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Words Confused Often

Words that are confused often by English learners

Many users of English find it difficult when they have to choose between two words which are very similar in spelling, but different in meaning. Given below is a list of such words with their individual meanings. This is sure to be a guide for your confident use of English, both spoken and written.


advice – an opinion or suggestion (noun)
advise – to tell somebody what to do (verb)
access- a way a reaching a place, a right to use something
excess – more than necessary
accept – to take what is offered
except – not including
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
aloud – laugh or speak out loud
allowed – permitted
altar – a sacred table in a place of worship
alter – to change
alternate – one after the other
alternative – another choice
aural – relating to the ears or hearing
oral – relating to the mouth; spoken
bear – (verb) to carry; to put up with
bare – (adjective) naked; to uncover
bow – to bend the head, the front of a ship
bough – a branch of a tree
birth – the event of a baby being born
berth - a bunk in a ship, train etc.
born – having started life
borne – carried
break – damage and separate into pieces; a pause
brake – a device for stopping a vehicle; to stop a vehicle
breach – to break a rule; a gap
breech – the back part of a gun barrel
brooch – a piece of jewelry
broach – to raise a subject for discussion
serial – happening in a series
cereal – a breakfast food made from grains
cast – to throw
caste – divisions in society among people
cord – a length of string
chord – a group of musical notes
course – a direction; a school subject; part of a meal
coarse – rough
compliment – to praise or express approval; an admiring remark
complement – to add to, so as to improve (verb); an addition that improves something (noun)
conscience – a part of the mind that tells us right and wrong
conscious – aware
counsel – advice; to advise
council – a group of people who manages or advises others
current – happening now; a flow of water, air or electricity
currant – a dried grape
dessert – the sweet course of a meal
desert – a waterless, empty area; to abandon someone
discrete – separate and distinct
discreet – careful, not to attract attention
disinterested – impartial
uninterested – not interested
draft – a first version of a piece of writing
draught – a current of air
drawer – a sliding storage compartment
draw (noun) – an even score at the end of a game
duel – a fight or contest between two people
dual – having two parts
illicit – illegal
elicit – to draw out a reply or a reaction
forward – onwards, ahead
foreword – an introduction to a book
grizzly – a type of bear
grisly – gruesome, revolting
horde – a large crowd of people
hoarde – a collection of things, especially kept in a secret place
lamp – an object emitting light
lamb – the young of a sheep
loan - something lent
lone – solitary
lose – to be deprived of; to be unable to find
loose – to unfasten; to set free; not fitting
lain – past participle of ‘lay’
lane – street
litre – unit of measurement of volume of liquids
litter – throw waste material around
law – rule
low – small in amount or degree
maid – domestic help
made – created
maze – labyrinth
maize – a kind of grain
mole- an animal; a permanent mark on the skin
mall – a shopping complex
nun – a female monk
none – no one
night – what follows the day
knight – to be given the title of a ‘lord’ by the king or queen
pale – faded
pail – bucket
palette – a board used in art for mixing colours
palate – the roof of the mouth
peddle – to sell goods
pedal – a foot-operated lever (n); to turn or press the pedals (verb)
peace – a state of non-violence
piece – a part of something
peer – to look closely
pear – a fruit
plait – braid
plate – a flat holder for something
poll – voting in an election
pole – a long slender piece of wood
pore – a tiny opening; to study something closely
pour – to flow or cause to flow
practise – to do something repeatedly, to gain skill
practice – the use of an idea or method; the work or business of a doctor, dentist etc.
pray – to ask for God’s blessing
prey – something that is hunted and eaten; victim
principle – a fundamental rule or belief
principal – most important; the head of a school
prawn – a shellfish
prone – likely to be affected by something (e.g. a disease)
price – the value of something
prize – a present earned by winning a competition
quiet – being silent
quite – very, remarkably
reminder – something that reminds you of something
remainder – left over
right – true, correct
rite – ritual, ceremony
rod – stick
road – a path
root – the part of a plant underground
route – path to a place
sent – past tense of ‘send’
scent – fragrance
site - a location
sight – the ability to see
sore – hurting; blister
soar – fly high
stationary – not moving
stationery – writing material
story – a tale or account
storey – a level of a building
tail – rear part of an animal
tale – story
tied – past tense of ‘tie’
tide – the rise and fall of the water level of the sea
weak – not strong
week – seven days from Sunday to Saturday
weight – how much something weighs
wait – stay somewhere expecting somebody or something
weather – the climate of a place at a particular time
whether - if
wail – cry loudly
whale – a sea animal
waste – (n) something that is of no use; (v) to leave things unused
waist – part of the body between hip and chest

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