Commonly confused words
Take a look at these two sentences – one of them contains a mistake:
I poured over book after book.
We pored over the catalogues.
Are you uncertain which one is right? There are a lot of words in English that look or sound alike but have very different meanings, such as pore and pour or flaunt and flout. It’s easy to get them confused and most electronic spellcheckers won’t be much help in this type of situation: they can tell you if a word has been spelled wrongly but they can’t generally flag up the misuse of a correctly spelled word.
Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause people problems. The words follow the accepted British English spelling.
accept - to receive
except - with the exclusion of
advice - recommendation (noun)
advise - to recommend (verb)
affect - to influence (verb); emotional response (noun)
effect - result (noun); to cause (verb)
assistance - help
assistants - helpers
board - piece of wood
bored - uninterested
brake - device for stopping
break - destroy; make into pieces
device - a plan; a tool or utensil
devise - to create
elicit - to draw out
illicit - illegal, forbidden
formally - conventionally, with ceremony
formerly - previously
hear - to sense sound by ear
here - in this place
lessen - to decrease
lesson - something learned and/or taught
personal - intimate; owned by a person
personnel - employees
principal - foremost (adj.); administrator of a school (noun)
principle - moral conviction, basic truth
scene - place of an action; segment of a play
seen - viewed; past participle of "to see"
stationary - standing still
stationery - writing paper
whose - possessive for "of who"
who's - contraction for "who is"
your - possessive for "of you"
you're - contraction for "you are"
The Let's Talk Lingo team!