Confused egg

Commonly confused words

Take a look at these two sentences – one of them contains a mistake:

I poured over book after book.

We pored over the catalogues.

Are you uncertain which one is right? There are a lot of words in English that look or sound alike but have very different meanings, such as pore and pour or flaunt and flout. It’s easy to get them confused and most electronic spellcheckers won’t be much help in this type of situation: they can tell you if a word has been spelled wrongly but they can’t generally flag up the misuse of a correctly spelled word.

Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause people problems. The words follow the accepted British English spelling. Some of them do have alternative American spellings and you will find these at the main dictionary entry on this website.

Confusables Meanings
accept
except
to agree to receive or do
not including
adverse
averse
unfavourable, harmful
strongly disliking; opposed
advice
advise
recommendations about what to do
to recommend something
affect
effect
to change or make a difference to
a result; to bring about a result
aisle
isle
a passage between rows of seats
an island
all together
altogether
all in one place, all at once
completely; on the whole
along
a long
moving or extending horizontally on
referring to something of great length
aloud
allowed
out loud
permitted
altar
alter
a sacred table in a church
to change
amoral
immoral
not concerned with right or wrong
not following accepted moral standards
appraise
apprise
to assess
to inform someone
assent
ascent
agreement, approval
the action of rising or climbing up
aural
oral
relating to the ears or hearing
relating to the mouth; spoken
balmy
barmy
pleasantly warm
foolish, crazy
bare
bear
naked; to uncover
to carry; to put up with
bated
baited
in phrase 'with bated breath', i.e. in great suspense
with bait attached or inserted
bazaar
bizarre
a Middle Eastern market
strange
berth
birth
a bunk in a ship, train, etc.
the emergence of a baby from the womb
born
borne
having started life
carried
bough
bow
a branch of a tree
to bend the head; the front of a ship
brake
break
a device for stopping a vehicle; to stop a vehicle
to separate into pieces; a pause
breach
breech
to break through, or break a rule; a gap
the back part of a gun barrel
broach
brooch
to raise a subject for discussion
a piece of jewellery
canvas
canvass
a type of strong cloth
to seek people’s votes
censure
censor
to criticize strongly
to ban parts of a book or film; a person who does this
cereal 
serial
a grass producing an edible grain; a breakfast food made from grains
happening in a series
chord
cord
a group of musical notes
a length of string; a cord-like body part
climactic
climatic
forming a climax
relating to climate
coarse
course
rough
a direction; a school subject; part of a meal
complacent
complaisant
smug and self-satisfied
willing to please
complement
compliment
to add to so as to improve; an addition that improves something
to praise or express approval; an admiring remark
council
counsel
a group of people who manage or advise
advice; to advise
cue
queue
a signal for action; a wooden rod
a line of people or vehicles
curb
kerb
to keep something in check; a control or limit
(in British English) the stone edge of a pavement
currant
current
a dried grape
happening now; a flow of water, air, or electricity
defuse
diffuse
to make a situation less tense
to spread over a wide area
desert
dessert
a waterless, empty area; to abandon someone
the sweet course of a meal
discreet
discrete
careful not to attract attention
separate and distinct
disinterested
uninterested
impartial
not interested
draught
draft
a current of air
a first version of a piece of writing
draw
drawer
an even score at the end of a game
a sliding storage compartment
dual
duel
having two parts
a fight or contest between two people
elicit
illicit
to draw out a reply or reaction
not allowed by law or rules
ensure
insure
to make certain that something will happen
to provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged
envelop
envelope
to cover or surround
a paper container for a letter
exercise
exorcise
physical activity; to do physical activity
to drive out an evil spirit
fawn
faun
a young deer; light brown
a mythical being, part man, part goat
flaunt
flout
to display ostentatiously
to disregard a rule
flounder
founder
to move clumsily; to have difficulty doing something
to fail
forbear
forebear
to refrain
an ancestor
foreword
forward
an introduction to a book
onwards, ahead
freeze
frieze
to turn to ice
a decoration along a wall
grisly
grizzly
gruesome, revolting
a type of bear
hoard
horde
a store
a large crowd of people
imply
infer
to suggest indirectly
to draw a conclusion
loath
loathe
reluctant, unwilling
to hate
loose
lose
to unfasten; to set free
to be deprived of; to be unable to find
meter
metre
a measuring device
a metric unit; rhythm in verse
militate
mitigate
to be a powerful factor against
to make less severe
palate
palette
the roof of the mouth
a board for mixing colours
pedal
peddle
a foot-operated lever
to sell goods
pole
poll
a long, slender piece of wood
voting in an election
pour
pore
to flow or cause to flow
a tiny opening; to study something closely
practice
practise
the use of an idea or method; the work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.
to do something repeatedly to gain skill; to do something regularly
prescribe
proscribe
to authorize use of medicine; to order authoritatively
to officially forbid something
principal
principle
most important; the head of a school
a fundamental rule or belief
sceptic
septic
a person inclined to doubt
infected with bacteria
sight
site
the ability to see
a location
stationary
stationery
not moving
writing materials
storey
story
a level of a building
a tale or account
titillate
titivate
to arouse interest
to make more attractive
tortuous
torturous
full of twists; complex
full of pain or suffering
wreath
wreathe
a ring-shaped arrangement of flowers etc.
to surround or encircle
yoke
yolk
a wooden crosspiece for harnessing a pair of oxen
the yellow center of an egg

 

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