Confusing Pairs of Words

Many pairs of words sound alike or nearly alike, but each has a different meaning. For example, affect means to influence something, while effect means the result of something. Words like these can be easily confused with each other.

You must be careful to use the correct word from a pair of such confusing words when you are writing and speaking. If not, you may express something different than what you mean to express.

For example, suppose you are writing about the importance of a good marriage. You write that martial bliss is a wonderful thing. The word martial refers to war. You should have written that marital bliss is a wonderful thing. The word marital refers to marriage.

You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself by addressing a letter to the administrator of your school as “Dear Principle.” The word principle means a fundamental truth. You should write “Dear Principal.” The word principal refers to the head of a school.

Here are some word pairs that are commonly confused. Learn the meanings of each of the words so that you use them correctly.

Accept – to take something that is given to you
Except – to leave out

Altar – a raised place used in religious services
Alter – to change

Ascent – to climb
Assent – to agree

Brake – a device for stopping or slowing a vehicle
Break – to come apart

Cite – to document
Site – a place

Coarse – rough
Course – moving from one point to the next

Complement – something that makes a thing whole or perfect
Compliment – to praise

Conscience – a sense of right and wrong
Conscious – state of being awake

Descent – coming from a higher place to a lower one
Dissent – to disagree

Confusing Pairs of Words, DesertDesert – a dry, hot, sandy area
Dessert – the sweet final part of a meal

Device – something made for a certain purpose
Devise – to invent something or develop a plan

Elicit – to bring out
Illicit – illegal

Eminent – famous or well respected
Imminent – about to happen

Faint – weak
Feint – a movement meant to deceive

Confusing Pairs of Words, DessertForth – forward
Fourth – an ordinal number

Here – at or in a place
Hear – to receive sound through one’s ears

Hoard – to save and store away
Horde – a very large group

Hole – an opening through something
Whole – an entire thing

Loath – reluctant
Loathe – greatly dislike

Palate – the roof of the mouth
Palette – an artist’s board for mixing paints

Peace – absence of fighting
Piece – a portion of something

Plain – clearly seen, heard, or understood
Plane – a flat surface

Pore – a very small opening in the skin
Pour – to cause something to flow

Precede – to come before
Proceed – to go forward

Shear – to cut the wool off a sheep
Sheer – so thin you can see through it

Stationary – to stand still
Stationery – writing paper

Waist – the part of the human body between the ribs and the hips
Waste – to use or spend carelessly

Weak – without strength
Week – a period of seven days

Don’t be CONFUSED! Learn the meanings of these words to use them correctly.