There are a lot of words in English that look or sound alike but have different meanings, such as affect and effect or cite and site. It’s easy to get them confused!
Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause people problems.
- accept: To receive something offered
- except: To exclude something or to leave it out
- accept: Pat accepted the scholarship to Duke.
- except: The scholarship covered everything except a meal plan.
- advice: A noun that refers to a recommendation regarding a decision or a course of action
- advise: A verb that refers to the act of giving advice
- advice: Greg took his doctor’s advice about lowering his cholesterol.
- advise: I would advise Greg to eat oatmeal every day.
- affect: A verb that means to influence
- effect: A noun that means result
- Caffeine affects people in different ways.
- Hyperactivity is one effect of caffeine.
- all right: To be satisfied with, or that everything is satisfactory
- alright: A misspelling of “all right”
- Jason was worried about leaving his son at the daycare for the first time, so he called every hour to make sure everything was all right.
- all ready: To be prepared, that everyone or everything is prepared
- already: Before now, by this time, or previously
- My parents were all ready to eat dinner when I stopped by for surprise visit.
- Unfortunately, I had already eaten too much at a potluck before I arrived.
- a lot: Refers to many or several
- alot: A misspelling of “a lot”
- allot: To distribute or assign a portion
- A lot: There were a lot of complaints about the rent increase and recently added policies.
- Allot: Tenants were allotted one parking space per unit.
- among: Used when referring to three or more items or people
- between: Used when referring to two items or people
- Jen divided the project among the editorial, creative, and marketing departments.
- Final decisions, however, would be made between herself and the director.
- cite: A verb that means to acknowledge, quote, or mention.
- sight: Both a noun that refers to a view or the ability to see and a verb that means to see
- site: A noun that refers to a place or location
- To avoid accidental plagiarism, always cite the sources you use in every paper.
- A lunar eclipse on a clear night is an incredible sight to behold.
- Be careful around that construction site.
- farther: Used to refer to a physical or tangible distance.
- further: Used to refer to an addition when there is no physical distance involved.
- The new hospital is farther down the street than the old one.
- There needs to be further advancements in the medical field to fight cancer.
- fewer: Used to refer to items that can be counted
- less: Used to refer to items that cannot be counted or that are referred to as a whole
- Frozen yogurt has fewer calories than ice cream.
- Also, without toppings, frozen yogurt has less saturated fat than ice cream.
- its: The possessive form of the pronoun it
- it’s: The contraction for “it is”
- This laptop battery loses its charge quickly.
- It’s time to buy a new battery.
- me: Used when it is the object of a sentence (An object receives the action or verb)
- myself: A reflexive pronoun (Used only when you have already talked about that person in the sentence)
- My parents delegated me as the coordinator of all family events.
- As the coordinator, I have to plan the annual family reunion either by myself or with very little assistance.
- then: Used when referring to time or to mean “next” and “in that case”
- than: Used when comparing
- Run background checks on the top applicants. Then we can set up interviews.
- Julia is taller and more slender than he.
- that: Used when introducing information that identifies what is being talked about
- which: Used when introducing extra information in a sentence
- who/whom: Used instead of that or which when referring to people
- The lemon cake that you brought into the office last week was delicious.
- The lemon cake, which is an old family recipe, is quite easy to make.
- My grandfather is the one who discovered the recipe in an old shoebox.
- their: The possessive form of the pronoun “they”
- they’re: The contraction for “they are”
- there: Indicates a position/place or acts as a placeholder at the beginning of a sentence
- Their application for a loan is approved.
- They’re paying the college tuition in full.
- A copy of the contract is over there.
- to: Meaning toward or as part of an infinitive verb (“to” + verb)
- too: Meaning excessively or also
- Javier is moving to Boston to attend law school.
- His younger brother Oscar wants to move to the east coast too.
- who: Used as a subject pronoun
- whom: Used as an object pronoun
- I know a woman who can cater the party for a reasonable price.
- This woman, whom I have known for ten years, is a terrific chef.
- your: The possessive form of the pronoun “you”
- you’re: The contraction for “you are”
- Your older sister is very funny and smart.
- It’s obvious that you’re related to her.