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!
Test your knowledge of ten sets of easily muddled words.