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 1MeaningWord 2Meaning
acceptagree to receive or do; believeexceptnot including
adverseunfavorable; harmfulaversestrongly disliking; opposed
advice (n)recommendations about what to doadvise (v)to recommend something
affect (v)to change or make a difference toeffect (n)a result; to bring about a result
aislea passage between rows of seatsislean island
all togetherall in one place, all at oncealtogethercompletely; on the whole
alongmoving or extending horizontally ona longreferring to something of great length or time
aloudout loudallowedpermitted
altara sacred table in a churchalterto change
amoralnot concerned with right or wrongimmoralnot following accepted moral standards
appraiseto assessappriseto inform someone
assentagreement, approvalascentthe action of rising or climbing up
auralrelating to the ears or hearingoralrelating to the mouth; spoken
barenaked; to uncoverbearto carry; to put up with;
large mammal
bazaara Middle Eastern marketbizarrestrange
bertha bunk in a ship, train, etc.birththe emergence of a baby from the womb
bornhaving started lifebornecarried
bougha branch of a treebowto bend the head; the front of a ship
brakea device for stopping a vehicle; to stop a vehiclebreakto separate into pieces;
a pause
breachto break through, or break a rule; a gapbreechthe back part of a gun barrel
broachto raise a subject for discussionbroocha piece of jewellery
canvasa type of strong clothcanvassto seek people’s votes
censureto criticize stronglycensorto ban parts of a book or film; a person who does this
cereala grass producing an edible grain; a breakfast food made from grainsserialhappening in a series
chorda group of musical notescorda length of string; a cord-like body part
climacticforming a climaxclimaticrelating to climate
coarseroughcoursea direction; a school subject; part of a meal
complacentsmug and self-satisfiedcomplaisantwilling to please
complementto add and improve; an addition that improves somethingcomplimentto praise or express approval;
an admiring remark
councila group of people who manage or advisecounseladvice; to advise
cuea signal for action; a wooden rodqueuea line of people or vehicles
curbto keep something in check; a control or limitkerb(in British English) the stone edge of a pavement
curranta dried grapecurrenthappening now; a flow of water, air, or electricity
defuseto make a situation less tensediffuseto spread over a wide area
deserta waterless, empty area;
to abandon someone
dessertthe sweet part of a meal
discreetcareful not to attract attentiondiscreteseparate and distinct
disinterestedimpartialuninterestednot interested
draughta current of airdrafta first version of a piece of writing
drawan even score at the end of a gamedrawera sliding storage compartment
dualhaving two partsduela fight or contest between two people
elicitto draw out a reply or reactionillicitnot allowed by law or rules
ensureto make certain that something will happeninsureto provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged
envelopto cover or surroundenvelopea paper container for a letter
exercisephysical activity; to do physical activityexorciseto drive out an evil spirit
fawna young deer; light brownfauna mythical being, part man, part goat
flauntto display ostentatiouslyfloutto disregard a rule
forewordan introduction to a bookforwardonwards, ahead
grislygruesome, revoltinggrizzlya type of bear
hoardto amass or stockpilehordea large crowd of people
implyto suggest indirectlyinferto draw a conclusion
looseto unfasten; to set free; not tightloseto be unable to find
pedala foot-operated leverpeddleto sell goods
polea long, slender piece of woodpollvoting in an election
pourto flow or cause to flowporea tiny opening; to study something closely
principalmost important;
the head of a school
principlea fundamental rule or belief
sceptica person inclined to doubtsepticinfected with bacteria
sightthe ability to seesitea location
stationarynot movingstationerywriting materials
storeya level of a buildingstorya tale or account

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