A Guide To Writing in English: Easily Confused Words
|accept :: except
We are happy to accept your invitation to dinner.
Except: preposition, meaning ‘with the exception of’ or ‘but’.
The shop is open every day except Sunday.
adoptive :: adopted
Parents are ‘adoptive’
Mary and Sue are the adoptive parents of Michael.
Children are ‘adopted’
Michael was adopted at birth by Mary and Sue.
adverse :: averse
Bad or unfavorable
The ship sailed despite the adverse weather conditions.
To strongly dislike or be opposed to something
I am averse to all forms of violence.
affect :: effect
As a verb: 1. to make a display of liking or using; to put on a pretense of. 2. to cause a change or variation.
1. She affects the air of a rock star by dressing in leather. 2. Although she is a bit wild it doesn’t affect her ability to study.
As a verb: to cause to come into being. As a noun: an outcome or result.
1. Stopping smoking has positively effected by health. 2. The effect of stopping smoking is that I am healthier and happier.
all ready :: already
I have packed my suitcases and am all ready to go.
Before or previously
I have already visited Spain.
all together :: altogether
All of the objects, or people are in a single group
1. We put the English speakers all together in the class. 2. All together there are thirty of them.
Completely, usually, ‘on the whole’
I am not altogether sure that I understand. They seem to be learning a different meaning altogether.
allot :: a lot
A given period of time or quantity of something
We were allotted one hour to visit the Louvre during our tour of Paris.
A large quantity of something (see countable / uncountable nouns in the OEG)
There are a lot of paintings in the Louvre.
allusion :: illusion
An indirect reference to something
The tour guide alluded to the terrible hardship suffered by the pioneers.
A fantasy that may be or can be confused with reality
Although sawing the woman in half seemed real, it was only a clever illusion.
See also: delusion / illusion
altar :: alter
An area, usually in the form of a table, where religious worship and sacrifices take place.
The ancient Aztecs used to offer human sacrifices on their altars.
They altered the roads in the city center to make them pedestrian only.
ambiguous :: ambivalent
Having more than one meaning, open to different interpretations
Saying that there are fewer unemployed but that number of people without jobs has increased is very ambiguous.
Having mixed feelings
He was neither for nor against the new immigration laws – he maintained a very ambivalent attitude.
among :: between
Preposition used with three or more persons or things
Among the thirty candidates for the job there were only three that were properly qualified.
Preposition used with two persons or things
Between Jill and her sister there is a two-year age difference.
amoral :: immoral
Not concerned with morality
The Law is considered to be amoral – but this is highly questionable.
Not conforming to accepted standards of morality
Profiting from other people’s ignorance is considered to be immoral.
appraise :: apprise
The insurance inspector appraised the damage after the fire destroyed the house.
There was no indication that he was apprised of the consequences before he lit the fire.
augur :: auger
A sign of (a likely outcome) – often used in relation to interpreting the future
Finding a four-leafed clover is a good augur for the future.
A tool for making holes
The carpenter used an auger to drill the holes for the chair legs.
award :: reward
To bestow, a public recognition of honor
He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his services to the music industry.
There is a $250,000 reward for the capture of the murderer being offered by the police.