It happens to everyone, perhaps you writing a paper or chatting a friend and have to ask yourself, "Is it ‘borrow’ me or ‘lend’ me? A lot or Allot?" Every now and then, even the most experienced writers have to stop and check a dictionary or Google search to be assured of the correct use of the words.
There is no doubt that we normally come across some English words that make us to be bewildered, they either look alike, sound alike or, worst of all, look and sound alike, but have completely different meanings (homonyms)
For the fact that knowledge is inevitable on all human beings, and learning is a continuous process, I hereby present 30+ commonly confused words below, which may save you from searching on Google every time.
Accept vs. Except
Accept (verb) - to receive
Example: Please accept my condolence, said the man.
Except (conjunction) - apart from; otherwise than; were it not true
Example: I answered all the exam questions except number 7, it was very difficult.
Affect vs. Effect
These two are tricky because each word can act as both a noun and a verb. While it's common to see "affect" working as a verb and "effect" working as a noun, both can operate as different parts of speech. Let's take a look:
Affect (verb) - to have an effect on; influence; produce a change in; to stir the emotions
Example: The dog's death affected his owners.
Affect (noun) - feeling or emotion, as it relates to psychology
Example: One of the telltale signs of love is persistent positive affect.
Effect (verb) - to create or to cause
Example: The present government is trying to effect positive change in the people of Nigeria.
Effect (noun) - anything brought about by a cause or agent; result
Example: The partial lock-down in the State has little effect on the spread of COVID-19.
All Intensive Purposes vs. All Intents and Purposes
"All intensive purpose" is an incorrect use of the phrase "all intents and purposes."
"All intents and purposes" is a phrase that means "for all practical purposes" or "under most usual situations."
Example: For all intents and purposes, she planned to buy the refrigerator but still wanted to check the reviews.
A Lot vs. Allot
A lot (noun phrase) - many
Example: A lot of students are currently writing WAEC Exams.
Note - "A lot" is always two separate words. "Alot" is not a real word.
Allot (verb) - to distribute, give or assign
Example: Ten minutes were allotted to each of the participants in the debate.
Allusion vs. Illusion
Allusion (noun) - an indirect reference
Example: The Austin Powers movies often make allusions to the James Bond films.
Illusion (noun) - a false idea or conception; belief or opinion not in accord with the facts; an unreal, deceptive, or misleading appearance or image
Example: Most photographic illusions look like real images.
Awhile vs. A While
Awhile (adverb) - for a while; for a short time
Example: The guests planned to stay awhile.
A while (noun) - for a short time; when "while" is used as the object of the preposition (i.e., for a while), then the "a" is separated from the "while"
Example: The guests planned to stay for a while.
Bad vs. Badly
Bad (adjective) - not good
Example: The food smells bad.
Badly (adverb) - not well; in a bad manner; harmfully; incorrectly; wickedly; unpleasantly
Example: Kenny plays tennis very badly.
Borrow vs. Lend
Borrow (verb) - to take or accept something for a short time with the intention of returning it to its rightful owner
Example: May I borrow a pencil, please?
Lend (verb) - to give something for a short time with the intention of getting it back
Example: Would you please lend me a pencil?
Breath vs. Breathe
Breath (noun) - air taken into the lungs and then let out
Example: Take a deep breath.
Breathe (verb) - to inhale and exhale
Example: Just calm down and breathe.
One way to differentiate between the two is to remember that the noun, breath, is pronounced with an EH vowel sound, as in "bed." Meanwhile, breathe is pronounced with an EE vowel sound, as in "sheen."
Complement vs. Compliment
Complement (noun) - that which completes or brings to perfection; (verb) - to make complete
Example: Red wine is a nice complement to a steak dinner.
Compliment (noun) - something said in admiration, praise, or flattery; (verb) - to pay a compliment to; congratulate
Example: She gave me a nice compliment when she said I looked thin.
Comprise vs. Compose
Comprise (verb) - to include; to contain; to consist of; to be composed of
Example: The classroom comprises of 100 pupils.
Compose (verb) - to form in combination; make up; constitute
Example: Thirty three local government councils compose Oyo State.
Desert vs. Dessert
Desert (verb) - to forsake or abandon; to leave without permission; to fail when needed
Example: Soldiers should not desert their posts.
Desert (noun) - dry, barren, sandy region
Example: The largest desert in the world is the Sahara.
Dessert (noun) - a sweet course served at the end of a meal
Example: Fruit makes a healthy dessert after lunch or dinner.
Done vs. Did
Done (adjective) - completed; sufficiently cooked
Example: The food is done!
Done (verb) - the past participle of do
Example: After an hour, the roast was done.
Did (verb) - past tense of do
Example: The children did not want to leave the playground.
Elicit vs. Illicit
Elicit (verb) - to draw forth; evoke
Example: The teacher elicited answers from the students.
Illicit (adjective) - unlawful; illegal
Example: Many youths are now into illicit acts.
Hone vs. Home
Hone (verb) - to sharpen; to yearn or long for; to grumble or moan
Example: Practicing the piano daily is a good way to hone your skills.
Home (noun) - dwelling; place where a person lives
Example: After the long drive, we were all ready to be home and asleep.
Imitated vs. Intimated
Imitated (verb) - past tense of the verb imitate, which means to seek to follow the example of; impersonate; mimic
Example: The toddler imitated the dog by crawling on hands and knees and barking.
Intimated (verb) - to make known indirectly; to hint or imply
Example: The pirate intimated that he knew where the treasure was buried.
In a Sense vs. In Essence
In a sense (idiom) - in a way; in one way of looking at it
Example: In a sense, computers have been a boon to society.
In essence (idiom) - by nature; essentially
Example: The cat is, in essence, quiet and timid.
Its vs. It's
Its (possessive pronoun) - of, belonging to, made by, or done by it
Example: The dog will only eat its food when I am also eating.
It's (contraction) of it + is
Example: It's a very strange dog.
Lead vs. Led
Lead (noun) - a heavy, soft, malleable, bluish-gray metallic chemical element used in batteries and in numerous alloys and compounds
I think it was Mrs. White in the billiard room with the lead pipe.
Led (verb) - past tense and past participle of the verb "to lead"
The two coaches have each led their teams to numerous championships.
Lose vs. Loose
Lose (verb) - to become unable to find; to mislay; to fail to win or gain
Example: If Arsenal loses their match again, I will stop supporting them?
How many games did your team lose last season?
Loose (adjective) - not tight; giving enough room
Example: I've lost twenty pounds, and now these jeans are really loose.
More/Most Importantly vs. More/Most Important
More/most importantly - a phrase used often in writing to show emphasis; however, many grammarians insist that this is not correct usage. The adverbial ending of -ly is not needed.
Example: More/most important - Use this phrase instead.
The most important part of story is the ending.
Example: Even more important than that, you need to be nicer to one another.
Passed vs. Past
Passed (verb) - past tense of the verb "to pass"
Example: I think we passed the store. Let's turn around and go back.
Past (adjective) - of a former time; bygone; (noun) - the time that has gone by; days, months, or years gone by
Example: In the past, I've gotten lost a lot, but this time, I know where we are.