A monthly grammatical guide to help you build your English skills.

10 Easily Confused Words in English

Aug 14, 2015

Have you come across words in English that have similar spellings and pronunciations, but have different meanings? These words can be easy to confuse, but learning what they are will help you avoid mistakes. Here are 10 of the most commonly confused words in English to watch out for: 

  1. Affect/Effect: Affect is usually a verb meaning “to act upon or influence.” Effect is most commonly a noun meaning “the result of an action.”
  2. Allusion/Illusion: An allusion is a subtle reference or hint. An illusion is a mirage or a deception.
  3. Assure/Ensure: Assure means “to guarantee.” Ensure means “to make sure by double checking.” 
  4. Beside/Besides: Beside means “next to.” Besides is an adverb or preposition that means “furthermore” or “in addition to.” 
  5. Capital/Capitol: A capital is the city or town that is the official seat of government (it can also refer to wealth, or a large letter). A capitol is the building where a government meets. 
  6. Desert/Dessert: Desert can be a verb meaning “to abandon,” or a noun that means “a wasteland.” Dessert is the final course of a meal.
  7. Its/It’s: Its is the possessive form of “it.” It’s is a contraction that means “it is.”
  8. Loose/Lose: Loose is usually an adjective that means “not tight” or “free from attachment.” Lose is a verb that means “to fail” or “to misplace something.” 
  9. Plain/Plane: Plain can be an adjective that means “not showy” or a noun that means “a large, level area.” Plane refers to a flat surface, or an airplane. 
  10. Than/Then: Than is a conjunction used to make a comparison, while then refers to a time in the past. 

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