Commonly Confused Homonyms

 In Learn English

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

homonymsAffect / 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.


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