.
For example: “I check my students’ homework, but I can’t control what they do!”
In Business English there is often a lot of confusion because of the term control in accounting.
In most organizations the controller is the top managerial and financial accountant. The controller supervises the accounting department and assists management in interpreting and utilizing managerial accounting information.
come over (v) vs overcome (n)
Come over is a phrasal verb, that can mean several things.
To move from one place to another, or move towards someone.
For example: “Come over here.”
To seem to be a particular type of person.
For example: “Politicians often come over as arrogant.”
To be influenced suddenly and unexpectedly by a strange feeling.
For example: “Don’t stand up too quickly or you may come over dizzy.”
Overcome is a verb, which means to defeat or succeed in controlling or dealing with something.
For example: “Using technology can help many people overcome any disabilities they might have.”
complement (v) vs compliment (n)
Complement is a verb, which means to make something seem better or more attractive when combined.
For example: “The colours blue and green complement each other perfectly.”
Compliment is a noun, which means a remark that expresses approval, admiration or respect.
For example: “It was the nicest compliment anyone had ever paid me.”
Tip! Having problems with your spelling? Try these mnemonics:-
If it complements something it completes it. (With an e.)
I like compliments. (With an i.)
concentrate vs concentrated
The verb – When you concentrate you direct all your efforts towards a particular activity, subject or problem.
For example: You need to concentrate harder when you listen to something in another language.
The adjective – If something is concentrated it means it has had some liquid removed.
For example: I prefer freshly squeezed orange juice to concentrated.
!Note The simple past of “to concentrate” is “concentrated” this is where the confusion may arise.
For example: She concentrated very hard in the exam.
council vs counsel
Council is a group noun. It refers to a group of people elected or chosen to make decisions or give advice on a particular subject, to represent a particular group of people, or to run a particular organization.
For example: “The local council has decided not to allocate any more funds for the project.”
Counsel can be a verb, which means to give advice, especially on social or personal problems.
For example: “She counsels the long-term unemployed on how to get a job.”
Counsel can also be a noun, which means advice.
For example: “I should have listened to my father’s counsel, and saved some money instead of spending it all.”
councillor vs counsellor
Councillor is a noun which means an elected member of a local government.
For example: “He was elected to be a councillor in 1998.”
Counsellor is a noun, which means someone who is trained to listen to people and give them advice about their problems.
For example: “The student union now employs a counsellor to help students with both personal and work-related problems.”
data vs datum
This isn’t so much a common mistake as a common cause for arguments (as is often the case with words of Latin origin).
The dictionaries treat data as a group noun, meaning information, especially facts or numbers, collected for examination and consideration and used to help decision-making, or meaning information in an electronic form that can be stored and processed by a computer.
Then they go on to confuse matters by giving the following kind of example:-
The data was/were reviewed before publishing.
So, which is it, was or were? Strictly speaking ‘datum’ is the singular form of and ‘data’ is the the plural form.
If you’re writing for an academic audience, particularly in the sciences, “data” takes a plural verb.
The data are correct.
But most people treat ‘data’ as a singular noun, especially when talking about computers etc.
The data is being transferred from my computer to yours.
decent vs descent
Decent is an adjective meaning socially acceptable or good.
For example: Everyone should be entitled to a decent standard of living.
Descent is a noun which can mean a movement downwards, or your ancestry.
For example: The plane began its final descent prior to landing. / “She found out that she was of Welsh descent.”
discreet vs discrete
Discreet is an adjective.
It means to be careful or modest, not to cause embarrassment or attract too much attention, especially by keeping something secret.
For example: To work for the royal family you have to be very discreet.
Discrete is an adjective.
It means something is distinct and separate or has a clear independent shape or form.
For example: She painted using strong colours, discrete shapes, and rhythmic patterns.
don’t have to vs mustn’t
Don’t have to = Do not have to We have to use don’t have to to say that there is no obligation or necessity to do something.
For example: “You don’t have to do the exercises at the end of this page.”
Mustn’t = must not is a modal verb used to show that something is not allowed. When you use mustn’t you are telling people not to do things. It has the same force as don’t , as in: Don’t do that!
For example: “You mustn’t drink if you’re going to drive.”
downside vs underside
Downside is a noun that means the disadvantage of a situation.
For example: “One of the downsides of living in London, of course, is that it is very expensive.”
Underside is a noun that means the side of something that is usually nearest the ground.
For example: “Look at the underside of your iMac display. If you see an Ambient Light Sensor, you have a second generation iMac G5.”
driving test vs test drive
A driving test (also known as a driving exam) is a procedure designed to test a person’s ability to drive a motor vehicle.
A test drive is when you drive an automobile to assess it, usually before buying it.
!Note – you need to have passed your driving test in order to take a test drive.
e.g vs i.e
e.g. stands for exempli gratia = for example.
For example: “I like fast cars, e.g. Ferrari and Porche”
In the sentence above you are simply giving an example of the kinds of cars you like – Ferraris and Porches.
i.e. stands for id est = that is (in explanation).
For example: “I like fast cars, i.e. any car that can go over 150mph.”
In this second sentence you are giving an explanation of what you consider to be fast.
either vs as well / too
Either is used with a negative verb when you are agreeing with something someone doesn’t do or like etc.
For example:- B agrees with A in the negative
A – “I don’t like cheese.” B – “I don’t like it either.”
A- “I haven’t seen Lord of the Rings.” B – “I haven’t seen it either.”
As well / Too are used with an affirmative verb when you are agreeing with something someone does or likes etc.
For example:- B agrees with A in the positive
A – “I love ice cream.” B – “I love it too.” / “I love it as well.”
A- “I’ve seen Gladiator.” B – “I’ve seen it too.” / ” I’ve seen it as well.”
every day vs everyday
Every day – here every is a determiner and day is a noun.
When you say every day you mean each day without exception.
For example: You have been late for school every day this week.
Everyday is an adjective.
When you say everyday you mean ordinary, unremarkable.
For example: My culture pages offer an insight into the everyday life of Britain.
excited vs exciting
Excited is an adjective that describes when someone feels happy and enthusiastic about something.
For example: She was so excited that she couldn’t sleep.
Exciting is an adjective that means something is making you excited.
For example: The football match was so exciting that she couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.
expand vs expend
Expand is a transitive or intransitive verb. It means to increase in size, number or importance, or to make something increase.
For example: Jarp is expanding his vocabulary on the forum, but Hermine’s hips are expanding as well.
Expend is a transitive verb. It means to use or spend something (especially time, effort or money).
For example: She is expending a lot of effort to help her students.
experience vs experience(s)
Experience can be an uncountable noun. You use it when you’re talking about knowledge or skill which is obtained from doing, seeing or feeling things.
For example: Do you have any experience of working internationally?
Experience(s) can be a countable noun. You use it when you are talking about a particular incident or incidents that affect you.
For example: It was interesting hearing about his experiences during the war.
Experience can also be a verb. It means something that happens to you, or something you feel.
For example: When I first moved to Germany I experienced a lot of problems.
fewer vs less
Everyone gets this wrong – including native speakers. The general rule is to use fewer for things you can count (individually), and less for things you can only measure
There were fewer days below freezing last winter. (Days can be counted.)
I drink less coffee than she does. (Coffee cannot be counted individually it has to be measured).
!Note – “Less” has to do with how much. “Fewer” has to do with how many.
for vs since
The prepositions for and since are often used with time expressions.
For indicates a period of time.
I have been working here for 2 years.
Since indicates a point in time.
I have been working here since the year before last.
good vs well
Good is an adjective. We use good when we want to give more information about a noun.
My dog Sam is very good. He’s a good dog.
She didn’t speak very good English. Her English isn’t very good.
Well is usually used as an adverb. We use well when we want to give more information about a verb.
He usually behaves very well.
She didn’t speak English very well.
Note! The exception to this can be when you talk about someone’s health:
She wasn’t a well woman.
and when you describe sensations:
This pizza tastes/smells/ looks good.
If you say “You look good.” It means they look attractive.
If you say “You look well.” It means they look healthy.
Note! Younger people might reply to the question “How are you?” with “I’m good.” This is what I call MTV English.
hard vs hardly
Hard is an adjective. It can mean solid, industrious, or difficult.
Heating the clay makes it hard (solid) .
She is a hard (industrious) worker.
It was a hard (difficult) test.
Hardly is an adverb and means only just or certainly not.
The teacher spoke so quietly I could hardly (only just) hear her.
You can hardly (certainly not) expect me to do the test for you!
hear vs listen
hear is a verb that means to receive or become aware of a sound using your ears, so you don’t have to make an effort in order to just hear something.
She heard a noise outside.
listen is a verb that means to give attention to someone or something in order to hear them, so you make an make an effort in order to hear something properly.
She listened to the noise and realised it was only a cat.
Note! In some circumstances we use hear when we listen to someone or something attentively or officially.
I heard a really interesting speech on the radio this morning.
These people need to be heard.
heroin vs heroine
Heroin is a noun, it is a powerful illegal drug, obtained from morphine and is extremely addictive.
For example: “He was arrested for supplying heroin, a class A drug.”
Heroine is a female person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great. The male equivalent is hero.
For example: “Grace Darling is one of England’s best known heroines.”
he’s vs his
He’s is the short form of ‘he is’ or ‘he has’.
For example: ” Don’t be scared – he’s very friendly.”
His is a possesive pronoun, it is used to show something belonging to or connected with a man, boy or male animal that has just been mentioned.
For example: ” Mark just phoned to say he’d left his coat behind. Do you know if this is his?”
holiday vs weekend
A holiday (noun), a time, often one or two weeks, when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax. You usually have to book your holiday with your boss.
For example: “Where are you going on holiday this year? Somewhere nice I hope.”
The weekend (noun) – the time from Saturday and Sunday, or Friday evening until Sunday night. It’s the part of the week in which most paid workers living in the West do not go to work. It is a time for leisure and recreation, and/or for religious activities. …
For example: “What are you doing this weekend? Anything nice?”
homework vs housework
Homework (noun) – refers to tasks assigned to students by teachers to be completed mostly outside of class, and derives its name from the fact that most students do the majority of such work at home.
For example: “A lot of students in the UK get too much homework.”
Housework (noun) – refers to domestic household chores such as cleaning and cooking.
For example: “I never seem to have enough time to do the housework. There’s always something that needs dusting or polishing.”
“How do you do?”
“How are you?”
If I had a Euro for every time someone got this one wrong – I’d be a rich bunny!
How do you do?
This is not a question. It is another, very formal way of saying “Hello.” It is also very British.
The correct response is; “Pleased to meet you.” or “How do you do.” or just “Hello.”
We only really use it the first time we meet someone.
How are you?
This is a question.
A polite response is; “I’m fine thanks. And you?”
I vs me
Usually we choose the correct form by instinct.
I am a teacher. (not me)
Give that to me. (not I)
There are other times when people make mistakes with these two pronouns. I/me is difficult when it is coupled with another pronoun or with a noun. This is when you have to think about the subject/object in a sentence.
“It was I who did the homework,” or “It was me who did the homework.”
Make the statement simpler:-
“I did the homework.” so “It was I who did the homework,” is correct.
The teacher gave the homework to my friend and me. (Not I)
!If you don’t understand why the above sentence is correct, simplify the sentence again.
Deal with the two people separately.
The teacher gave the homework to my friend.
The teacher gave the homework to me.
= The teacher gave the homework to my friend and me.
interested vs interesting
Interested is a past participle. When used as an adjective it says how someone feels.
For example: “I was very interested in the lesson.”
Interesting is a present participle. When used as an adjective it describes the people or things that cause the feelings.
For example: “It was an interesting lesson .”
lay vs lie
Lay is an irregular transitive verb (lay / laid/ laid – laying). It needs a direct object. It means to put something or someone down (often in a horizontal postion).
For example: “Lay your head on the pillow.”
Lie is an irregular intransitive verb (lie / lay / lain – lying). It does not take a direct object. It means to rest in a horizontal position1 or to be located somewhere2.
For example: “If you are tired lie here and have a rest.”1
“Nottingham lies in the Midlands.”2
!Lie also means to say something that isn’t true but it takes the following form (lie / lied / lied – lying).
lay down vs lie down
Lay down has several different meanings.
If you lay something down it can mean you officially establish a rule, or officially state the way in which something should be done.
Please follow the rules laid down by the administrator.
If you lay something down your weapons it means you stop fighting.
They laid down their guns and surrendered.
If you lay wine down it means you are storing it for drinking in the future.
I laid down this bottle in 1998, it should be perfect for drinking now.
Lie down means to move into a position in which your body is flat, usually in order to sleep or rest.
For example: “If you are tired lie down and have a rest.”
look after vs look for
To look after; means to take care of or be in charge of something or someone.
For example: “I often ask my mother to look after the children.”
To look for; means to try to find something or someone.
For example: “I am looking for my keys. Have you seen them?”
look at vs watch
In this context look is usually followed by the preposition at.
When you look at someone or something you are interested in the appearance.
Generally we look at things that are static.
Look at these photos, they’re really good.
I went to the art gallery to look at the exhibition of paintings.
Watch is a verb.
When you watch someone or something you are interested in what happens.
Generally we watch things that move or change state.
I watch TV every night.
The security guard watched the shoplifter steal the clock.
!If I say to you “Look at him!” I mean for you to check out his appearance. But, if I say to you “Watch him!” I mean it as a warning.
look forward / forwards vs look forward to
If you look forward / forwards it simply means you are looking ahead of you.
Look forward to is a phrasal verb.
When you look forward to something, you feel happy and excited about something that is going to happen.
I always look forward to seeing my family and friends when I travel to England.
look over vs overlook
Look over is a phrasal verb.
When you look over something or someone you quickly examine it or them.
I asked my teacher to look over what I had written.
Overlook is a verb.
When you overlook someone or something you fail to notice or consider it or them.:
I think my teacher overlooked some of my mistakes.
!Look over is two separate words, overlook is one word.
loose vs lose
Loose is an adjective. If something isn’t fixed properly or it doesn’t fit, because it’s too large, it’s loose.
My headphones weren’t working, because a wire was loose.
Lose is a verb that means to no longer possess something because you do not know where it is, or because it has been taken away from you.
A lot of people will lose their job if there is a recession.