Some words sound alike but have different meanings and spellings. These words, called homophones, create confusion in writing. The following list contains some of the most commonly confused words.
Accept is a verb. In other words, someone or something must be doing the accepting.
Example: I accept your proposal of marriage.
Except functions like the word “excluding.”
Example: I am free every day except Thursday.
Hint: If you want to exclude something, use except because they both start with exc. Accept is an action (verb), and both begin with A.
Affect is a verb; someone or something must “affect” something else.
Example: That movie affected me quite a bit. (The movie did the affecting.)
Effect mostly functions as a noun.
Example: That movie had an effect on my sleep. (Effect is a “thing” (noun) that happened as a result of the movie.)
Hint: Affect starts with an “A” like the word action, so that is the verb.
Are is a form of the verb “be” and describes a state of being. It acts like an equal sign, linking two parts of a sentence.
Example: We are driving to California next week.
Our is the possessive form of “we.”
Example: We are driving to California next week. Our grandparents are meeting us there.
Conscience is your inner voice that tells you what is right or wrong.
Example: My conscience told me not to stay at that party.
Conscious indicates awareness.
Example: I felt self-conscious on my first day of class.
Hint: Your inner voice reminds you of the SCIENCE of right and wrong = conSCIENCE
Farther refers to a distance that can be measured.
Example: How much farther do we have to walk?
Further indicates unmeasurable, abstract distance.
Example: I don’t want to talk about this any further.
Hint: A = actual (fArther), U = unreal (fUrther)
Feel means to touch something.
Example: I feel happy when my friends come to visit me.
Fill means to make full.
Example: Please fill that cup with water.
Its is the possessive form of the pronoun “it.”
Example: The dog lost its collar.
It’s is the contraction for “it is.”
Example: It’s not too late.
Hint: These words confuse us because we think an apostrophe needs to be used to show possession (Bob’s car). However, “its” is already a possessive word by nature, like “his” or “her.” You do not need to make it possessive with an apostrophe. Whenever you see “it’s,” read it as “it is.”
Lay is a verb and must be accompanied by an object.
Example: Lay the paper down on the desk.
Lie means “to recline.”
Example: You should go lie down on the bed.
Hint: lay = place, lie = recline. (A possible source of confusion is that the past tense of lie is lay.)
Loose is the opposite of tight.
Example: The lid on the jar is loose.
Lose is the present form of lost.
Example: Stay close so we don’t lose you.
When you see could of, should of, would of, might of, or must of in your writing, it usually is an incorrect spelling of could have, should have, would have, might have, and must have.
Incorrect: I should of gone to Hawaii with my friends.
Correct: I should have gone to Hawaii with my friends.
Incorrect: I could of won if that guy hadn’t cheated.
Correct: I could have won if that guy hadn’t cheated
Passed is the past tense of the verb “to pass.”
Example: I passed that car on the highway.
Past refers to time.
Example: There is something unusual about her past.
Past also indicates “beyond.”
Example: Go past the next building, then turn right.
Principal means “main,” like the main administrator of a school.
Example: The principal reason for this problem is bad planning.
Example: The principal will direct the school meeting.
Principle is an ideal or truth.
Example: I won’t lie because it is against my principles.
Hint: The princiPAL is your pal.
Sense has a few meanings. See below:
- Perception: I sense your frustration.
- Intelligence and reason: Use common sense.
- A “feel” for how something works: You have a sense of humor.
Since has a few meanings. See below:
- Time: We haven’t eaten since noon.
- Because: Since we are hungry, let’s eat our lunch.
Than indicates comparison: better than, worse than, taller than, colder than, etc.
Example: I like apples more than oranges.
Then indicates sequence or consequence: First____ then ____. If ___, then____.
Example: If you don’t study for the test, then you won’t do well.
Hint: The word compAre contains the letter A just like thAn. The words sequEnce and consequEnce contain the letter E just like thEn.
Their shows possession.
Example: I just love their new car.
There indicates place or existence.
Example: Put the cup right there. (Indicates place.)
Example: There is a problem. (Indicates existence.)
They’re is a contraction of the words they are.
Example: They’re the nicest people.
Hint: The word their has an “I” in it, and “I” like to possess things.
Too means also or indicates an excess of something.
Example: I like to go to the movies, too. (Also.)
Example: That movie was too violent. (Excess.)
Two should be used in all other cases.
Example: I am going to the store.
Weather relates to atmospheric conditions.
Example: I hope the weather is nice today.
Whether introduces an option.
Example: It doesn’t matter whether or not you agree with me.
Wear relates to clothing or carrying anything upon one’s person.
Example: I usually wear earrings.
Where indicates place.
Example: I want to live where it is peaceful.
Were is a past tense form of the verb to be.
Example: We were at the party last night.
We’re is a contraction of we are.
Example: We’re going to win the game.
Whose shows possession.
Example: Whose jacket is this?
Who’s is a contraction for who is.
Example: Who’s going to the movie?
1. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
___ home has been invaded by spiders.
2. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
The ___ is getting worse.
3. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
Have you noticed what they ___ lately?
4. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
___ having a crazy effect on us!
5. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
___ my dream to have a new car.
6. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
Six days have passed, and we’ve already had our ___ of problems.
7. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
Whenever I try to ___ down to sleep, the cat always wants to play.
8. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
I like the house, ___for the kitchen.
9. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
They ___ at home.
10. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
I wish I would ___ been there.
11. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
This bicycle is more expensive ___ this one.
12. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
Joan is still not ___ after her surgery.
13. Which word has the correct spelling to fit the following sentence?:
Let’s go ___ the movies.
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