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Commonly Confused Words

These are those words that we sometimes get confused, spell incorrectly, use incorrectly, etc. Spell check software
will not help you find these errors. You must do it yourself!

“A lot” is always two words, regardless of how it is being used.


• He gave me a lot of jellybeans.
• We played baseball in a lot behind the old house.

“A part” vs. “Apart”


• Use “a part” when you mean someone has a role or function in something.
o The battery is a part of your car. He joined the Army to be a part of something bigger
than himself.
• Use “apart” when you mean away from.
o The couple spent some time apart from one another to sort out their issues.

“Accept” vs. “Except”


• Use accept when you mean to take or receive something; consent to something.
o I accept your challenge and will duel with you at dawn.
• Use except when you are excluding something or making an exception.
o I can meet you for pizza on any day except Monday.

“Affect” vs. “Effect”


• Affect is usually a verb meaning to have an influence on.
• Effect is usually a noun, like cause and effect.
• When you affect something, you have an effect on it.

“Amid” vs. “Among” vs. “Between”


• Amid means in the middle of something.
• Among means more in the company of something.
• Between means the space that separates two things or the combination of things.

“Ascent” vs. “Assent” vs. “Accent”


• Ascent means to move upward or climb. We made our ascent up the mountain.
• Assent means to agree with or give in to.
• Accent is the funny way we talk down South!

“Breath” vs. “Breathe”


• Breath is a noun. I took a breath of fresh air.
• Breathe is a verb. I must breathe to survive.
• Read these aloud when you use them to ensure they are correct!

“Capital” vs. “Capitol”


• Capital means upper case letters (A, B, C), a serious crime, most important, relating to monetary assets, the
capital city.
• Capitol is the building where the legislature meets.

“Cereal” vs. “Serial”


• Cereal is what you may have eaten for breakfast this morning.
• Serial means it comes in parts/pieces that appear regularly: a newspaper is a serial publication because it
comes out every day OR a person is called a serial killer because s/he has killed others on a regular basis.

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“Chose” vs. “Choose”
• Chose is the choosing of something in the past.
o He chose to take English during the Fall quarter.
• Choose means choosing something right now.
o The boy must choose what flavor of ice cream he wants.

“Cite” vs. “Site” vs. “Sight”


• Cite is to document, like a works cited page.
o Your research paper required you to cite three sources.
• Site is a place, like a website or a jobsite.
• Sight has to do with your vision.
o I could not get a clear shot at the deer because a tree was in my line of sight.

“Coarse” vs. “Course”


• Coarse is what my beard feels like after a day or two of not shaving.
• Course is this class you are taking.

“Colonel” vs. “Kernel”


• Colonel is the rank in the military.
• Kernel is each piece of corn.

“Counsel” vs. “Council” vs. “Consul”


• Counsel is a noun OR verb-your lawyer is your counsel, but she counsels you too.
• Council is an official body or group.
• Consul is an official who resides in a foreign country as a representative.

“Desert” vs. “Dessert”


• The desert is the place without a lot of rain/moisture.
• Dessert is what you eat after meals (before if you’re lucky!).
• Just remember that dessert has two S’s because you always want seconds!

“Dissent” vs. “Descent” vs. “Decent”


• Dissent is to have a different opinion, especially in terms of politics or religion.
• Descent is your heritage or a downward movement.
• Decent means in good taste.
o He is a decent man.

“Definitely” vs. “Defiantly”


• Definitely means that you are certain to do something.
• Defiantly is to do something boldly or full or resistance.
• This error can occur if you spell a word like definitely incorrectly and use the first word the spell check
recommends instead of browsing the choices for the correct form.

“Elicit” vs. “Illicit”


• Elicit means to provoke or ask for a response.
• Illicit is something that is not permitted by law.

“Everyday” vs. “Every day”


• Everyday is an adjective, so it is usually right before a noun and refers to things that are ordinary.
o Brushing your teeth is an everyday activity.
• Every day is an adjective (every) plus a noun (day). Every day means that it occurs each day. If you mean
each day, then use every day!

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o I brush my teeth every day.

“Farther” vs. “Further”


• Farther refers to physical distance. I went farther on my walk than Joe did.
• Further refers to something done in addition or to an increased degree.

“Good” vs. “Well”


• Good is (usually) an adjective.
o I chose a good book.
• Well is usually an adverb, but it can also be an adjective meaning healthy. Well can be a noun for a place in
the ground that water comes from.
o I sang well at the concert. I am well now that the medicine is working. We dug a well in the yard.

“Here” vs. “Hear”


• Here means a place.
o I am standing here.
• Hear has to do with your ears.
o I hear what you are saying.

“Its” vs. “It’s”


• Its is the possessive of it.
o The dog ate its food.
• It’s=it is. If you don’t mean IT IS, then don’t use it’s!
o It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

“Loose” vs. “Lose”


• Loose means not tight, tied, or fastened.
o My shoestrings came loose while I ran.
• Lose means you misplaced something.
o I lose my keys once a week.
• Read these aloud when you use them to ensure they are correct!

“May be” vs. “Maybe”


• May be is part of a verb. If you have a word that ends in –ing immediately after may be, then you mean it
as two words.
o We may be going on vacation if we have the money.
• Use maybe like you would possible/might.
o Maybe she has the right answer.

“Past” vs. “Passed”


• Past=time, as in things that have already happened. I have a troubled past. Past tense.
• Passed=usually refers to action, movement. We passed the scene of the crime slowly.

“Principle” vs. “Principal”


• Principle is a basic rule or belief you live by.
• Principal is the person who runs the high school, or it is the most important item.

“Quiet” vs. “Quite” vs. “Quit”


• Quiet is what you must be in the library.
• Quite means to an extreme or completely.
o He was quite tired after running 10 miles.
• Quit means to give up.

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o I quit my job because I couldn’t get a raise.

“Regardless” vs. “Irregardless”


• Regardless means without regard. He drives too fast regardless of the consequences.
• Irregardless is not a word, so stop using it!

“Rein” vs. “Reign” vs. “Rain”


• Reins are the things you pull on to make the horse stop.
• Reign is the period of time a ruler in is power.
• Rain is the weather condition.

“Right” vs. “Write” vs. “Rite”


• Right is an adjective or noun.
o We have many rights in America. Do the right thing.
• Write is what you do at school with a pen and paper.
• Rite is a noun referring to a ritual: funeral rites, rites or passage, etc.

“Stationary” vs. “Stationery”


• Stationary means not moving. I rode the stationary bike at the gym.
• Stationery is the material you write letters on.

“Supposed to” vs. “Suppose”


• Supposed to is the past tense of suppose. Something that should have been done in the past.
o I was supposed to do my homework right after school.
• Suppose is present tense or happening right now.
o I suppose that she can come eat dinner with us.

“Then” vs. “Than”


• Use then when referring to time.
o I went to the store then I went home.
• Use than for comparisons.
o Five is greater than four.

“To” vs. “Too” vs. “Two”


• To is a part on an infinitive (to+verb). To is a preposition.
o I want to go home. I went to the store.
• Too means you have more than necessary.
o You gave me too much change.
• Two=2.

“There” vs. “Their” vs. “They’re”


• There refers to place.
o I went over there to find my candy.
• Their is the possessive of they.
o I bought their present at the mall.
• They’re=they are. If you don’t mean THEY ARE, then don’t use they’re!
o They’re the best friends ever.

“Used to” vs. “Use”


• Used to is the past tense of use. Something done in the past.
o I used to go swimming every day during the summertime.
• Use is present tense or happening right now.

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o I use my grammar study guide on every assignment.
• You CANNOT “use to” do anything!

“Whether” vs. “Weather”


• Use whether in an either or sense.
o I am going whether you like it or not.
• Use weather to describe atmospheric conditions.
o Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.