CONFUSING WORDS AND THEIR USAGE

A

  • A, An:  The choice of which to use depends on the sound–not the letter that follows.
  • Accept, except: Accept means to take or to receive.  Except means to exclude.
  • Adverse, Averse: Adverse means hostile or unfavorable.  Averse means disinclined.
  • Affect, EffectAffect is to influence, change.  Effect is to cause.
  • Afterward, Afterwards: Never use afterwards.
  • Aid, Aide: Aid is a form of help, to help.  Aide is an assistant.
  • A lot, Allot: A lot means a great deal.  Allot means to assign or distribute a share of something.
  • Allude, Elude: Allude means refer to a book.  Elude means to avoid a pursuer.
  • Allusion, Delusion, Elusion, Illusion: Allusion means indirect reference.  Delusion means false belief.
  • Elusion means to escape.  Illusion means unreal vision.
  • Already, All readyAlready means previously.  All ready means all prepared.
  • Alright:  Bad spelling of all right, but is common in written dialogue.
  • Altogether, All together: Altogether means entirely.  All together means in a group.
  • Ante-, Anti-: Ante- is a prefix meaning “before.”  Anti- is a prefix meaning “against.”
  • Anybody, Any Body: Anybody means any person.  Any body means any corpse or any human form.
  • As, LikeAs can introduce a clause, like cannot.
  • Assure, Ensure, Insure: Assure means to give someone confidence.  Ensure means o make certain.  Insure
  • means to protect against loss.
  • Awhile, A whileAwhile is an adverb meaning for a  short time.  A while is a noun phrase used when a
  • preposition is expressed.

B

  • Beside, BesidesBeside means by the side of.  Besides means in addition.
  • Breadth, Breath, Breathe: Breadth means width.  Breath means respiration.  Breathe means to inhale and exhale.

C

  • Can, MayCan implies ability.  May denotes permission.
  • Cannot, Can not: Cannot is always one word.
  • Credible, CredulousCredible means believable.  Credulous means willing to believe.

D

  • Disinterested, UninterestedDisinterested means unbiased by personal interest.  Uninterested means lack of interest.

E

  • Elicit, IllicitElicit means to draw forth.  Illicit means unlawful.
  • Everyday, Every dayEveryday pertains to every day, daily; or ordinary.

F

  • Farther, FurtherFarther means more distant, measurable sense.  Further means more or additional.

G

  • Get:  Imprecise or redundant usually for context; consider replacing.

H

  • Hanged, HungHanged is used in connection with executions.  Hung denotes any other kind of suspension.

I

  • Imply, InferImply means to give a hint or suggestion.  Infer means to derive by      reasoning.
  • Its, It’sIts is the possessive case of itIt’s is the contraction of it is.

J

  • Just exactly:  Redundant combination.

K

  • Kind of, Sort of:  Never use a or an after these expressions.

L

  • Lay, LieLay means to put or place.  Lie means to rest or recline.
  • Lead, LedLead used as a verb means to go before; used as a noun it is a metal.      Led is the past tense of verb lead meaning went before.
  • Lose, LooseLose means to misplace.  Loose means not fastened down.

M

  • Myself:  An intensive and reflexive pronoun; should never be used in a sentence without its corresponding noun or pronoun.  (I hurt myself.)

N

  • Nauseous, NauseatedNauseous means affected with nausea or causing nausea. You are nauseated.

O

  • On, Onto, On toOn can mean on top of.  Onto means upon, on and implies movement.  On to can have same meaning as onto.
  • Oral, VerbalOral means spoken.  Verbal means spoken also.
  • One another, Each otherEach other applies to two.  One another applies to three or more.

P

  • Passed, PastPassed is a verb for went or gone by.  Past means preceding.
  • People, PersonsPeople refers to masses.  Persons is for small groups.
  • Precede, ProceedPrecede means to come before.  Proceed means to go ahead.
  • Principal, Principle: Principal as a noun, refers to a person, except in specialized legal and financial terms. Principle a noun with abstract meanings.

Q

  • Quite:  Can mean completely.

R

  • Raise, RiseRaise as a verb means to lift or bring up; as a noun it means an increase.  Rise as a verb means to go or get up; as a noun it means reaction.
  • Regardless, IrregardlessRegardless means without regard or despite.  Irregardless is a nonstandard word for regardless and should not be used.

S

  • Set, SitSet means to place or put something.  Sit means to assume an upright position.

T

  • Than, ThenThan is used after a comparison.  Then means next.
  • That, WhichThat is used to indicate a person or thing as pointed out; is not set off by commas.  Which means which one; used in restrictive and non-restrictive clause to represent a specified antecedent; is set off by
  • commas.
  • That, Who:  Both can refer to a person.  Use whichever sounds better in a given context.
  • Their, There, They’re: Their means to show possession.  There means a location.  There is a contraction of they are.
  • Titled, Entitled: Titled refers to the name of a book play, etc.  Entitled means a right or a claim.
  • Toward, Towards: Toward is correct. Do not use towards.

U

  • Use, UtilizeUse can have same meaning as utilize and can be used in its place. Utilize cannot replace use.

V

  • Via:  Often treated as synonymous for by, through, or by means of.

W

  • Who, WhomWho is the correct form of a subject of a sentence or clause. Whom is used for the object of a verb or preposition.
  • Who’s, WhoseWho’s is the contraction for who is and who hasWhose is the possessive form of who.

Y

  • You’re, YourYou’re is the contraction of you areYour is the possessive form of you.

The Smarts

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This website is the work of Starla Criser, an author who has published more than 50 stories, both traditionally and through self-publishing routes.