Confuse Words

Homonyms (sound like but are different)

Ensure that you save this for reference when writing resumes or essays etc.


Most of the Examination papers in English contain a question on the use of words of similar sound but different in meaning. The question usually takes a form something like the following:

Use these words in sentences to show that you know their meanings:
aisle     diary    principal          stationary         compliment

isle       dairy    principle          stationery         complement

A comprehensive list of these words is found in most good spelling books and it is not intended to repeat these here.

It is, however, important for the student to remember that when he is asked to use these words in sentences in order to illustrate their meaning, his sentences should be explicit enough as to leave no doubt in the examiner's mind that the writer knows the exact meaning of the words which he is using.

Take for example the words stationary, stationery. When used in the following sentences the meaning is not fully brought out.

(a) The bus is stationary, (b) I bought some stationery at the store.

Sentences (c) and (d) however, leave no doubt in the reader's mind that the writer is fully acquainted with the meaning of the words:

Wait until the bus is stationary before attempting to get off.

I will need a good deal of stationery to write all these letters.

Note also that it is a good plan to underline the significant word in the sentence.


See also Words

 (These are some of the pairs of words that are most often confused with each other.)


adoptive with adopted:
children are adopted,
but parents are adoptive.
adverse, with averse, adverse, `unfavourable, bad', with averse, which means `strongly disliking or opposed to', as in I am not averse to helping out.
affect and effect: affect means `make a difference to', whereas effect means `a result' or `bring about (a result)'.
ambiguous with ambivalent: ambiguous primarily means `having more than one meaning, open to different interpretations', while ambivalent means `having mixed feelings'.
amoral with immoral: amoral means `not concerned with morality', while immoral means `not conforming to accepted standards of morality'.
appraise with apprise appraise means `assess', while apprise means `inform'.
apposite with opposite

apposite is suitable for or appropriate to what is happening or being discussed.

Opposite: situated on the other or further side when seen from a specified or implicit viewpoint
augur with auger augur`be a sign of (a likely outcome)', with auger (a tool used for boring).
censure with censor: censure means `express strong disapproval of', whereas censor means `suppress unacceptable parts of (a book, film, etc.)'.
climactic, with climatic climactic, `forming a climax', with climatic, which means `relating to climate'.
complacent, with complaisant complacent, `smug and self-satisfied', with complaisant, which means `willing to please'.
complement, with compliment complement, `a thing that enhances something by contributing extra features', with compliment, which means `an expression of praise' or `politely congratulate'.
continuous and continual: with continuous continuous primarily means `without interruption', and can refer to space as well as time, as in the cliffs form a continuous line along the coast; continual, on the other hand, typically means `happening frequently, with intervals between', as in the bus service has been disrupted by continual breakdowns.
council with counsel council, an administrative or advisory body, with counsel, advice or guidance.
councillor with counsellor a councillor is a member of a council, whereas a counsellor is someone who gives guidance on personal or psychological problems.
credible with creditable credible means `believable, convincing', whereas creditable means `deserving acknowledgement and praise'.
definite with definitive definite (`certain, sure') with definitive, which means `decisive and with authority'.
defuse with diffuse defuse, `remove the fuse from (an explosive device)' or `reduce the danger or tension in (a difficult situation)', with diffuse, which means `spread over a wide area'.
desert with dessert desert (a waterless area) with dessert (the sweet course)!
discreet with discrete discreet, `careful not to attract attention or give offence', with discrete, which means `separate, distinct'.
draft with draught draft and draught. In British English draft means `a preliminary version' or `an order to pay a sum', whereas a draught is a current of air or an act of drinking; in North American English the spelling draft is used for all senses. The verb is usually spelled draft.
draw with drawer draw, which is primarily a verb, with drawer meaning `sliding storage compartment'.
egoism with egotism egoism and egotism: it is egotism, not egoism, that means `excessive conceit or self-absorption'; egoism is a less common and more technical word, for an ethical theory that treats self-interest as the foundation of morality.
envelop with envelope envelop without an e at the end means `wrap up, cover, or surround completely', whereas an envelope with an e is a paper container used to enclose a letter or document.
exceptionable with exceptional exceptionable (`open to objection; causing disapproval or offence') with exceptional (`not typical' or `unusually good').
fawn with faun a fawn is a young deer, and a light brown colour; a faun is a Roman deity that is part man, part goat.
flaunt with flout flaunt means `display ostentatiously', while flout means `openly disregard (a rule)'.
flounder with founder flounder generally means `have trouble doing or understanding something, be confused', while founder means `fail or come to nothing'.
forego with forgo forego means `precede', but is also a less common spelling for forgo, `go without`.
grisly with grizzly grisly with grizzly, as in grizzly bear: whereas grizzly is from the same root as grizzled and refers to the bear's white-tipped fur. grisly means `causing horror or revulsion',
hoard with horde a hoard is a store of something valuable; horde is a disparaging term for a large group of people.
imply with infer Imply is used with a speaker as its subject, as in he implied that the General was a traitor, and indicates that the speaker is suggesting something though not making an explicit statement. Infer is used in sentences such as we inferred from his words that the General was a traitor, and indicates that something in the speaker's words enabled the listeners to deduce that the man was a traitor.
the possessive its with the contraction it's the possessive its (as in turn the camera on its side) with the contraction it's (short for either it is or it has, as in it's my fault; it's been a hot day).
loath with loathe loath (`reluctant; unwilling') with loathe, `dislike greatly'.
loose with lose loose with lose: as a verb loose means `unfasten or set free', while lose means `cease to have' or `become unable to find'.
luxuriant with luxurious luxuriant, `rich and profuse in growth', with luxurious, which means `characterized by luxury; very comfortable and extravagant'.
marital with martial marital, `of marriage', with martial, `of war'!
militate with mitigate militate, which is used in the form militate against to mean `be an important factor in preventing', with mitigate, which means `make (something bad) less severe'.
naturism with naturalism naturism (nudism) and naturist (a nudist) with naturalism and naturalist: naturalism is an artistic or literary approach or style; a naturalist is an expert in natural history, or an exponent of naturalism.
officious with official officious, `asserting authority or interfering in an annoyingly domineering way', with official, which means `relating to an authority or public body' and `having the approval or authorization of such a body'.
ordinance with ordnance ordinance, `an authoritative order', with ordnance, which means `guns' or `munitions'.
palate with palette palate and palette: the palate is the roof of the mouth; a palette, on the other hand, is an artist's board for mixing colours.
pedal with peddle pedal and peddle. Pedal is a noun denoting a foot-operated lever; as a verb it means `move by means of pedals'. Peddle is a verb meaning `sell (goods)'. The associated noun from pedal is pedaller (US pedaler), and the noun from peddle is pedlar or peddler.
perquisite with prerequisite perquisite and prerequisite: a perquisite is a special right or privilege enjoyed as a result of one's position; prerequisite is something that is required as a prior condition for something else; prerequisite can also be an adjective, meaning `required as a prior condition'.
perspicuous with perspicacious perspicuous, `expressing things clearly', with perspicacious, which means `having a ready understanding of things'.
principal with principle principal, `first in order of importance; main', with principle, which is a noun meaning chiefly `a basis of a system of thought or belief'.
proscribe with prescribe proscribe with prescribe: proscribe is a rather formal word meaning `condemn or forbid', whereas prescribe means either `issue a medical prescription' or `recommend with authority'.
regretful with regrettable regretful, `feeling or showing regret', with regrettable, which means `giving rise to regret; undesirable'.
shear with sheer shear, `cut the wool off (a sheep)', with sheer, which as a verb means `swerve or change course quickly' or `avoid an unpleasant topic', and as an adjective means `nothing but; absolute', `perpendicular', or `(of a fabric) very thin'.
stationary with stationery stationary and stationery: stationary is an adjective with the sense `not moving or changing', whereas stationery is a noun meaning `paper and other writing materials'.
story with storey story and storey: a story is a tale or account, while a storey is a floor of a building.In North America the spelling story is sometimes used for storey.
titillate with titivate titillate and titivate: titillate means `excite', whereas titivate means `adorn or smarten up'.
tortuous with torturous tortuous, `full of twists and turns' or `excessively lengthy and complex', with torturous, which means `characterized by pain or suffering'.
turbid with turgid turbid and turgid: turbid is generally used in reference to a liquid and means `cloudy or opaque'; turgid tends to mean `tediously pompous' or, in reference to a river, `swollen, overflowing'.
unexceptionable with unexceptional unexceptionable, `that cannot be taken exception to, inoffensive', with unexceptional, `not exceptional; ordinary'.
unsociable with unsocial and antisocial unsociable with unsocial and antisocial: unsociable means `not enjoying the company of or engaging in activities with others'; unsocial usually means `socially inconvenient' and typically refers to the hours of work of a job; antisocial means `contrary to accepted social customs and therefore annoying'.
venal with venial venal (`susceptible to bribery; corruptible') with venial, which is used in Christian theology in reference to sin (a venial sin, unlike a mortal sin, is not regarded as depriving the soul of divine grace).
who's with whose who's with whose; who's is a contraction of who is or who has, while whose is used in questions such as whose is this? and whose turn is it?
wreath with wreath wreath and wreathe: wreath with no e at the end means `arrangement of flowers', while wreathe with an e is a verb meaning `envelop, surround, or encircle'.
your with you're your with you're; you're is a contraction of you are, while your is a possessive determiner used in phrases such as your turn.
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Altar Alter
Ant Aunt
Arc Ark
Ate Eight
Auger Augur
Aural Oral
Baize Bays
Bald Bawled
Ball Bawl
Band Banned
Bard Barred
Bare Bear
Baron Barren
Be Bee
Beach Beech
Bean Been
Beer Bier
Berry Bury
Berth Birth
Billed Build
Blue Blew
Bored Board
Braid Brayed
Break Brake
Brews Bruise
Bridal Bridle
Broach Brooch
Buy By/ Bye
Capital Capitol
Cellar Seller
Census Sense
Cereal Serial
Chili Chilly
Choral Coral
Cite Sight / Site
Coarse Course
Complement Compliment
Coun Counsel
Deer Dear
Die Dye
Discreet Discrete
Doe Dough
Done Dun
Draft Draught
Dual Duel
Earn Urn
Ewe You
Farther Father
Faze Phase
File Phial
Find Fined
Fir Fur
Flaw Floor
Flea Flee
Flew Flu/ Flue
Flex Flecks
Flour Flower
For Four
Foreword Forward
Fort Fought
Foul Fowl
Gait Gate
Gamble Gambol
Genes Jeans
Gored Gourd
Great Grate
Groan Grown
Hart Heart
Hear Here
Heel Heal
Hi High
Him Hymn
Hoard Horde
Hole Whole
Holy Wholly
Hour Our
I Eye
Idle Idol
Incite Insight
Knead Need
Knew New
Knight Night
Knot Not
Know No
Leak Leek
Lessen Lesson
Levee Levy
Links Lynx
Loan Lone
Loot Lute
Made Maid
Mail Male
Main Mane
Manna Manner
Marshal Martial
Mask Masque
Maw More
Medal Meddle
Meet Meat
Might Mite
Mist Missed
Moose Mousse
Muscle Mussel
None Nun
Oar Or
Overdo Overdue
Pail Pale
Pain Pane
Pair Pear
Passed Past
Peace Piece
Peak Peek
Pedal Peddle
Plane Plain
Principal Principle
Profit Prophet
Rain Reign
Red Read
Right Write
Ring Wring
Rode Road
Role Roll
Rouse Rows
Rung Wrung
Sail Sale
Sauce Seen
Scull Skull
See Sea
Shoe Shoo
Side Sighed
Slay Sleigh
Soar Sore
Sole Soul
Some Sum
Sort   Sought
Staid Stayed
Stalk Stork
Stare Stair
Stationary Stationery
Steal Steel
Stile Style
Sun Son
Tail Tale
Team Teem
Than Then
Their There
Throne Thrown
Tide Tied
To Too / Two
Toe Tow
Vain Vein
Vary Very
Wail Whale
Waste Waist
Way Weigh
Weak Week
Weather   Whether
Where Wear
Which Witch
Who’s Whose
Won One
Would Wood
You're Your





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