Learn the difference between confusing English words

For many people living in Asia, English is a secondary language that we learn to communicate with those around the world. It is not an easy language to master and for some of us, learning this language with all its particulars can be a lifelong task. Even then, there are several English words that can be easily confused and are often used erroneously in place of another. Here are some of the words that are easily confused. I have added some sentences as examples to show their correct usage. The trouble with these words is that they do not get caught in spell-checkers installed in our computers because the spellings may be correct but their wrong use can completely change the meaning of the sentence.

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  • Its, it’s

Its: This shows ‘belonging to it’. The dog ate its food. The mouse ran into its hole. It’s is short for it is.For example: It’s raining today. It’s my pencil. It’s none of your business etc. It is wrong to say…the dog ate it’s food because this becomes..The dog ate it is food…which does not make sense.

  • loose, lose

Confusing this pair of words can give rise to some funny moments. Loose means “not tight” or an animal that has escaped. The wire is loose. My clothes are loose. There was panic because a wild lion was loose. Lose means having lost something. It felt terrible to lose the match. Don’t lose your wallet. I plan to lose weight. It would be great to lose weight so that your clothes are loose but not so great to lose your clothes…

  • your, you’re

Your means belonging to you This is your pencil. Is this your dog I need your help You’re is short form of ‘you are’ You’re looking nice today. (You are looking nice today.) You’re late for the party. (You are late for the party.) So it is wrong to use “Your looking nice today”, nor it is correct to say “I need you’re help.”

  •  Desert, dessert

There is nothing common between these two words and yet it is strange to see how easily these two are confused while writing. A desert is the place where is there is little rainfall and it is dry, barren and often sandy like Sahara Desert, Kalahari Desert, etc. A dessert is the sweet dish usually served as the last course of a meal. It can be ice-cream, cakes, brownies, pudding, cookies, cheesecakes or anything that makes your mouth water. So if you plan to hike across a desert, I won’t be joining you but if you are having a dessert, count me in:)

  •  there, they’re, their

The spellings and pronunciation of these three words are a bit similar for those who do not speak perfect English so it is quite easy to use them wrongly within an article. Let’s see how to use them correctly. ‘There’ indicates a place that is far from you. Go over there. You can sit there. They’re is the short form of ‘they are’ My friends were here. They’re going home now. They’re late Their indicates”belonging to them” My friends left their coats in my house They cannot find their keys

  •  affect, effect

I feel this one is very hard to learn. Affect means to make something different in some way. It is used as verb The rain affected our plans for picnic The high price of gasoline will affect us all. Laziness will affect your grades Effect is the result or consequence of something. It is used as noun. The effect of high price of gasoline was felt by us. Chemicals have harmful effect on environment. To check if you are using “effect” correctly replace it by the word “result” If it makes sense, you are on right track. So “ Chemicals have harmful effect (result) on environment” seems correct but “ The rain affected (resulted) our plans for picnic” does not sound right.

I hope this helps!

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I am a freelance writer who discovered the love for the written word at a very young age. I am an avid reader and writer and many of my short stories have been published in a children's magazine. I love reading, writing and meeting new people. I also serve as the nanny, chef, nurse, sheriff, judge, toy locator, tutor, and chauffeur to my four kids and get oodles of love and some strands of white hair in return.

11 thoughts on “Learn the difference between confusing English words”

    • Thank you @simplewoman2:disqus. My children often make these mistakes in their English schoolwork so I have compiled a whole list of confusing words and make them practice these words regularly.

  1. These are commonly misused words which I often see and probably, the best way to avoid these mistakes is to use a software that checks spelling, punctuation and grammar before submitting an article or a post.

  2. yes, these are really misused words. thanks for reminding us. My friend always corrects me with compliment and complement. argh! My alibi??? well typo error.. hehehe

      • again??? tsk tsk tsk.. i think they are the best buddies now.

        I hope my keyboard did not say anything about me…can you ask your toaster what was their topic about?

        • They are talking about us and they are also boyfriend and girlfriend, oh my! They don’t seem to like us very much!

          • hmmm no wonder this keyboard is acting up lately.. it doesn’t like to ENTER sometimes.. it keeps on deleting. and HOME, now , I can’t find where that button is. tsk tsk tsk

  3. When I have started learning English I got frustrated because every time I made a mistake between its and it’s.

    • I had some very good teachers in my school days who were always making us practice, practice and practice oral and written English. Now I fully realize that I owe them a big thanks because sometimes people do not realize that English is not my first language:-)…yeah I am boasting here:-)


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