Commonly Confused Words Tips
Read these 71 Commonly Confused Words Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Writing tips and hundreds of other topics.
Commonly Confused Words Tips
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What´s the difference between "disinterested" and "uninterested"?
Example: Let a disinterested person judge our dispute. (an impartial person)
Uninterested: not interested in.
Example: This man is uninterested in our dispute. (couldn't care less)
What is the difference between aid and aide?
Aid (noun): a form of help.
(verb): to help.
Aide: an assistant.
What is the difference between whose and who's?
Whose: The possessive form of "who"
"Whose watch is this?"
Who's: The contraction of "who" and "is"
"Who's on first base?"
What´s the difference between biannual, biennial, and semiannual?
"Biannual" and "semiannual" both mean "twice a year." "Biennial" means "every two years." Because of the possible confusion between "biannual" and "biennial," use "semiannual" when you want to describe something that occurs twice a year.
What is the difference between then and than?
Then: An adverb indicating time
"Mother explained, and then I understood what she meant."
Than: A conjunction that is used in comparisons
"I have more books than I expected."
What is the difference between "affect" and "effect"?
"Affect" is generally used as a verb meaning to change, assume, or influence. "Effect" is usually a noun meaning impression or result; however, "effect" can also be a verb meaning to bring about.
To effect the sale from your account, we require written instructions.
The president's decision will have a direct effect on the department.
The decision will affect my job.
Establishing this account will not affect your tax liability.
What´s the difference in allusion and illusion?
Allusion: indirect reference
Illusion: unreal vision
Delusion: false belief
What´s the difference between "anybody" and "any body"?
"Anybody" means "any person." "Any body" means "any corpse," or "any human form," or "any group."
What´s the difference between "ensure," "insure," and "assure"?
Ensure: to make certain.
Insure: to protect against loss.
Assure: to give someone confidence. (The object of this verb should always refer to a person.)
I want to ensure (make certain) that nothing can go wrong.
I want to assure you (give you confidence) that nothing will go wrong.
I want to insure this necklace (protect it against loss) for $5,000.
What is the difference between adherence and adherents?
What´s the difference between "each other" and "one another"?
Use "each other" to refer to two persons or things, and "one another" for more than two persons or things.
Ex: You and the other trustee may grant each other individual authority.
Ex: You and the other trustees may grant one another individual authority.
What´s the difference between ante- and anti-?
Ante-: A prefix meaning "before"
Anti-: A prefex meaning "against"
What´s the difference between "flammable" and "inflammable"?
To quote "Strunk & White":
Flammable is an oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning "combustible" is "inflammable." But some people are thrown off by the "in-" and think "inflammable" means "not combustible." For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosives are marked "flammable." Unless you are operating such a truck and hence are concerned with the safety of children and illiterates, use "inflammable."
Which is correct--regards or regard?
Use "in regard to," "with regard to," "regarding," or "as regards." Never use "in regards to." (The other acceptable use is "Give my regards to Broadway.")
What´s the difference between "principal" and "principle"?
"Principle" is only a noun, and all of its meanings are abstract. "Principal" is both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it generally refers to a person, except in specialized legal and financial terms.
Ex: Approximately $40 of your payment goes repay the principal balance; the rest are interest payments.
Ex: I have to meet with the principal of my child's school.
Ex: We have to act on the principle that our customers are important.
what is the proper usage of "obligated" vs. "obliged?"
"Obligate," meaning 1. to bind or compel, legally or morally and 2. to commit (money, funds, etc.) to meet an obligation, has connotations of legal and ethical constraints. "Oblige," meaning 1. to constrain by physical, moral, or legal force or by circumstance and 2. to put in one's debt or do a favor or service for, has connotations of constraints more closely associated to protocol, etiquette, and gratitude. It is usually considered more appropriate to use "oblige" to express appreciation, e.g. "They obliged us by not bringing their children" and "John was much obliged for your assistance."
What is the difference between breath and breathe?
Breathe (verb): to inhale and exhale
How do I know when to use accept or except?
Accept: To take, to receive.
Except (verb): To exclude.
Example: I would accept your criticism, except you don't know what you're talking about.
What is the difference in adapt and adept?
Adapt: to adjust
Adopt: to choose
Which is correct--allot or a lot?
allot: To assign or distribute a share of something.
a lot: a great deal. (NOT: alot!!)
What´s the difference between "percent" and "percentage"?
In normal usage, "percent" should always be accompanied by a number. Otherwise, use "percentage."
Ex: A large percentage of the population likes chocolate.
Ex: Approximately 47 percent of the customers ordered dessert.
What´s the difference between "altogether" and "all together"?
He is "altogether" (entirely) too lazy.
The papers are "all together" (all in a group) in the binder.
What´s the difference between "lay" and "lie"?
"Lay" means to put or place and always requires an object to finish its meaning. "Lie" means to recline or rest.
Examples of "Lay":
Please lay your pencils on the desk.
I laid the pencil on your desk yesterday.
I have laid the pencil on your desk many times.
I am always laying the pencils on your desk.
Examples of "Lie":
John lies in bed all morning.
He lay in the sick room yesterday afternoon.
He has lain in bed all weekend.
He is lying in bed as we speak.
How do I use the word comprise?
This literally means "embrace." A zoo comprises mammals, reptiles, and birds (because it "embraces" or "includes" them). But animals do not comprise (embrace) a zoo--they constitute a zoo.
What´s the difference between broach and brooch?
Broach: to introduce (like a topic)
Brooch: an ornamental pin
Which is correct: "different from" or "different than"?
"Different" always takes the preposition "from." It is never, ever, ever "different than," even though you hear that frequently. An easy way to remember that is that you'd always say "differs from," not "differs than." Same rule for "differently."
What´s the difference between "amount" and "number"?
Use "amount" for things in bulks, as in "a large amount of money." Use "number" for individual items, such as "a large number of customers."
What common phrases should I avoid?
afterwards ("afterward" is correct)
come and see me ("come to see me" is correct)
in route ("en route" is correct)
irregardless ("regardless" is correct)
more importantly ("more important" is correct 99% of the time)
secondly, thirdly (use "second," "third," etc.)
towards ("toward" is correct)
What is the difference between advice and advise?
Advice (noun): Information; recommendation.
Advise (verb): to recommend; to give counsel.
What´s the difference between agenda and addenda?
Agenda: list of things to do
Addenda: additional items
What is the difference in ad and add?
Ad: short for "advertisement"
Add: to join
What´s the difference between "to," "too," and "two"?
Don't confuse these words!
Example of usage: "The two boys went to the store. Their sister went, too."
too=also, or to a greater extent. Example: "Too much sun is bad for you."
Which is correct--"seek" or "find"?
Seek: To endeavor to obtain or reach.
Find: To come upon something by chance.
"Seek" is goal-driven.
"Find" is free of any goal.
Example: "Seek and you will find."
What´s the difference in allowed and aloud?
What´s the difference between "bring" and "take"?
"Bring" indicates motion toward the writer; "take" indicates motion away.
Ex: Your investment takes you over the minimum balance requirement.
Ex: Waiter, bring me more Dr Pepper.
What´s the difference between IT´S and ITS?
Example: "It's going to rain."
Example: "Put the book in its proper place."
What´s the difference between "adverse" and "averse"?
Adverse: hostile, unfavorable
What´s the difference between access and excess?
What´s the difference between "among" and "between"?
"Between" is used when referring to two persons or things; among is generally used when referring to more than two persons or things.
Ex: We will divide the estate between the two heirs.
Ex: We will divide the estate among the three heirs.
What is correct: birthdate, birthday, or date of birth?
There is no such word as "birthdate." It's either "date of birth" or "birthday."
What´s the difference between "there," "their," and "they´re"?
Example: "They're over there, admiring their new car."
What´s the difference between "titled" and "entitled"?
"Titled" refers to the name of a book, play, etc. "Entitled" means a right or a claim.
Please refer to page 2 in the section titled "How to Contact Us."
As the sole heir, you are entitled to the entire estate.
What´s the difference between "anxious" and "eager"?
Both "anxious" and "eager" mean "desirous," but "anxious" also implies fear or concern.
I am "anxious" to hear whether I got the job.
I am "eager" to hear about your new job.
What´s the difference between "fewer" and "less"?
"Fewer" refers to numbers and is used with plural nouns. "Less" refers to amount or degree and is used with singular nouns.
Ex: There is less crime because there are fewer criminals.
What´s the difference between addition and edition?
Addition: something added
Edition: One version of a printed work
What is the difference between "imply" and "infer"?
These are not interchangeable. Something implied is something suggested or indicated, though not expressed. Something inferred is something deduced from evidence at hand.
Farming implies early rising.
Since he was a farmer, we inferred that he got up early.
What´s the difference between air and heir?
Heir: one who inherits
What is correct: all right or alright?
It is always two words, never "alright."
What´s the difference between "you´re," "your," and "yore"?
Example: "You're going to be a great writer!"
Example: "Your hair looks nice today."
Example: "Things were different in days of yore."
What´s the difference between "both" and "each"?
"Both" means "the two considered together," and "each" refers to the individual members of a group considered separately.
Ex: We require an authorization form signed by both owners.
Ex: We require a separate form for each person's account.
What is the difference in alternate and alternative?
Alternate (noun): substitute
(verb): to take turns
Alternative (noun): one of several things from which to choose.
How do I know when to use -sede, -ceed, and -cede?
Only ONE word ends in "sede": supersede.
One THREE words end in "ceed": exceed, proced, and succeed.
All other words ending with the sound of "seed" are spelled "cede:" precede, secede, recede, concede, accede, intercede.
What´s the difference between bridal and bridle?
Bridal: concerning the bride or wedding
Bridle (noun): means of controlling a horse
(verb): to take offense
What is the difference in ascent and assent?
Ascent: Act of rising
What´s the difference between "allude" and "refer"?
An allusion is an indirect mention; a reference is a specific one.
What´s the difference between accede and exceed?
Accede: to comply with; to give consent
Exceed: to surpass
What´s the difference between "good" and "well"?
"Good" is an adjective; "well" is normally an adverb.
The local ballet troupe performed well.
The performance of the local ballet troupe was good.
What is the difference between "irritate" and "aggravate"?
Aggravate: "to add to" an already troublesome condition.
Irritate: "to vex, annoy, or chafe."
What´s the difference between "farther" and "further"?
"Farther" refers to distance; "further" refers to a greater degree or a greater extent.
Ex: We will discuss this matter further.
Ex: The post office is farther away than the grocery store.
Which is correct--first or firstly?
Always use the following forms:
Correct: first, second, third, etc.
Incorrect: firstly, secondly, thirdly, etc.
What´s the difference between "may" and "can"?
"May" and "might" are used to imply permission or possibility. "Can" and "could" refer to ability or power.
Ex: We can accept your instructions.
Ex: You may go to the party.
Ex: It may (might) rain tomorrow.
Ex: She could see the lake from her window.
What´s the difference between "nauseous" and "nauseated"?
Nauseous: sickening to contemplate.
Nauseated: sick to the stomach.
Do not, therefore, say "I feel nauseous," unless you are sure you have that effect on others.
What´s the difference between "allude" and "elude"?
You "allude" to a book; you "elude" a pursuer.
What is the difference in altar and alter?
Altar: part of a church
Alter: to change
What´s the difference between ail and ale?
Ail: To be ill
Ale: A beer-like drink
What´s the difference between bullion and buouillon?
Bullion: uncoined gold or silver
What´s the difference between "indifferent" and "in different"?
She was "indifferent" (not caring one way or another) to the offer.
He liked the offer, but he wanted it expressed "in different" (in other) words.
Which is correct: cannot or can not?
"Cannot" is always one word. Even though you can probably think of examples where you want to make it two words, don't. (Ex: You can go to the store, or you can not go to the store.) Try to rewrite it for more clarity instead.
How do I avoid redundancies?
How do I avoid redundancies?
What´s the difference between "already" and "all ready"?
The order had "already" (previously) been shipped.
The order is "all ready" (all prepared) to be shipped.