Test yourself: the ten most confusing homophones

Commonly confused words

A few weeks ago I discussed some pairs of words that cause difficulty (namely which and that and lay and lie). Now let’s look at difficult homophones—words that are pronounced the same but spelt differently. It’s important to get them right as they won’t get picked up by your spellchecker.

First, my list of the most confused homophones, and the differences in meaning:

1. To, too and two

One means excessively, one is a number, and one is a preposition, and also used to mark an infinitive verb.

2. Lose and loose

One means ‘not tight’; the other is when we can’t find something, or we don’t win.

3. Effect and affect

One is usually a verb; the other a noun.

4. Practice and practise

There are certain words (advice/advise, licence, license) where the c and s determines whether it’s a verb or a noun. Doesn’t apply for American English!

5. Principle and principal

Here one means most important; the other is something that guides our judgment.

6. Formally and formerly

One is about the past; the other is the opposite of casual.

7. Especially and specially

Do you mean above all or something out of the ordinary?

8. Economic and economical

Are we talking about the economy, or saving money or resources?

9. Disinterested and uninterested

We may have no interest in something, or we may be neutral.

10. Complimentary and complementary

One is being nice to someone or offering something for free; the other is when something fits well with another thing.

Now for the quiz, with photos!

Homophones quiz

Test your knowledge of ten sets of easily muddled words. 

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1 thought on “Test yourself: the ten most confusing homophones”

  1. Yes the idiosyncrasies of English spelling. Good to re-visit . Thanks

    A minefield for those learning it as a second language.

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