Commonly Confused Homonyms
Homonyms are words that sound the same but are spelled differently, and of course, have different meanings. When I was doing research for this post, I pulled up sites for proofreading services to see what they thought were the most often confused homonyms. After reading a few I realized that I already KNEW the words that were the easiest to confuse—they’re the ones I’d been tripping over my whole life. As an ESL student, you may have a slightly longer list that includes things like here/hear, or to/two/too, but I say let’s slay some dragons first!
Homonyms That Can Easily Trip You Up
Affect / Effect
The word effect is most often a noun that means, the result of a change.
There will be side effects with that medication.
It can be used as a verb that means, the way of bringing about a change.
The prisoner effected his escape by tunneling to freedom.
The word affect is most often a verb that means, to produce a change in something or someway.
Global warming affects every nation.
It can be used as a noun that means, an emotion, feeling, or emotional response.
His affect was very flat, I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
Accept / Except
The word accept is a verb that means, to receive something, to hold something as true, or to answer yes.
She accepted the award for citizenship from her classmates.
I accept your invitation to dinner.
The word except is usually a preposition that means, excluding, apart from, or not including.
Your payment covers all costs except taxes.
Sometimes except is used as a conjunction that means, if not for the fact, or but.
I love swimming except I hate getting wet.
Rarely, the word except is used as a verb that means, to exclude.
You are excepted from punishment, because of prior good behavior.
Advice / Advise
The word advice is a noun that means, guidance or recommendations.
I’m so happy I took your advice about my class schedule.
In business and law advice is a noun that means, a formal record of agreements or transactions.
Signatory advices were forwarded to all interested parties.
The word advise is a verb that means, to provide information formally or officially, to tell someone what you think they should do in a situation, or the guidance of an expert.
The police are advising all people to remain indoors this evening.
I advise caution while you use that table saw.
The World Health Organization advises pregnant women to be especially cautious of mosquito bites due to West Nile Virus.
These are just 3 of the most often confused homonyms, there are lots more—unfortunately. As a matter of fact, check out the grammar mistakes post for the homonym trio, dreaded by ESL students everywhere, of they’re / their / there.