Grammar check: commonly confused words

 In Learn English

Commonly confused words in English come about because often they sound the same, are spelled the same or are just close enough in sound or spelling to trip you up.

Homonyms—‘homo’ = same + ‘nyms’ = name.  Homonyms are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs and other Commonly Confused Words


commonly confused wordsAir—what you’re breathing
Heir—a person entitled to a property upon someone’s death


Bare—unclad, unadorned
Bear—to tolerate, or in another meaning an actual bear, the animal

Homonyms may also be spelled the same, and sound the same, but have different meanings.

Bat—the flying animal
Bat—a wooden club


Row—to propel a boat with an oar
Row—a column, or continuous line of something

Homophones—‘homo’ = same + ‘phone’ = sound.  Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation (sound the same), but have

different meanings.  Homophones will be spelled differently.  The homonyms air/heir, and bare/bear qualify as homophones.

Think, too…

Their—someone’s, the possessive of the pronoun they
There—in that place
They’re—the contraction of the words they and are

Homographs—‘homo’ = same + ‘graph’ = write.  Homographs are words that are spelled the same, have different pronunciations, and have different meanings.


Bass—a deep tone
Bass—a kind of fish


Content—the material inside something

People often use the term homonyms to encompass homophones, and homographs, this is widely accepted, but you can see from the definitions that there isn’t a complete overlap in the three terms.

Go here, here, and here, for lists of each!

English Language Words with Similar Sounds and Spellings

Similar is the key word in that subtitle.  Unlike homonyms, homophones, or homographs, there are a lot of English language words that aren’t the exactly the same in any way but are just close enough in spelling or sound or BOTH things to become a challenge.


Lose—to not win, to rid yourself of something, to misplace something
Loose—not tight


Accept—to receive
Except—to exclude


Affect—to influence something
Effect—the result of a change

Here is a more impressive list of these villainous words commonly confused.

The English language may sometimes feel as though it were devised by a cast of comedians…or sadists depending on your mood.  There are a ton of words that have subtle differences in pronunciation or spelling, some may have NO difference what so ever in either!  It can be frustrating for someone wanting to master the language but don’t despair, this is one of the areas where practice really does make perfect.  Don’t avoid these words, attack them, get specific in your understanding of their meanings and with the pronunciations.  Think of these words as challenges to your fluency, not obstacles, and then CRUSH them.

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