Misused Words and Expressions

This represents only a partial list of many common words and expressions that are frequently confused. Always check reputable sources if in doubt.

Accept vs. Except

I will accept all the packages except that one.

Affect vs. Effect

The drug did not affect the disease, and it had several adverse side-effects.

Only the president can effect (verb—to cause) such a dramatic change.

Cannot vs. Can not

He cannot be allowed to run for president.

You can run and you can hide, but you can not escape me. (This last use is rare.)

Capitol vs. Capital

The capitol (a specific building) has undergone extensive renovations.

The residents of the state capital protested the development plans.

Principal vs. Principle

The principal taught us many important life principles.

Than vs. Then

That pizza is more than I can eat. (used for comparisons)

Tom laughed, and then we recognized him. (related to time)

Lie vs. Lay/ Sit vs. Set

     Chickens lay eggs. I lie down when I am tired.

     She set the dough in a warm corner of the kitchen. Don't sit in the hot kitchen.

Who vs. Which vs. That

I saw a boy who was wearing a yellow banana costume.

I have to go to math next, which is my hardest class. Where is the book that I was reading?

Aloud vs. Allowed

I was told that I was allowed to speak aloud in class.

Loose vs. Lose

our loose morals have caused you to lose your way in life.

It's vs. Its/Your vs. You're

It's your fault that you're unaware of the issue.

Due to its natural healing properties, it's unlikely that scientists will be interested.

Anymore vs. Any more

I don't buy books anymorebecause I don't need any more.(adv+adj)

All together vs. Altogether and All ready vs. Already

It's wonderful that we are all together on Thanksgiving.

Priscilla is altogether fed up with her family.

Sue has already completed her application. Now, we are all ready to go.

Farther vs. Further

The farther we drive, the more I long to stretch my legs.(distance)

Monica decided to investigate the matter further. (in-depth)

Less vs. Fewer

Ben has less love in his heart than anyone else I know. (not countable, or volume)

Ben gives fewer hugs than anyone else I know. (countable)

May be vs. Maybe

It may be that purple socks don't appeal to the ladies.

Maybe Parker should rethink his choice of socks.

Imply vs. Infer

Why would you imply (suggest) that I wasn't doing the job correctly?

We inferred (understood) from the professor's remarks that test scores were low.

Comprise vs. Compose

A soccer game generally comprises (includes) two halves.

All fifty states compose (make up) the United States.

Cite vs. Site vs. Sight

You need to properly cite your courses in the essay.

The construction site was littered with dangerous debris.

My, aren't you a sight for sore eyes!

Adverse vs. Averse

I had an adverse reaction to the bee sting. (bad or negative)

My kids have an aversion to eating their vegetables. (avoiding or against)

Allusion vs. Illusion

My pastor alluded to be a specific Biblical reference last Sunday. (referred to)

Many high school students chase the illusion of popularity. (false image)

Ascent vs. Assent

The group's ascent of Mt. Everest was unexpectedly easy. (climb up to)

The couple assented to the terms of their divorce. (agreed to)

Assure vs. Ensure

I assure you that your request will be fulfilled immediately. (to give confidence in)

We needed to ensure that all requests were taken care of promptly. (make certain)

Regime vs. Regimen vs. Regiment

Our government refused to conduct business with the brutal regime.

After you take your regimen of antibiotics, you'll feel better.

The valiant soldier made his regiment proud.