Frequently Misused or Confusing Pairs of Words

Whether we are writing a business or examination report/essay on economics or marketing paper, we need to be careful on some frequently misused or confusing pairs of words. Many pairs of words sound alike or nearly alike, but each has a different meaning.

You should be careful to use the correct word from a pair of such confusing words when you are writing and speaking.  Otherwise, you may express something different than what you mean to express.

Append below some frequently misused words and commonly confused pairs of words:

A lot – Means many
Allot – Means to divide something up into segments or portions

Accept – to take something that is given to you
Except – to leave out

Affect – to influence something
Effect the result of something

Altar – a raised place used in religious services
Alter – to change

Ascent to climb
Assent – to agree

Assent – To agree with something or someone
Ascent – Something or someone is climbing or has climbed to a new height.

Brake – a device for stopping or slowing a vehicle
Break – to come apart

Cite – to document
Site – a place

Coarse – rough
Course – moving from one point to the next

Complement – something that makes a thing whole or perfect
Compliment – to praise

Could have–Something had a possibility of coming true or coming to pass

Could ofA mispronunciation of could have. This phrase should never be used in written work.

Conscience – a sense of right and wrong
Conscious – state of being awake

Descent – coming from a higher place to a lower one
Dissent – to disagree

Desert – a dry, hot, sandy area
Dessert – the sweet final part of a meal

Device – something made for a certain purpose
Devise – to invent something or develop a plan

Elicit – to bring out
Illicit – illegal

Eminent – famous or well respected
Imminent – about to happen

Faint – weak
Feint – a movement meant to deceive

Forth – forward
Fourth – an ordinal number

Here – at or in a place
Hear – to receive sound through one’s ears

Hoard – to save and store away
Horde – a very large group

Hole – an opening through something
Whole – an entire thing

Its –A possessive that means something belongs to someone.

It’s –Is a contraction of it is.

Lose –A verb that means to misplace something or to fail to win a contest.
Loose–An adjective that describes something that is baggy or not tight.

Loath – reluctant
Loathe – greatly dislike

Martial refers to war.

Marital refers to marriage.

Principle means a fundamental truth.

Principal refers to the head of a school.

Palate – the roof of the mouth
Palette – an artist’s board for mixing paints

Peace – absence of fighting
Piece – a portion of something

Plain – clearly seen, heard, or understood
Plane – a flat surface

Pore – a very small opening in the skin
Pour – to cause something to flow

Precede – to come before
Proceed – to go forward

Shear – to cut the wool off a sheep
Sheer – so thin you can see through it

Stationary – to stand still
Stationery – writing paper

Suppose-To make a guess about something.

Supposed to-A verb that means a person is obligated to do something.

Example: I suppose that I must attend the party at Tom’s house, but I am supposed to have dinner with my family.

Than-A comparisons between two people or objects.

Then-Means next or something that will happen at a specific time.

To-A preposition that means going toward something.

Too-Means also or over much.

Two-Is a number.

Waist – the part of the human body between the ribs and the hips
Waste – to use or spend carelessly

Weak – without strength
Week – a period of seven days

Who-A pronoun that refers to one or more people.

Which-A pronoun that usually indicates a question about a specific thing.

That-Is used to refer to a thing or a group of people.

Yours- A possessive that means that something belongs to the person you are addressing

You’re-Is a contraction of you are.

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