Commonly Confused Words

Accept / Except Affect / Effect A Lot / Alot Allusion / Illusion All Ready / Already Altogether / All Together Apart / A Part Ascent / Assent Breath / Breathe Capital / Capitol Cite / Sight / Site Complement / Compliment Conscience / Conscious Council / Counsel Elicit / Illicit Eminent / Immanent / Imminent Its / It’s Lead / Led Lie / Lay Lose / Loose Novel Passed / Past Precede / Procede Principal / Principle Quote / Quotation Reluctant / Reticent Stationary / Stationery Supposed To / Suppose Than / Then Their / There / They’re
Through / Threw / Thorough / Though / Thru To / Too / Two Who / Which / That Who / Whom ACCEPT-to receiveex: He accepts defeat well. EXCEPT-to take or leave outex: Please take all the books off the shelf except for the red one. AFFECT-to influenceex: Lack of sleep affects the quality of your work. EFFECT-n. , result, v. , to accomplishex: The subtle effect of the lighting made the room look ominous. ex: Can the university effect such a change without disrupting classes? A LOT (two words)-many. ALOT (one word)-Not the correct form.
ALLUSION-an indirect referenceex:The professor made an allusion to Virginia Woolf’s work. ILLUSION-a false perception of realityex: They saw a mirage: that is a type of illusion one sees in the desert. ALL READY-preparedex: Dinner was all ready when the guests arrived. ALREADY-by this timeex: The turkey was already burned when the guests arrived. ALTOGETHER-entirelyex: Altogether, I thought that the student’s presentation was well planned. ALL TOGETHER-gathered, with everything in one placeex: We were all together at the family reunion last spring.

APART-to be separatedex: The chain-link fence kept the angry dogs apart. OR My old car fell apart before we reached California. A PART-to be joined withex: The new course was a part of the new field of study at the university. OR A part of this plan involves getting started at dawn. ASCENT- climbex: The plane’s ascent made my ears pop. ASSENT-agreementex: The martian assented to undergo experiments. BREATH-noun, air inhaled or exhaledex: You could see his breath in the cold air. BREATHE-verb, to inhale or exhaleex: If you don’t breathe, then you are dead.
CAPITAL-seat of government. Also financial resources. ex: The capital of Virginia is Richmond. ex: The firm had enough capital to build the new plant. CAPITOL-the actual building in which the legislative body meetsex: The governor announced his resignation in a speech given at the capitol today. CITE-to quote or documentex: I cited ten quotes from the same author in my paper. SIGHT-visionex: The sight of the American flag arouses different emotions in different parts of the world. SITE-position or placeex: The new office building was built on the site of a cemetery.
COMPLEMENT-noun, something that completes; verb, to completeex: A nice dry white wine complements a seafood entree. COMPLIMENT-noun, praise; verb, to praiseex: The professor complimented Betty on her proper use of a comma. CONSCIENCE-sense of right and wrongex: The student’s conscience kept him from cheating on the exam. CONSCIOUS-awakeex: I was conscious when the burglar entered the house. COUNCIL-a group that consults or advisesex: The men and women on the council voted in favor of an outdoor concert in their town. COUNSEL-to adviseex: The arole officer counseled the convict before he was released. ELICIT-to draw or bring outex: The teacher elicited the correct response from the student. ILLICIT-illegalex: The Columbian drug lord was arrested for his illicit activities. EMINENT-famous, respectedex: The eminent podiatrist won the Physician of the Year award. IMMANENT-inherent or intrinsicex: The meaning of the poem was immanent, and not easily recognized. IMMINENT-ready to take placeex: A fight between my sister and me is imminent from the moment I enter my house.
ITS-of or belonging to itex: The baby will scream as soon as its mother walks out of the room. IT’S-contraction for it isex: It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. LEAD-noun, a type of metalex: Is that pipe made of lead? LED-verb, past tense of the verb “to lead”ex: She led the campers on an over-night hike. LIE-to lie down (a person or animal. hint: people can tell lies)ex: I have a headache, so I’m going to lie down for a while. (also lying, lay, has/have lain–The dog has lain in the shade all day; yesterday, the dog lay there for twelve hours).
LAY-to lay an object down. ex: “Lay down that shotgun, Pappy! ” The sheriff demanded of the crazed moonshiner. ex: The town lay at the foot of the mountain. (also laying, laid, has/have laid–At that point, Pappy laid the shotgun on the ground). LOSE–verb, to misplace or not winex: Mom glared at Mikey. “If you lose that new lunchbox, don’t even think of coming home! “LOOSE–adjective, to not be tight; verb (rarely used)–to releaseex: The burglar’s pants were so loose that he was sure to lose the race with the cop chasing him. x: While awaiting trial, he was never set loose from jail because no one would post his bail. NOVEL-noun, a book that is a work of fiction. Do not use “novel” for nonfiction; use “book” or “work. “ex: Mark Twain wrote his novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when he was already well known, but before he published many other works of fiction and nonfiction. PASSED-verb, past tense of “to pass,” to have movedex:
The tornado passed through the city quickly, but it caused great damage. PAST-belonging to a former time or placeex: Who was the past president of Microsquish Computers? x: Go past the fire station and turn right. PRECEDE-to come beforeex: Pre-writing precedes the rough draft of good papers. PROCEED-to go forwardex: He proceeded to pass back the failing grades on the exam. PRINCIPAL-adjective, most important; noun, a person who has authorityex: The principal ingredient in chocolate chip cookies is chocolate chips. ex: The principal of the school does the announcements each morning. PRINCIPLE-a general or fundamental truthex: The study was based on the principle of gravity. QUOTE-verb, to citeex: I would like to quote Dickens in my next paper.
QUOTATION-noun, the act of citingex: The book of famous quotations inspired us all. RELUCTANT-to hesitate or feel unwilling ex: We became reluctant to drive further and eventually turned back when the road became icy. RETICENT-to be reluctant to speak; to be reserved in manner. Note that The American Heritage Dictionary lists “reluctant” as a synonym for “reticent,” as the third definition. For nuance and variety, we recommend “reticent” for reluctance when speaking or showing emotion (after all, even extroverts can become reluctant). ex: They called him reticent, because he rarely spoke.
But he listened carefully and only spoke when he had something important to say. STATIONARY-standing stillex: The accident was my fault because I ran into a stationary object. STATIONERY-writing paperex: My mother bought me stationery that was on recycled paper. SUPPOSED TO-correct form for “to be obligated to” or “presumed to” NOT “suppose to”SUPPOSE-to guess or make a conjectureex: Do you suppose we will get to the airport on time? When is our plane supposed to arrive? We are supposed to check our bags before we board, but I suppose we could do that at the curb and save time.
THAN-use with comparisonsex: I would rather go out to eat than eat at the dining hall. THEN-at that time, or nextex: I studied for my exam for seven hours, and then I went to bed. THEIR-possessive form of theyex: Their house is at the end of the block. THERE-indicates location (hint: think of “here and there”)ex: There goes my chance of winning the lottery! THEY’RE-contraction for “they are”ex: They’re in Europe for the summer–again! THROUGH-by means of; finished; into or out ofex: He plowed right through the other team’s defensive line.
THREW-past tense of throwex: She threw away his love love letters. THOROUGH-careful or completeex: John thoroughly cleaned his room; there was not even a speck of dust when he finished. THOUGH-however; neverthelessex: He’s really a sweetheart though he looks tough on the outside. THRU-abbreviated slang for through; not appropriate in standard writingex: We’re thru for the day! TO-towardex: I went to the University of Richmond. TOO-also, or excessivelyex: He drank too many screwdrivers and was unable to drive home. TWO-a numberex: Only two students did not turn in the assignment.
WHO-pronoun, referring to a person or personsex: Jane wondered how Jack, who is so smart, could be having difficulties in Calculus. WHICH-pronoun, replacing a singular or plural thing(s);not used to refer to personsex: Which section of history did you get into? THAT-used to refer to things or a group or class of peopleex: I lost the book that I bought last week. WHO-used as a subject or as a subject complement (see above)ex: John is the man who can get the job done. WHOM-used as an objectex: Whom did Sarah choose as her replacement? Back to ‘Commonly Confused Words’ or ‘Clarity and Style’Copyright 2010

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