Commonly Misused Words and Confusingly Related Words


Many words in English are commonly misused in our daily activities. It’s commonly happened to the words that are included in homophones. Each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning is called homophone.

The following is example of commonly misused words with simple definition

Advice, Advise

Advice (n) — a suggestion, an opinion, or a recommendation

 I should have followed your advice and declined the job offer

Advise (v) — give advice to somebody

 She advise me to go home


Adapt, Adept, Adopt

Adapt (v) – to adjust or modify

They adapt to the conditions here, the climate, the training, the food

Adept (adj) – skilled, proficient

He adept at counting money very quickly

Adopt (v) — legally take another’s child and bring it up as one’s own

There are many people eager to adopt a baby


Assure, Ensure, Insure

Assure (v) — to promise;  to make a positive declaration

I assure you that the loan will be repaid according to the terms specified in the note.

Ensure (v) — to make certain

To ensure the timely completion of this project, please hire additional qualified personnel.

Insure (v)— to protect against financial loss

We insure all our facilities against fire, flood, and earthquake damage through Great Western Indemnity.


Beside, Besides

Beside (PREPOSITION)— by the side of

Please place the new scanner on the table beside Ms. Carter’s computer.

Besides (PREPOSITION)— in addition to

Parents can find something for their kids on the web besides games and fun


Breach, Breech

Breach (n) — a violation of a law or an agreement; a hole or a gap; a break in friendly relations

The judge ruled that a breach of contract transpired when the building was not ready for occupancy by the date agreed upon.

Breech (n) — the part of a firearm or a cannon that is located behind the barrel

The British reloaded their weapons, filling the breech with powder and using their rods to push in the balls


Cease, Seize

Cease (v) — to stop or come to an end

Please cease shipment of any further orders to Home Décor until its outstanding balance has been paid.

Seize (v) — to take possession of; to take

Did the IRS seize the company’s assets for nonpayment of taxes?


Ceiling, Sealing

Ceiling (n) — top inside surface of a room

Hard landscape materials are the walls, floors and ceilings of our outdoor rooms

Sealing (v) — present participle of seal; to close with a coating to make secure

We will be sealing and mailing all our holiday cards on December 4.


Cite, Sight, Site

Cite (v) — to quote or mention; to summon to a court appearance

Dr. Rosenthal can cite many authorities who have researched the problem of pollution in major United States cities.

Sight (v) — to see

Tell me when you sight Istiqlal Mosque !

Site (n) — a location

He is on the site of the accident


Command, Commend

Command (n) — an order

In some ways, the president of the corporation has to obey the command of the corporation in order to compete.

Commend (v) — to praise or compliment

Please commend the sales staff for its fine job in promoting our product line at the Dallas convention.


Complement, Compliment

Complement (v) — to complete or make perfect

The paintings you selected for the reception area will complement the office decor.

Compliment (v) — to praise or flatter.

Mr. Rose did compliment me on the fine job I had done.


Costumer, Customer

Costumer (n) — one who deals in or makes costumes

Allison Parker was the costumer for the Valley Playhouse production of Cats.

Customer (n) — one who purchases a commodity or service

Does the customer wish to send the wrapped wedding gift to the bride or just take it with her?


Deceased, Diseased

Deceased (adj) — dead; no longer living

They are watching the cremation of deceased person

Diseased (adj) — having a disease

The diseased trees are simply cut down and burned


Defer, Differ

Defer (v) — to put off or delay

She deferred the payment of rent until June

Differ (v) — be unlike; dissimilar

The second set of data differed from the first


Device, Devise

Device (n) — an invention or mechanism

The automatic collating and stapling device on the copier worked perfectly during the demonstration.

Devise (v) — to think out or plan

Were you able to devise an overtime plan that would be equitable to all employees?


Decent, Descent, Dissent

Decent (adj) — good enough standar or quality

Find me a decent cup of tea.

Descent (n) — moving downward; ancestry

It is the steepest descent on the course, and runs for nearly 2 miles.

Dissent (n) — differences or disagreement

There seems to be considerable dissent among the council members concerning the resolution to expand our city’s police department.


Farther, Further

Farther (adj) — a greater distance [always a measurable amount of space]

The driving distance from the plant to the warehouse is farther than I had anticipated.

Further (v) — to help move forward. ADVERB; to a greater degree or extent.

The Arden Foundation contributed $5 million to further research in spinal cord injuries.


Lightening, Lightning

Lightening (v) — [GERUND]; illuminating or brightening; lessening or alleviating

Lightening facial serum with vitamin B3, helps to enhance skin’s brightening.

Lightning (n) — the flashing of light produced by atmospheric electricity

During the storm flashes of lightning streaked across the sky.


Loose, Lose

Loose (adj) — not fastened, not tight or shut up

When trying to kick faster, keep your legs loose and relaxed.

Lose (v) — to fail to keep; to mislay

We do not want to lose any of our accounts in the Philippines because of this temporary shortage.


Peak, Peek

Peak (ADJECTIVE or NOUN) — highest point; top

Traffic reaches a peak between 8 and 9 in the morning.

Peek (n) — a glance

I take a quick peek at the card to my left and read the name.


Personal, Personnel

Personal (adj) — private; individual

You can’t take a personal phone call at work.

Personnel (n) — employees

All personnel have been notified that the company will be acquired by Certified Investment Corporation, effective July 1.


Principal, Principle

Principal (n) — a person who holds a high position or plays an important role

The school principal will be resigning next year.

Principle (n) — rule or standard

He has always refused to compromise his principles.


Stationary, Stationery

Stationary (adj) — not movable or not moving

Only two of the interior walls in this office suite are stationary.

Stationery (n) — writing material or related to writing materials

Prepare this letter on Mr. Parks’ personal stationery.


Weather, Whether

Weather (n) — the state of the atmosphere

The weather is unpredictable today.

Whether (CONJUNCTION) — an introduction of alternatives

I don’t know whether to accept or refuse.




Other commonly confused words whose meanings and usage are often misused are :

Among, Between

Among (prep) is used for relationships of more than two items

The collaboration among the writer, the illustrator, and the printer.

Between (prep) is used for only two items

The agreement between the two companies.


Amount, Number

Amount (n) is total or quantity of something that can not be counted

He spent a fair amount of time there.

Number (n) is quantity of something that can be counted

I had eaten a number of cookies.


Can, May, Might

Can refers to ability

We can produce 300 chips per hour.

May is used to formally request permission

May I call you this night?”

Might refers to possibility

We might see declines in prices this year.


Explicit, Implicit

Explicit (adj) — clear; easy to understand; evident; unambiguous

The area of this part can be found once we have an explicit description of its graph.

Implicit (adj) — implied; ambiguous

This paper contains his famous deep implicit function theorem


Fewer, Less

Fewer is used for counting items

People these days are buying fewer newspapers.

Less is used for non-counting items

People want to spend less time in traffic jams.


That, Which

That usually introduces as essential phrase that is not set off by commas

This is the room that we were looking for. (essential)

Which introduces a non-essential phrase that is set off by commas

The old car, which I’ve had for years, has finally broken down. (not essential)


Lay, Lie

Lay is a transitive verb meaning to place

Lay the equipment on the table.

Lie is an intransitive verb meaning to recline

Lie down on the couch


Imply, Infer

Imply —  Not interchangeable. Something implied is something suggested or indicated, though not expressed.

Farming implies early rising

Infer — Something inferred is something deduced from evidence at hand.

Since he was a farmer, we inferred that he got up early


Comprise, Compose

Comprise — The whole comprises (or includes) the parts

The United States comprises fifty states.

Compose — The parts compose (or make up) the whole.

Organic compounds compose the fertilizer used by the farmer.


Shall, Will

Shall (HELPING VERB) — denotes future time in the first person in formal writing

I shall give your request the utmost consideration.

Will (HELPING VERB) — used with all three persons in business style

We will call you tomorrow.


Disinterested, Uninterested

Disinterested (adj) — free from selfish motive or interest; unbiased

All the judges for this competition have been certified to be disinterested parties.

Uninterested (adj) — not interested

Employees who are uninterested in the success of the company are certainly not candidates for promotion.


Convince, Persuade

Convince (v) — to bring a person to your point of view

we had to convince politicians that they needed to do something

Persuade (v) — to induce a person to do something

He believes this would persuade many motorists to switch to a second-hand purchase.


Bi- ; Semi-

Bi- (PREFIX) — two

Our newsletter is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

Semi- (PREFIX) — half

Bulletins to the staff are issued semimonthly, on the 1st and 15th of each month.


Because of, Due to

Because of (PREPOSITION) — by reason of

He lost the first game because of carelessness

Due to (PREPOSITION) — as a result of

The accident was due to bad weather




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