There are many confusing words in English. Some words either look the same (homonyms), or they sound the same (homophones). Homonyms are words that have the same spellings and pronunciations but different meanings. On the other hand, homophones are words that have the same pronunciations but have different spellings and meanings. 

It is important to learn the difference between these words; so you don’t use them in the wrong context.
Here is a list of commonly confused words in English.

A lot vs Allot vs A lot

  • A lot refers to a large number or amount of something. E.g. She has a lot of friends.
  • Allot is a verb. It means to give, share, or assign something for a purpose. E.g. I allot a percentage of my salary to charity.
  • Alot is not a word. It is a common mistake made by many English learners.

Accept vs Except

What’s the difference between accept and except?

  • Accept is a verb. It means to agree, to believe, or to receive something. E.g. He accepted the job offer. 
  • Except can be used as a preposition, conjunction, or verb. It means to exclude something. As a preposition, it means ‘but’. As a conjunction, it means ‘only’ or ‘with the exception of’. E.g. Everyone except Sally is coming to the engagement party.

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Advice vs Advise

What’s the difference between advice and advise?

  • Advice is a noun. It is an opinion that is offered by someone regarding a specific situation. E.g. She gave me some great advice. 
  • Advise is a verb. It means to give advice to someone or to notify someone about something. E.g. I advised her to study for her exam. 

Affect vs Effect

What’s the difference between affect and effect?

  • Affect is a verb. It means to change something or someone. E.g. Smoking can affect your lungs. 
  • Effect can be used as a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to the result of the change. E.g. The effect of a healthy diet is good for the body. As a verb, it means to effect change. E.g. Sally hoped that the Prime Minister would affect change in her country.

Apart vs A part

What’s the difference between apart and a part?

  • Apart can be an adverb, adjective, or a preposition. As an adverb, it means the separation of two or more things. E.g. We must stand 2 meters apart. As an adjective, it means separation or isolation. E.g. We live apart. As a preposition, it means ‘except for’ or ‘besides’. E.g. Apart from the extremely hot weather, I really enjoyed the summer holidays.  
  • A part is a phrase. It means a piece of something. E.g. She ate a part of my sandwich. 

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Assume vs Presume

What’s the difference between assume and presume?

  • Assume is a verb. It means to suppose something without evidence. For example, if my phone rings and I don’t know who is it might be, I can assume that it might be my friend. E.g. I assume it’s Yasmin calling.
  • Presume is a verb. It means to suppose something with some evidence or probability. For example, if my phone rings at 6 pm, and I know that my friend always rings me at 6 pm; then, I can presume that it will be my friend. E.g. I presume it’s Yasmin calling.

Bare vs Bear

What’s the difference between bare and bear?

  • Bare can be an adjective or a verb. As an adjective, it means not covered by anything. E.g. Don’t walk outside on bare feet. As a verb, it means to cover or to expose. E.g. The dog bares its teeth when it is angry.
  • Bear can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a large mammal. E.g. Polar bears are huge. As a verb, it means to hold, to tolerate, or to accept something. E.g. I can’t bear the thought of not seeing my dog again. 

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Borrow vs Lend

What’s the difference between borrow and lend?

  • Borrow is a verb. It means to take or to receive something from someone with the intention of giving it back. E.g. He borrowed a pen from me.
  • Lend is a verb. It means to give something to someone with the intention of getting it back. E.g. I lent Sam a pen. 

Bought vs Brought

What’s the difference between bought and brought?

  • Bought means to get something by paying money for it. E.g. I bought an expensive handbag yesterday. 
  • Brought means to carry or to take someone/something to a place. E.g. The waiter brought the food to our table. 

Breath vs Breathe

What’s the difference between breath and breathe?

  • Breath is a noun. It refers to the air that goes in and out of the lungs. E.g. I ran out of breath after running. 
  • Breathe is a verb. It refers to the process of inhaling and exhaling air. E.g. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. 

Change vs Exchange

What’s the difference between change and exchange?

  • Change is a verb. It means to make something different. E.g. Did you change your hair colour? 
  • Exchange is a verb. It means to give something and to receive something in return. E.g. We exchanged phone numbers. 

Chef vs Chief

What’s the difference between chef and chief?

  • Chef can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a professional cook. E.g. He is a chef. As a verb, it refers to the act of working as a chef however it is not commonly used in this way. 
  • Chief can be a noun or adjective. As a noun, it refers to a leader or ruler. E.g. She reported the missing books to the chief librarian. As an adjective, it refers to the most important thing. E.g. Ignorance was the chief reason for his mistakes. 

Desert vs dessert

What’s the difference between desert and dessert?

  • Desert can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means to leave a place or someone without permission or help. E.g. He was deserted by his friends. As a noun it refers to a dry, hot area with sand. E.g. She visited the desert in Dubai. 
  • Dessert is a noun. It’s the sweet course usually eaten after a meal. E.g. We had cheesecake for dessert. 

During vs While

What’s the difference between during and while?

  • During is a preposition. The sentence structure is: during + noun. E.g. He fell asleep during class. 
  • While is a conjunction. The first structure is: while + subject + verb. E.g. He fell asleep while he was watching the movie. The second structure is: while + gerund E.g. I take notes while listening in class.  

Each vs Every

What’s the difference between each and every?

Each refers to an individual person or thing. We use this word when there are two or more people or things. 

  • We can use ‘each’ with singular nouns. E.g. Each student in the class took turns to read.
  • We can use ‘each’ with plural nouns. E.g. Each of the children ran across the field. 
  • We can use ‘each’ as a pronoun. E.g. Each looks delicious. 

Every refers to a group of people or things that are considered as one. We use this word when there are three or more people or things. 

  • We can use ‘every’ with singular nouns. E.g. Every teacher has to attend the training day. 
  • We can use ‘every’ to determine how often something happens. E.g. I play basketball every Friday. 
  • We cant use ‘every’ with plural nouns or as a pronoun. 

In some cases ‘each’ and ‘every’ can be used interchangeably.

  • She has a ring on each finger.
  • She has a ring on every finger.

Both ‘each’ and ‘every’ refers to more than three things. 

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Everyday vs Every day

What’s the difference between everyday and every day?

  • Everyday is an adjective. It means normal. E.g. These are my everyday shoes. 
  • Every day is an adverbial phrase. It means each day. E.g. She exercises every day.

Famous vs Popular

What’s the difference between famous and popular?

  • Famous is an adjective. It means known by many people but not necessarily liked by everyone. E.g. J.K. Rowling is a famous author. 
  • Popular is an adjective. It means liked by many people. E.g. Alex is very popular in school. 

Get vs Take

What’s the difference between get and take?

  • Get is a verb. It means to obtain or receive something. E.g. I get a coffee every morning from the coffee shop.  
  • Take is a verb. It means to move something from its place. E.g. I take my car to the garage every year.

Heard vs Herd

What’s the difference between heard and herd?

  • Heard is a verb. It’s the past tense form of ‘hear’. E.g. They heard the announcement.  
  • Herd can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a large group of animals together. E.g. There was a herd of sheep on the farm. As a verb, it means to move a group of animals together. E.g. He was herding the sheep. 

House vs Home

What’s the difference between house and home?

  • House refers to a building in which people live. E.g. I bought a house last month. 
  • Home refers to where you live. E.g. I arrived home late last night. 

Ignorant vs Arrogant

What’s the difference between ignorant and arrogant?

  • Ignorant is an adjective. It refers to the lack of knowledge or awareness of something. E.g. She was too ignorant to realise that she was making the wrong decision. 
  • Arrogant is an adjective. It refers to an exaggerated sense of self-importance. E.g. He was arrogant and disrespectful.  

Its vs It’s

What’s the difference between its and it’s?

Its is a possessive pronoun. E.g. The cat is eating its food. 

It’s is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

E.g. It’s a huge house.

E.g. It’s been snowing for two hours. 

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Knew vs New

What’s the difference between knew and new?

  • Knew is a verb. It’s the past tense form of ‘know’. E.g. I knew how to play the piano when I was a child. 
  • New is an adjective. It refers to something or someone that you have recently discovered. E.g. Anna is a new student. 

Lie vs Lay

What’s the difference between lie and lay?

  • Lie is an intransitive verb. It means to be in a horizontal position. E.g. I need to lie down. The present tense form is lie, the past tense form is lay, and the past participle is lain. 
  • Lay is a transitive verb. It means to put or to place something in a flat or horizontal position. E.g. I lay my head on the table. The present tense form is lay, the past tense is laid, and the past participle is laid.

Lose vs Loose

What’s the difference between lose and loose?

  • Lose is a verb. It means when you are unable to find or to keep something. E.g. I always lose my car keys. 
  • Loose is an adjective. It refers to something that doesn’t fit tightly. E.g. These trousers are too loose. 

Much vs Many

What’s the difference between much and many?

  • Much is used with uncountable nouns. It means a large amount. E.g. The party was so much fun. 
  • Many is used with countable nouns. It means a large amount. E.g. She has many friends. 

No vs Know

What’s the difference between no and know?

  • No is the opposite of yes. It’s a negative response. It can also mean not any or none.

E.g. No, I can’t go to the cinema.

E.g. There’s no milk in the fridge.

  • Know is a verb. It means to have knowledge of something or to be familiar with someone or something. E.g. I know Sam, he’s my classmate.

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Peace vs Piece

What’s the difference between peace and piece?

  • Peace is a noun. It means freedom from disturbance. E.g. I enjoy peace and quiet. 
  • Piece can be a noun or verb. As a noun, it means a portion of something. E.g. He threw the toy, and it broke into pieces. As a noun it means to assemble something. E.g. I tried to piece together the broken toy. 

Practice vs Practise

What’s the difference between practice and practise?

Practice is a noun.

  • It can be used to refer to a habit or tradition. E.g. It’s a common practice to tip the waiter.
  • It can also be used to refer to training in a profession. E.g. I applied for the job at the new dental practice.
  • It can be used to refer to a repeated action to improve a skill. E.g. I go to football practice every day. 

Practise is a verb. When you practise something then you are performing the action.

  • It can refer to an action that’s a habit or tradition. E.g. She practises her religion.
  • It can refer to the act of training in a profession.  E.g. He practised as a doctor for nine years. 
  • It can refer to the act of doing something to improve a skill. E.g. I need to practise singing. 

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Quite vs Quiet

What’s the difference between quite and quiet?

  • Quite is an adverb. It refers to the extent or degree of something. It can mean ‘fairly’ or ‘completely’. E.g. It’s quite hot outside. 
  • Quiet is an adjective. It means making little or no noise. E.g. It was very quiet in the office. 

Raise vs Rise

What’s the difference between raise and rise?

  • Raise is a verb. It means to lift or move something. It can also mean to increase something. E.g. I raise my hand when I have a question.
  • Rise is a verb. It means to move upward and to increase. E.g. Sea levels rise every year. 

Stationary vs Stationery

What’s the difference between stationary and stationery?

  • Stationary is an adjective. It describes someone or something that is not moving or changing. E.g. The bus was stationary for an hour. 
  • Stationery is a noun. It refers to writing materials such as pens, paper, pencils, envelopes, etc. E.g. I went to the stationery shop last week. 

Suit vs Suite

What’s the difference between suit and suite?

  • Suit can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it refers to a type of clothing. E.g. He wore a suit to the wedding. As a verb, it can refer to something that is convenient or acceptable. E.g. What time would best suit you? As a verb, it can also refer to something that enhances features. E.g. Jeans don’t suit me. 
  • Suite is a noun. It refers to a set of connected rooms. E.g. They stayed in a suite for a week. 

Sympathy vs Empathy

What’s the difference between sympathy and empathy?

  • Sympathy is a noun. It means to acknowledge that someone is distressed. 
  • Empathy is a noun. It means to actually understand how someone else is feeling. 

There vs Their vs They’re

  • There can be used as an adverb. As an adverb, it refers to a place. E.g. She lives over there.
  • It can also be used as a pronoun. E.g. There is nothing wrong with her. 
  • Their is used to show that something belongs to someone. E.g. Their house is huge. 
  • They’re is a contraction of the words ‘they are’. E.g. They’re going to the shopping centre. 

To vs Too

  • To can be used for a few different reasons.

Preposition e.g. I went to the shop. 

Infinitive e.g. I want to eat a sandwich. 

Period of time e.g. He works from 9 to 5 on weekdays. 

Receiver of something, e.g. Sarah gave the book to Jay. 

  • Too is an adverb. It means also, very, or excessive, e.g. I was studying too. 

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Unqualified vs Disqualified

What’s the difference between unqualified and disqualified?

  • Unqualified is an adjective. It means not having the correct skills or knowledge for a job. E.g. The employer will not offer an interview to unqualified candidates. 
  • Disqualified is an adjective. It means not allowing someone to do something. E.g. The football player was disqualified. 

Want vs Need

What’s the difference between want and need?

  • Want refers to something you desire. It is not essential for your survival. E.g. I want to paint a picture.
  • Need refers to something necessary or essential for your survival. E.g. I need to eat some food.    

Was vs Were

What’s the difference between was and were?

  • Was is the singular past form of the verb to be. It is used with the pronouns I, he, she, and it. E.g. She was late. 
  • Were is the plural past form of the verb to be. It is used with the pronouns you, we, and they. E.g. We were late.

While vs Whilst

What’s the difference between while and whilst?

  • While can be a noun, conjunction, or verb. As a verb it means a period of time e.g. we played tennis for a while. As a conjunction, it means at the same time as e.g. They were chatting while the kids were playing. As a verb, it means to pass time e.g. They used to while away the school holidays at the park.
  • Whilst is a conjunction. It means at the same time as e.g. They were chatting whilst the kids were playing. It can’t be used as a noun or a verb.   

Who vs Whom

What’s the difference between who and whom?

Both are relative pronouns. 

  • Who is used when referring to the subject. It’s used when providing extra information about the subject in the sentence. It can also be used when asking about the subject. If you can replace ‘who’ with he, she, or they then you use ‘who’. E.g. Ali is my friend who is a teacher.
  • Whom is used when referring to the object. It’s used when providing extra information about the object in the sentence. It can also be used when asking about the object. If you can replace ‘whom’ with him, her, or them then you use ‘whom’. E.g. Ali is the man whom I told you about.

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Who’s vs Whose

What’s the difference between who’s and whose?

  • Who’s is the contraction of who is or who has. E.g. Who’s free next weekend?
  • Whose is the possessive form of who. E.g. Whose book is this?

Your vs You’re

What’s the difference between your and you’re?

  • Your is an adjective. It refers to something that belongs to the person being spoken to. E.g. Is that your laptop?
  • You’re is the contraction of ‘you are’. E.g. You’re so funny!