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Common Mistakes and Confusing Words in English

Let's face it, English can be confusing. A lot of words are similar but with different meanings, as a result it is almost impossible to avoid making mistakes in English, but if you can get your head around these explanations, you might be able to avoid making these ones or at least recognise them when you see them.

accept vs except | accessary vs accessory | advice vs advise
affect vs effect | a lot/alot/allot
all ready vs already | all right vs alright | allude vs elude | alone vs lonely
altogether vs all together | ambivalent vs indifferent
any vs some | any one vs anyone
apart vs a part | around vs round | assume vs know vs think
astrology vs astronomy | at vs in
bald vs bold | been vs gone | beside vs besides
bold vs bald | bored vs boring | borrow vs lend
bought vs brought | by vs until
capital vs capitol | captivate vs capture
career vs carrier vs courier | certain vs curtain
check vs control | close vs closed | close vs shut
collage vs college | come over vs overcome
complement vs compliment
concentrate vs concentrated | confuse vs confess | council vs counsel
councillor vs counsellor | curious vs interesting | curtain vs certain
data vs datum | decent vs descent | decision vs division
defrost vs melt | desperate vs disparate | destroy vs destruct
discreet vs discrete | division vs decision | do or make
don't have to vs mustn't
| dose vs doze | downside vs underside
draught vs drought | dress up vs get dressed | driving test vs test drive
drought vs draught
effect vs affect | e.g. or i.e. | -er vs -re | either or vs neither nor
either vs as well / too
enquire vs inquire | enquiry vs inquiry
every day vs everyday | except vs accept | except vs expect | excited vs exciting
expand vs expend | expect vs except | experience vs experience(s) | extra vs surplus
fewer vs less
| for vs since (time) | full stop vs period | get dressed vs dress up
good vs well | going out vs outgoing | gone vs been
hard vs hardly | hear vs listen | heroin vs heroine | he's vs his
holiday vs the weekend | homework vs housework
hope vs wish | "How do you do?" vs "How are you?"
I vs me | improve vs improvise
inquire vs enquire | inquiry vs enquiry
interested vs interesting | interesting vs curious
know vs assume vs think | know vs now
later vs latter | lay vs lie | lay down vs lie down | leaped vs leapt
learn vs teach | less vs fewer | live vs stay
look after vs look for | look at vs watch
look forward(s) vs look forward to
look over vs overlook | loose vs lose
massage vs message | me vs I | me vs my | moan vs mourn
moral vs morale | most vs the most | most vs mostly | mourn vs moan | my vs me
neither | nor vs or | now vs know
ointment | ornament | or vs nor
outgoing vs going out
| outgoings vs outgoing
overlook vs look over | overrun vs run over | overtake vs takeover / take over / of vs off
of course vs off course | pass away vs pass out | period vs full stop
personal vs personnel | practice vs practise
precede vs proceed | principal vs principle
proceed vs precede | probably vs properly
quiet vs quite
raise/rise | -re vs -er | regard vs regardless vs regards | remainder vs reminder
remember vs remind | replay vs reply | round vs around | run over vs overrun
said vs told | say vs talk | say vs tell | scared vs scary
see vs watch | shortage vs shortness | shut vs close
so vs such | some vs any | some time vs sometime vs sometimes
sooth vs soothe | stationary vs stationery | stay vs live | stick vs sticker | strange vs stranger
stuff vs things | surplus vs extra
take care vs take care of | takeover / take over vs overtake
talk vs say | teach vs learn
tell vs say | than vs then | that / which / who
then vs than | think vs assume vs know
told vs said | to/too/two | there/their/they're | things vs stuff
trainer vs trainee | travel/trip/voyage/journey
us vs we | used to vs used to do
wander vs wonder | warn vs worn | watch vs look at
watch vs see | we vs us | what vs which
wish vs hope | who vs which vs that
who vs whom | wrong vs wrongly

Tests and Quizzes

If you want the definition of any of the words below just double click on the word.

so vs such

So when used as in front of an adjective or an adverb means very.
For example: "My English teacher is so patient. She teaches us so well."

Such when used as a determiner can be used in front of a noun or an adjective and a noun to show extremes, you can't use it in front of adverbs.

For example: "She is such a patient teacher."

!Note - Remember that without the noun you need to use "so."

such + a + patient + teacher

so + patient

trainee vs trainer

A trainee is a person who is learning and practising the skills of a particular job.

For example: "There is a shortage of trainee dentists in the UK."

A trainer is a person who teaches skills for a particular job, activity or sport.

For example: "I like to think of myself as an English trainer, not an English teacher."

travel, trip voyage or journey?

Travel (v) is used in general terms as a verb - it usually means to change location. The word travel is very rarely used as a noun.

For example: I have to travel a lot for work.

Trip (n) is often substituted for the word 'holiday' when the travelling distance was short.

For example: How was your trip?

It is often used in connection with business.

For example: I have to travel a lot for work. I am off on another business trip next week.

Trip (v) has a totally different meaning. It means to nearly fall over.

For example: I tripped over the carpet and sprained my ankle.

Voyage (n) is usually a long journey by boat. The word voyage is very rarely used as a verb.

For example: The voyage to South Africa took over six weeks.

Journey (n) is used more in British English than American English. It means the 'piece' of travel between 2 or more points. The word journey is very rarely used as a verb.

For example: The journey from Darmstadt to Nottingham takes 12 hours.

used to vs used to do

Used to can be used as an adjective and we use it to talk about things that have become familiar, and are no longer strange or new.

For example: "I am used to mistakes now."

You can also be used to doing something.

For example: "I am used to making mistakes now."

More here

Used to do - If we say something used to happen we are talking about repeated events and actions in the past, usually things that happened a long time ago and are now finished.

For example: "I used to smoke."

More here

wander vs wonder

Wander (v) means to travel aimlessly.

For example: "I often wander through the woods, it helps me think."

Wonder (v) means to consider or question some issue.

For example: "People often wonder whether I really run this website alone ."

Wonder (n) means the feeling aroused by something strange and surprising.

For example: "The pyramids are a wonder to behold."

!Note - I have it on very good authority that wander and wonder are not homophones. ;)

wrong vs wrongly

Wrong and wrongly are both adverbs.

Wrong can be used informally instead of wrongly after a verb. In fact it is taking over from the word wrongly.

However, when the adverb comes before the verb we use "wrongly".

For example:-

Sean Hodgson was wrongly convicted of murder.

I'm sorry if I've written anything wrong. / I'm sorry if I've written anything wrongly

According to Merriam Webster: "The best way to choose between wrong and wrongly is to rely on your own grasp of English idiom. The one that sounds correct, is correct. If they both sound correct then either one may be used."

Tests and Quizzes

Test yourself to see if you understand the correct use of some of the more confusing words and terms.


If you know of any other common mistakes like these, let us know.

If nothing else this should make you feel better to know that mistakes are also made by people who should know better:-

Click here for a list of common American English and British English differences

Click here for a collection of real horror mistakes made by some of the best known companies in the world.

Click here for a collection of howlers from around the world.

Click here for a collection of medical howlers.


Teacher Karen Teacher Karen



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