Digital WritingGrammarPersonal DevelopmentWritingImprove Your Writing: Understand The Difference Between These Confusable Words - The Ready Writers

April 1, 2019by readywriters

English is full of words, which sound the same or similar yet have different meaning and are easily confused. A computer spell checker will not highlight a word that is spelled correctly but used incorrectly. If you are uncertain about the correct spelling of a particular word, the only way to be certain is to look the word up in a dictionary and check the definition so you know you are using the correct word.

Below are some commonly confused words with their definitions and examples of their use.

Whether – is used in indirect questions to introduce one alternative.

Weather – is a noun meaning the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place.

E.g. I’m not sure whether he is from Lagos or from Ekiti.

I am certain that the weather is going to be fantastic tomorrow.

Affect – is a verb meaning to have an influence on

Effect – is a noun meaning a cause of change brought about by an agent.

Poor grammar may affect your essay marks.

Poor grammar had a huge effect on his academic achievements.

Uninterested means to find something boring or dull.

Disinterested means impartial.

I am uninterested in this book; it is totally boring.

The judge and jury are personally disinterested in the outcome of the case.

Loose – is an adjective meaning not fastened, contained or restrained.

Lose – is a verb and has many meanings such as not to win, to mislay etc

That roof tile is loose and might fall at any minute.

You must not lose that cheque.

Cite – is a verb meaning to quote as an authority or example.

Sight – is a noun meaning the ability to see or something that is seen.

Site – is a noun meaning a place or setting of something.

In a good essay, it is important to cite expert opinion.

In his old age he had poor sight.

This would be a good site for a new golf course.

Allowed – this is the past participle of the verb to allow and means given permission.

Aloud – this is an adverb and means using a (loud) voice.

You are not allowed to go to the cinema this evening.

He was asked to read the poem aloud.

Comprise – is a verb meaning to consist of or be composed of.

Compose – to make up the constituent parts of.

The USA comprises 50 states.

The USA is composed of 50 states.

Accept – is a verb and has many meanings among which are to receive something.

Except – is a preposition meaning ‘with the exclusion of’.

I would like you to accept this gift.

All his friends came to the party except Jim who was in hospital.

Elicit – is a verb meaning to bring or draw out/gather information.

Illicit – is an adjective meaning not sanctioned by custom or law.

I tried to elicit information from my interviewees.

The football manager was involved in an illicit affair.

Imply – To express or indicate indirectly.

Infer – To conclude from evidence or premises.

Somebody will imply something and the recipient of the implication will infer from it.

She tried to imply that I could not understand the question.

From what he said, I was able to infer that he did not understand the situation.

Incredible – so implausible as to elicit disbelief/astonishing

Incredulous – sceptical of disbelieving.

The golden tower was utterly incredible.

When I first saw the tower I was utterly incredulous.

Passed – this is the past tense of the verb to pass.

Past – the time before the present, no longer current.

He passed the ball to the striker.

He hoped that the unfortunate incident was now firmly in the past.

Historic -means having importance in or influence on history.

Historical – means ‘of or relating to the character of history.’

It was a wet day when Cook set off on his historic voyage.

The archaeological find was of major historical significance.

Assert – to express or maintain positively/affirm.

Ensure – to make sure or certain.

Assure – to give confidence/remove doubt.

He was very keen to assert his innocence.

I wanted to ensure that the car would be ready on time.

The mechanic was able to assure me that my car would be ready on time.

Complement – to complete, make whole or bring to perfection.

Compliment – an expression of praise, admiration or congratulation.

The wine complemented the fish perfectly.

The guests complimented her on the lovely meal.

Precede – to come before in time or rank.

Proceed – to go forward or onwards.

The abstract should precede the main body of the report.

I instructed him to proceed with the research.

Advice – is the noun

Advise – is the verb.

She gave me some good advice about the problem of noisy neighbours.

I asked him to advise me about my noisy neighbours.

Your – means belonging to you.

You’re – is the contracted form of ‘you are’.

Are these smelly things your shoes?

You’re going to have to get rid of these shoes, they’re beyond repair.

Loath – reluctant or unwilling

Loathe – to hate or detest.

I am loath to finish this report; I am uninterested in the subject.

I loathe this room; the wallpaper will have to be changed.

Climactic – relating to or resulting in a climax.

Climatic – relating to the climate.

The war was described as a climactic event.

While planning the voyage, he paid close attention to the climatic conditions.

Dependent – relying on or requiring the aid of another.

Dependant – one who relies on another especially for financial support.

I am dependent on my supervisor for some good advice.

He wanted to emigrate with his wife and all his dependants.

Council – an assembly or collection of persons.

Counsel – (to give) advice, opinions or advice.

He was elected to represent his class on the school council.

I would counsel you to pay the fine and draw a line under the matter.

Prophesy – to reveal by divine inspiration.

Prophecy – an inspired utterance of a prophet.

The mystic used to sit beneath the waterfall and prophesy.

He would sit next to the waterfall and deliver his prophecy.

Stationary – not moving.

Stationery – office supplies.

The broken down car was stationary.

Finding he had run out of pencils, Mr Bush ordered more stationery.

Economic – of or relating to the economy.

Economical – thrifty and prudent in management.

The country was experiencing a period of sustained economic growth.

The minister was accused of being somewhat economical with the truth.

Test your understanding of these confusable words with these exercises.

Culled from University of Bristol

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