Confused Words

Some words are confusing because they sound or look alike. Using the wrong word can convey the wrong meaning and confuse your reader.

Spell checkers will not catch these words if you have misused them. When you review your work, proofread to see whether you have used the correct word.

Review the meanings of the most commonly confused words. For example:

accept verb meaning "to receive"

I accept your kind invitation.

except preposition meaning "other than or leaving out"

Everyone except Phil can attend the conference.

advice noun meaning "an opinion given about what to do or how to behave"

He has always given me valuable advice.

advise verb meaning "to recommend or counsel"

I advise you to stay in school and play in the band.

affect verb meaning "to influence"

The governor knew that signing the bill would affect his chances of being reelected.

effect noun meaning "result"

Picking up litter has a positive effect on residents' pride in their community.

conscience noun meaning " a person's sense of what is right and wrong"

If you tell a lie, you might have a guilty conscience.

conscious adjective meaning "aware of"

We should be conscious of the feelings of others.

hole noun meaning "an empty place"

The children dug a big hole in their sandbox.

whole adjective meaning "with no part removed or left out, complete"

Our whole project will involve cooperation from everyone.

its pronoun possessive form of "it"

The kitten hurt its paw.

it's contraction of "it is"

It's not fair to leave her behind.

know verb meaning "to feel certain, or to recognize"

Do you know how to get to the subway?

no adverb used as a denial or refusal

The employee said no to the job offer.

loose adjective meaning "detached, not rigidly fixed"

She lost her bracelet because it was too loose on her wrist.

lose verb meaning "to be deprived or to no longer have"

If you don't pay attention to the signs, you might lose your way.

quiet adjective meaning "not loud or noisy"

Please be quiet when other people are speaking.

quit verb meaning "to give up or abandon"

The boys will quit their jobs the week before classes start.

quite adverb meaning "to some extent"

Moving to Minnesota will be quite a change for my family.

raise verb meaning "to bring to a higher level or position, or to increase"

The city needs to raise taxes in order to build the park.

rise verb meaning "to get up from lying, sitting, or kneeling; to get out of bed"

What time does your family rise each morning?

sense noun meaning "conscious awareness or rationality" or "the faculty of perceiving by means of sense organs"

My brother had the good sense to keep out of trouble.

The doctor explained that my sense of smell is not functioning well.

since adverb meaning "from a definite past time until now"; conjunction meaning "later than"

Ginny has lived in Michigan ever since.

Karl has worked in Chicago since graduating from college.

than conjunction used when comparing two elements

Her puppy is smaller than mine.

then adverb meaning "at that time, or next"

First I will stop at the store, and then I will go home.