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Jan 23

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Commonly confused words – a comprehensive list

Commonly confused words

There are a lot of words in English that look or sound the same but have very different meanings, such as accept and except or affect and effect. Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that sometimes cause people problems.

 

Word 1 Meaning Word 2 Meaning
accept to agree to receive or do except not including
adverse unfavorable, harmful averse strongly disliking; opposed
advice recommendations about what to do advise to recommend something
affect to change or make a difference to effect a result; to bring about a result
aisle a passage between rows of seats isle an island
all together all in one place, all at once altogether completely; on the whole
along moving or extending horizontally on a long referring to something of great length or time
aloud out loud allowed permitted
altar a sacred table in a church alter to change
amoral not concerned with right or wrong immoral not following accepted moral standards
appraise to assess apprise to inform someone
assent agreement, approval ascent the action of rising or climbing up
aural relating to the ears or hearing oral relating to the mouth; spoken
bare naked; to uncover bear to carry; to put up with;
large mammal
bazaar a Middle Eastern market bizarre strange
berth a bunk in a ship, train, etc. birth the emergence of a baby from the womb
born having started life borne carried
bough a branch of a tree bow to bend the head; the front of a ship
brake a device for stopping a vehicle; to stop a vehicle break to separate into pieces;
a pause
breach to break through, or break a rule; a gap breech the back part of a gun barrel
broach to raise a subject for discussion brooch a piece of jewellery
canvas a type of strong cloth canvass to seek people’s votes
censure to criticize strongly censor to ban parts of a book or film; a person who does this
cereal a grass producing an edible grain; a breakfast food made from grains serial happening in a series
chord a group of musical notes cord a length of string; a cord-like body part
climactic forming a climax climatic relating to climate
coarse rough course a direction; a school subject; part of a meal
complacent smug and self-satisfied complaisant willing to please
complement to add and improve; an addition that improves something compliment to praise or express approval;
an admiring remark
council a group of people who manage or advise counsel advice; to advise
cue a signal for action; a wooden rod queue a line of people or vehicles
curb to keep something in check; a control or limit kerb (in British English) the stone edge of a pavement
currant a dried grape current happening now; a flow of water, air, or electricity
defuse to make a situation less tense diffuse to spread over a wide area
desert a waterless, empty area;
to abandon someone
dessert the sweet part of a meal
discreet careful not to attract attention discrete separate and distinct
disinterested impartial uninterested not interested
draught a current of air draft a first version of a piece of writing
draw an even score at the end of a game drawer a sliding storage compartment
dual having two parts duel a fight or contest between two people
elicit to draw out a reply or reaction illicit not allowed by law or rules
ensure to make certain that something will happen insure to provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged
envelop to cover or surround envelope a paper container for a letter
exercise physical activity; to do physical activity exorcise to drive out an evil spirit
fawn a young deer; light brown faun a mythical being, part man, part goat
flaunt to display ostentatiously flout to disregard a rule
foreword an introduction to a book forward onwards, ahead
grisly gruesome, revolting grizzly a type of bear
hoard to amass or stockpile horde a large crowd of people
imply to suggest indirectly infer to draw a conclusion
loose to unfasten; to set free; not tight lose to be unable to find
pedal a foot-operated lever peddle to sell goods
pole a long, slender piece of wood poll voting in an election
pour to flow or cause to flow pore a tiny opening; to study something closely
principal most important;
the head of a school
principle a fundamental rule or belief
sceptic a person inclined to doubt septic infected with bacteria
sight the ability to see site a location
stationary not moving stationery writing materials
storey a level of a building story a tale or account

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