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Commonly Confused Words

English is full homophones — words that sound sound the same but are spelled differently. In this lesson, we’re going to sort out any confusion you may have with homophones and other commonly confused words.

It’s especially important to spell these words correctly because your spell checker might not realize that you’re using the wrong word.

Accept/Except

Accept means to take, receive, agree, or consent. Except means to exclude something.

I accept your love of sardines.

Gabrielle likes all pizza toppings except sardines.

Advice/Advise

Advice is a noun meaning opinion or recommendation. Advise is a verb meaning to offer advice.

My mother gave me good advice about shopping frugally.

My mother advises me to shop frugally.

Affect/Effect

Affect is a verb meaning to influence. Effect is a noun meaning the result. So when you affect something, you produce an effect.

Drinking coffee at 10PM affects my ability to sleep.

Late night coffee has a detrimental effect on my sleep.

Allowed/Aloud

Allowed means permitted. Aloud means not silent.

Hudson allowed his daughter to ride his skateboard.

I sometimes think aloud while skateboarding.

Allot/A lot/Alot

Allot is a verb meaning to divide, distribute, or give a portion of something. A lot means a large amount. Alot is not a word.

I will allot the left side of the garden to Vanessa.

There are a lot of plants in that garden.

Ascent/Assent

Ascent is a noun meaning a rise or climb. Assent is a noun meaning agreement and a verb meaning to agree.

Mt. Everest is a steep ascent.

Kane assented to waiting another day at the base camp.

Cite/Sight/Site

Cite means to quote. Sight means to see or the sense of seeing. Site means a location and is used to refer to websites.

Nina cited four different sources in this blog post.

Nina’s blog is dedicated to understanding sight.

Nina’s blog is my favorite site about science.

Complement/Compliment

Complement means go well together. Compliment is a nice remark. Complimentary also means that something is free.

Shane’s passion for blogging complements his skill.

He loves compliments about his writing.

Shane promotes his blog with complimentary giveaways.

Desert/Dessert

Desert is a piece of land that is extremely dry. Dessert is something sweet eaten after a meal.

If I were lost is the desert, I would look for chocolate first and water second.

Unsurprisingly, chocolate is my favorite dessert.

Its/It’s

Lay/Lie

Lay is a transitive verb, meaning that it must take an object (have something that it’s doing the action to). It means to put down. Lie is intransitive, so it doesn’t take an object. It means to recline.

Helena lay down her book.

Now she lies in the sun instead of reading.

In the first sentence, “book” is the object. In the second sentence, there is not object.

Now, it’s time for another complication. Laid is the past tense of  lay, and  lay is the past tense of lie.

Helena laid down her book.

Then she lay in the sun instead of reading.

Loose/Lose

Loose means not tight. Lose means to be deprived of or unable to find something.

These pants aren’t loose enough.

If I lose weight, they might fit, though.

Principal/Principle

Principal can be a noun or an adjective. As an adjective, it refers to the main or most important thing. Its meaning as a noun is similar; it means the head or leader of something. Principle is always a noun, and it refers to a fundamental idea or rule as well as beliefs and morals.

My principal concern is who will run the school.

Since the principal is the head of the school, that should be his job.

Yes, that’s the general principle.

But do you think his principles are good enough for the job?

Regardless/Irregardless

Regardless means without concern or attention. Irregardless is not a word. Regardless already means without regard, so irregardless would mean without without regard, which doesn’t make sense.

Martin, regardless of my advice, went to the library during the blizzard.

Than/Then

Than compares two things. Then indicates when something happened.

I like writing Facebook posts more than writing tweets.

I will write the Facebook posts and then the tweets.

Their, There, They’re

To/Too/Two

To indicates direction. Too means also. Two is the number 2.

I’m going to the basketball game.

Do you want to come too?

The two teams are both amazing.

Weather/Whether

Weather refers to the temperature outside. Whether is a conjunction used in choosing between two options and also expresses inquiry or investigation.

This is record-breaking hot weather.

I’m not sure whether we should go swimming at the lake or in the ocean.

Your/You’re

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