Homonyms and Commonly-confused Words

There are some homonyms which are commonly confused. There are other words which are not really homonyms because they are not pronounced the same but are pronounced in a similar way. Listed below are some words whose meanings are commonly confused.

Accept and Except

The word accept means to receive or agree with something presented to you.

  • Example: I accepted her apology.
  • Example: I found the cost of rent unacceptable.

The word except means to exclude something.

  • Example: I like all vegetables except for broccoli.

Affect and Effect

The word affect has multiple usages. As a verb, affect means to influence something or to intentionally change one’s mannerisms. As a noun, affect refers to one’s emotional state.

  • Example: Spilling salt all over the chemistry experiment certainly affected the outcome.
  • Example: I affected a polite smile even though I was secretly upset.
  • Example: The doctor noted the patient’s flat affect during the examination.

The word effect also has multiple usages. Most commonly used as a noun, effect means the result of something. Less commonly used as a verb, effect means to bring something into existence.

  • Example: The nation was still feeling the effects of a decade-old economic policy.
  • Example: The activist group effected change in their community.

Cite, Site, and Sight

The word cite means to refer to or give credit to something.

  • Example: My mother would always cite the wisdom of the Greek philosophers.
  • Example: My assignment required me to cite five different sources.
  • Example: The last page of my research paper is the Works Cited page.

The word site means a place or location.

  • Example: We are supposed to get a new shopping mall, but right now it’s just a construction site.
  • Example: You will find medical advice on the WebMD website.

The word sight means a thing that is seen.

  • Example: Her smiling face was a sight for sore eyes.

Everyday and Every Day

The word everyday is an adjective that describes something that is routine and regular.

  • Example: I wore my everyday work clothes to the party.

The words every day are a combination of an adjective and a noun and refer to the specific recurrence of something on a daily basis.

  • Example: I brush my teeth every day.
  • Example: Every day, I try to remember to stretch.

Its and It’s

The word its is a possessive pronoun that is used to show when something belongs to an it.

  • Example: The old battery lost its ability to hold a charge.

The word it’s is a contraction of the words it is.

  • Example: It’s a good day to go for a stroll.

Lose and Loose

The word lose means to fail or to have something leave your possession.

  • Example: I would hate to see my team lose the baseball game.
  • Example: I didn’t mean to lose my math homework; I promise.

The word loose has multiple usages. As an adjective, it describes something which is not snug or tight. As a verb, it means to release something that was being held in place.

  • Example: My older brother’s hand-me-down t-shirts were always really loose on me.
  • Example: The archer loosed an arrow from his bow.

Principle and Principal

The word principle refers to a fundamental rule or guideline.

  • Example: I try to live by the principles of stoic philosophy.
  • Example: The physics professor gave a lecture on the principles of relativity.

The word principal has multiple usages. As an adjective, it describes the primary part of something. As a noun, it can refer to a high-ranking administrator or to the initial sum of money in a loan.

  • Example: Although the driver was charged with a crime, the principal offender was the person who broke into the building.
  • Example: The student had to visit the principal’s office after getting in trouble.
  • Example: Along with the $10,000 principal, I also had to pay 2% interest on my car loan.

Soul and Sole

The word soul refers to a spirit.

  • Example: The old piano instructor down the street has a kind soul.

The word sole describes when something is alone. It also refers to a type of fish.

  • Example: He was the sole third grader who dared stand up to the bully.
  • Example: I ordered the baked sole with a side of greens.

Stationary and Stationery

The word stationary describes something that is not supposed to move.

  • Example: The traffic director advised our car to remain stationary.

The word stationery refers to paper office supplies.

  • She loved to import fancy stationery from Holland and Japan.

Then and Than

The word then is used to mark something in time.

  • Example: The role of women in society was much more limited back then.
  • Example: To get to the donut shop, first walk down the street, then turn left.

The word than is used to make comparisons.

  • Example: I would rather eat my hat than go skydiving.
  • Example: My love of fried chicken is greater than my fear of indigestion.

They’re, There and Their

The word then is used to mark something in time.

  • Example: The role of women in society was much more limited back then.
  • Example: To get to the donut shop, first walk down the street, then turn left.

The word than is used to make comparisons.

  • Example: I would rather eat my hat than go skydiving.
  • Example: My love of fried chicken is greater than my fear of indigestion.

To, Two, and Too

The word to is most commonly used as a preposition to mark the direction something takes. It can also be used with infinitives in phrases like how to.

  • Example: They went to the movies.
  • Example: They showed me how to install a spare tire.

The word two is the word form of the number 2.

  • Example: I ordered two milkshakes for Sam and Pam.

The word too has multiple usages. It is used as an adverb to describe something that is taken to an extraneous degree. It is also used as a synonym of the word also.

  • Example: It was too hot outside, so I stayed indoors.
  • Example: We stayed indoors all summer too.
  • Example: I, too, believe in liberty and justice for all.

Until and Till

The word until is used to mark the duration of something.

  • Example: I will love you until the stars fall from the sky.
  • Example: Head north until you reach the gas station.

The word till has multiple usages. As a verb, it means to plow soil. It is also an informal abbreviation of the word until. As an abbreviation, till should be avoided in academic writing.

  • Example: The farmer tilled the land.

Example: I will love you till the stars fall from the sky.

Weather and Whether

The word weather refers to climate.

  • Example: Stormy weather is approaching.

The word whether is used to show that something is conditional or being determined.

  • Example: I waited to hear whether I won the poetry contest.
  • Example: Whether you move to Tokyo or Ontario is up to you.

Where and Were

The word where is used to mark the location of something.

  • Example: Where can I find the best Cuban sandwich in town?
  • Example: I was not sure where to go.

The word were has multiple usages as a verb. It can also be used as a prefix to refer to a supernatural monster that is half-human and half-beast.

  • Example: They were first in line.
  • Example: Bob and Joe were swimming last night when they heard thunder overhead.
  • Example: If I were a rich man, I wouldn’t have to work hard.
  • Example: The movie was about a love triangle between a girl, a werewolf, and a vampire.

Whose and Who’s

The word whose is used to mark possession.

  • Example: Whose pencil is this?
  • Example: I only want to vote for a mayor whose policies serve the greater good.

The word who’s is a contraction of the words who is.

  • Example: Who’s going to clean the dishes?

Alright and All Right

The word alright is an adjective that informally describes something that is of average, acceptable quality.

  • Example: I was feeling alright after I recovered from my cold.

It is best to avoid the use of alright in academic writing.

Words with More than One Spelling

Some words have multiple accepted spellings. Maintain a consistent usage of one spelling throughout your work.

  • Gray and grey
  • Judgment and judgement
  • Color and colour
  • Aluminum and aluminium
  • Travelled and traveled
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