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Commonly Confused or Misused Words

English has many words that sound the same but have different meanings. Because of this, your spellchecker might not point out a misused word. Use this list to help identify commonly confused words and make sure you are using the right word for your sentence.

Note: Many of these words can be used as other parts of speech. This handout lists the most common confusions.

 

advice = (noun) a suggestion

  • My practicum mentor gave me great advice.

advise = (verb) to give suggestions

  • The doctor advised the patient to exercise regularly. 

 

accept = (verb) willing to receive something

  • He accepted an award for his volunteer work.

except = (preposition) not included

  • Everyone attended the conference except Jim.

 

affect = (verb) to influence

  • Smoking affects our health.

effect = (noun) a result

  • Smoking has a negative effect on your health.

 

complement = (verb) to complete something or make it better

  • The colours in the painting complement the room décor.  

compliment = (noun, verb) praise, to give praise

  • I always compliment my classmate on her math skills.

 

ensure = (verb) to make certain

  • An early childhood educator must ensure the safety of the children.

insure = (verb) to protect something financially

  • It is important to insure your home in case of a fire or flood.

 

its = (possessive pronoun)

  • When you fix the computer, reinstall its drivers.

it's = (contraction) it is/it has

  • It's important to read the safety precautions carefully.

 

then = (adverb) time, next, afterwards

  • Nurses need to check the patient's chart, then proceed with the appointment.

than = (preposition) shows comparison

  • James has been an engineer longer than Ian.

 

there = (adverb) a place; used with the verb "be" to state a fact OR indicates a specific place

or location

  • There is a photocopier in the next room.

they're = (contraction) they are

  • They're hardworking students.

their  = (possessive pronoun)

  • The architects brought their plans to the site.

 

weather = (noun) rain, sunshine, snow, wind, etc.

  • The competition was cancelled due to poor weather.

whether = (conjunction) which one of two

  • I don't know whether to buy a laptop or desktop computer.