Commonly Confused Words Tips

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What´s the difference between "disinterested" and "uninterested"?

Disinterested vs. Uninterested

Disinterested: impartial.
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 vs. Aide

Aid (noun): a form of help.
(verb): to help.

Aide: an assistant.

What is the difference between whose and who's?

Whose & 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, Biennial, 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 & 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 vs. 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 vs. Illusion vs. Delusion vs. Elusion

Allusion: indirect reference

Illusion: unreal vision

Delusion: false belief

Elusion: escape

What´s the difference between "anybody" and "any body"?

Anybody vs. 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, Insure, 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?

Adherence vs. Adherents

Adherence: attachment

Adherents: followers

What´s the difference between "each other" and "one another"?

Each Other vs. 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- vs. Anti-

Ante-: A prefix meaning "before"

Anti-: A prefex meaning "against"

What´s the difference between "flammable" and "inflammable"?

Flammable vs. 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?

Regard vs. Regards

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"?

Principal vs. 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?"

"Obligated" versus "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?

Breath vs. Breathe vs. Breadth

Breath: respiration

Breathe (verb): to inhale and exhale

Breadth: width

How do I know when to use accept or except?

Accept vs. Except

Accept: To take, to receive.

Except (verb): To exclude.
(preposition): excluding

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 vs. Adept vs. Adopt

Adapt: to adjust

Adept: proficient

Adopt: to choose

Which is correct--allot or a lot?

Allot vs. 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"?

Percent vs. 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"?

Altogether vs. 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 vs. 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 vs. Brooch

Broach: to introduce (like a topic)

Brooch: an ornamental pin

Which is correct: "different from" or "different than"?

Different From vs. 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"?

Amount vs. 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?

Correct & Incorrect Words

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 vs. Advise

Advice (noun): Information; recommendation.

Advise (verb): to recommend; to give counsel.

What´s the difference between agenda and addenda?

Agenda vs. Addenda

Agenda: list of things to do

Addenda: additional items

What is the difference in ad and add?

Ad vs. Add

Ad: short for "advertisement"

Add: to join

What´s the difference between "to," "too," and "two"?

Two, To, Too

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 vs. 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?

Allowed vs. Aloud

Allowed: permitted

Aloud: audibly

What´s the difference between "bring" and "take"?

Bring vs. 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?

It's vs. Its

It's=it is
Its=shows possession

Example: "It's going to rain."
Example: "Put the book in its proper place."

What´s the difference between "adverse" and "averse"?

Adverse vs. Averse

Adverse: hostile, unfavorable

Averse: disinclined

What´s the difference between access and excess?

Access vs. Excess

Access: admittance

Excess: surplus

What´s the difference between "among" and "between"?

Among vs. 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?

Birthdate vs. Date of Birth and Birthday

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"?

They're, There, Their

they're=they are
their=shows possession

Example: "They're over there, admiring their new car."

What´s the difference between "titled" and "entitled"?

Titled vs. 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"?

Anxious vs. 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 vs. 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 vs. Edition

Addition: something added

Edition: One version of a printed work

What is the difference between "imply" and "infer"?

Imply vs. 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?

Air vs. Heir

Air: atmosphere

Heir: one who inherits

What is correct: all right or alright?

All Right

It is always two words, never "alright."

What´s the difference between "you´re," "your," and "yore"?

You're, Your, Yore

You're=you are
Your=shows possession
Yore=long ago

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 vs. 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 vs. 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?

-ceed, -cede, or -sede

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 vs. 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 vs. Assent

Ascent: Act of rising

Assent: Consent

What´s the difference between "allude" and "refer"?

Allude vs. Refer

An allusion is an indirect mention; a reference is a specific one.

What´s the difference between accede and exceed?

Accede vs. Exceed

Accede: to comply with; to give consent

Exceed: to surpass

What´s the difference between "good" and "well"?

Good vs. 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 vs. Irritate

Aggravate: "to add to" an already troublesome condition.
Irritate: "to vex, annoy, or chafe."

What´s the difference between "farther" and "further"?

Farther vs. 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?

First vs. 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 vs. 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 vs. 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"?

Allude vs. Elude

You "allude" to a book; you "elude" a pursuer.

What is the difference in altar and alter?

Altar vs. Alter

Altar: part of a church

Alter: to change

What´s the difference between ail and ale?

Ail vs. Ale

Ail: To be ill

Ale: A beer-like drink

What´s the difference between bullion and buouillon?

Bullion vs. Bouillon

Bullion: uncoined gold or silver

Buouillon: broth

What´s the difference between "indifferent" and "in different"?

Indifferent vs. 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 vs. 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?

final completion


How do I avoid redundancies?

main essentials


What´s the difference between "already" and "all ready"?

Already vs. All Ready

The order had "already" (previously) been shipped.
The order is "all ready" (all prepared) to be shipped.

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