120+ English Words You Should Never Misuse In Writing
While learning English, all students try to deal with the same problems. And if grammar rules seem hard to remember, the bigger problem comes out of the blue:
Students misuse plenty of English words because they sound similar.
Writers do the same.
It’s high time to confess:
How often did you meet blog posts, online and offline publications, works of professional essayists, short stories, or even bestselling novels with so many typos and common mistakes that were unforgivable for pro authors to make? Free from plagiarism, they are yet awkward to read, right?
To help English learners solve this problem once and forever, here goes the ultimate list of 120+ misused words. You are welcome to use it as a reference whenever unsure of what word fits in the context.
120+ English Words to Remember
- Accept vs. Except: “Accept” means to receive something willingly, while “except” signifies exclusion.
- Advice vs. Advise: The first one is a noun, and the second one is a verb.
- Affect vs. Effect: “Affect” is for influencing, and “effect” is for accomplishing.
- All Right vs. Alright: While some people use “alright” in conversation, “all right” is the only right spelling for this word.
- Allude vs. Elude: “Allude” means to refer something indirectly, and “elude” is for avoiding or escaping something.
- A Lot vs. Alot: Alot is a wrong spelling for “a lot”.
- Alter vs. Altar: The first one is for making something different, the second one is a place for sacrifices.
- Amused vs. Bemused: “Amused” means pleasurably entertained, and “bemused” is for bewildered or perplexed.
- Anyway vs. Anyways: There is no letter “s” in “anyway”. The latter is wrong.
- Assume vs. Presume: Use “assume” when talking about something supposed to be true, while “presume” is for something taken for granted.
- Appose vs. Oppose: The first word means to place side by side, and “oppose” means to be against.
- Bare vs. Bear: The first one is for naked, the second one is for an animal.
- Blond vs. Blonde: The first one is for men, and the second one is for women.
- Breath vs. Breathe: “Breath” is a noun, while “breathe” is a verb.
- Bring vs. Take: The first word is for transporting something from one place to another, and “take” means to receive or accept.
- Capital vs. Capitol: “Capital” is for money, and “capitol” is for building.
- Cite vs. Sight: Do not confuse “cite” that means to quote and “sight” that means vision.
- Compliment vs. Complement: The first one goes for saying something nice, while “complement” means supplementing something.
- Comprise vs. Compose: “Comprise” is for including, and “compose” is for making up.
- Could of vs. Could have: There is no "could of" in written English. You might hear this variant in oral speech, but it's not grammatically correct.
- Council vs. Counsel: The first one is an assembly, and the second one is advice.
- Definitely vs. Definately: The latter variant is wrong. There is no “a” in “definitely”. Try to remember that.
- Desert vs. Dessert: “Desert” is for a land full of sand, and “dessert” is for a meal.
- Disinterested vs. Uninterested: These two words have different meanings, too: while “disinterested” means impartial about something, “uninterested” goes for no interest in something.
- E.g. vs. I.e.: The first one is “for example”, the second one is “that is”.
- Elicit vs. Illicit: The word “elicit” goes for calling forth, and “illicit” means unlawful or not permitted.
- Everyday vs. Every day: The first word describes something typical, and the latter one means a day-after-day behavior.
- Farther vs. Further: “Father” describes a physical distance, while “further” goes for action degree or extent.
- Fewer vs. Less: The first one goes with countable items, and the second word goes for uncountable ones.
- Flair vs. Flare: “Flair” is for a skill, and “flare” is for a fire.
- Flaunt vs. Flout: Use the first word if you intend to display something, and the second one goes for defying rules or convention.
- Forward vs. Foreword: “Forward” means near, and “foreword” is used for comments in a book.
- Gorilla vs. Guerrilla: We all know gorillas as apes, but not all of us know guerrilla as a small fighting.
- Historic vs. Historical: The first one goes for famous and important, while the latter one relates to history.
- Imply vs. Infer: Use “imply” to suggest something, and remember “infer” to draw a conclusion from what was implied.
- Incite vs. Insight: “Incite”goes for encouraging, while “insight” works for penetrating mental vision.
- Insolate vs. Insulate: The first word exposes to sunlight, and second one places someone in an isolated situation.
- Insure vs. Ensure: “Insure” refers to insurance, while “ensure” is used to make certain.
- Irregardless vs. Regardless of: The first one is wrong, so stop using “irregardless” and write “regardless of” instead.
- Its vs. It’s: It's easy, but many students still confuse these two words somehow. Try to remember that its = possessive, and it's = it is.
- Judgement vs. Judgment: The first word goes to British English. Americans use “judgment” instead.
- Lie vs. Lay: We know several meanings of “lie”, and the most confusing one refers to positioning. “Lie” means to recline, while “lay” means to put or place something.
- Literally vs. Figuratively: The first one means exactly or actually, and the second one goes for metaphorically.
- Lose vs. Loose: “Loose” describes something that is not tight enough, and “lose” means to misplace something.
- Maybe vs. May be: “Maybe” goes to perhaps, and “may be” is used to say that something is possible to happen.
- Minor vs. Miner: The first word describes a size, meaning small or insignificant; a miner is a person who digs into the ground.
- Moral vs. Morale: The difference between these two words lies in “moral” relating to principles and “morale” relating to mental condition.
- Nauseous vs. Nauseated: It's not difficult to remember the meaning of these two: “nauseous” is one casing nausea, and “nauseated” is one experiencing it.
- Oral vs. Verbal: The first one is made by words, and the second one is pertaining to words.
- Pedal vs. Peddle: “Pedal” is a noun that means a foot level, while “peddle” is a verb meaning to travel with goods for sale.
- Peek vs. Peak: The first word goes for a quick look, and the second one means a top of a mountain.
- Piece vs. Peace: “Piece” is a part, and “peace” is a state of harmony.
- Principal vs. Principle: The latter one determines a fundamental truth, and “principal” describes a person who is the highest in rank.
- Prospective vs. Perspective: The first one is “likely to happen”, while the second one refers to a proper appearance.
- Than vs. Then: It's easy to remember, as “than” refers to comparison and “then” is an adverb signifying time.
- Through vs. Threw: The first word can NEVER be a verb, while “threw” is the past of “throw”.
- Toward/Anyway/ Afterward: There is no letter “s” in these words, so never write it here.
- Two vs. Too: We all know that two is a number, but many students sometimes misspell it with “too”, which means “in addition”.
- Weather vs. Whether: The first word goes for temperature outside, while “whether” is a word that introduces choices
- Weird vs. Wierd: Sometimes we use a wrong spelling of this word. Try to remember that “weird” is a correct variant.
- Wither vs. Whither: “Wither” means to fade, and “whither” refers to “where?” or “to what place?”
Do you make any of these mistakes?
This list of the most misused words in English will ease the writing process for you. Certainly, we could miss some words and collocations. Feel free to add them in comments.
About the writer
Gathered and submitted by @LesleyVos, a private educator of the French language and professional web writer.
Writing systems |
Language and languages |
Language learning |
Learning vocabulary |
Language acquisition |
Motivation and reasons to learn languages |
Being and becoming bilingual |
Sign Languages |
Other languages |
Minority and endangered languages |
Constructed languages (conlangs) |
Reviews of language courses and books |
Language learning apps |
Teaching languages |
Languages and careers |
Language and culture |
Language development and disorders |
Translation and interpreting |
Multilingual websites, databases and coding |
Other topics |
Spoof articles |
How to submit an article
If you need to type in many different languages, the Q International Keyboard can help. It enables you to type almost any language that uses the Latin, Cyrillic or Greek alphabets, and is free.
If you like this site and find it useful, you can support it by making a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or by contributing in other ways. Omniglot is how I make my living.
Note: all links on this site to Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.fr are affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you click on any of them and buy something. So by clicking on these links you can help to support this site.