Commonly Confused Words

18.08.21 Commonly confused words Time to read: 7min

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Confused Words

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re uncertain which word is the right one? In English, numerous confused words sound or look similar but their meanings are entirely different. For example, pour and pore or flout and flaunt.

Confusing words in English is easy and the majority of electronic spellcheckers won’t come in handy when it comes to this type of situation – they can inform you of a wrongly-spelled word but they cannot point out the misuse of easily confused words. This article will explain what confused words are, some of the examples, and tips on how to avoid these mistakes.

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Confused Words - FAQ

Confusing words in English happen because some words have a similar spelling, meaning, or pronunciation to another word. For instance, new and knew.

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You can prevent confusing words by having a solid vocabulary, learning new words, and careful word usage. Also, familiarize yourself with the list of your regularly confused words and always use a dictionary.

Understanding the various words that can be confused helps writers to choose the appropriate words and thus, submit high-quality work to their instructors. In turn, high-quality writing will leave your readers with a positive impression.

Confused Words: Definition

There are words in English that confuse writers and speakers because they share a similar pronunciation, spelling, or meaning with another word. These words are referred to as commonly confused words.

Examples for Confused Words


This is one of the words that confuse students the most. If used as a noun, research can be used to mean:

  • Collection of information regarding a certain subject.
  • A diligent or careful search.
  • A studious examination or inquiry.

If used as a verb, research(es) can be used to mean:

  • To conduct research for. For example, to research a journal.
  • To investigate or search exhaustively. For instance, to research a problem.


However is a conjunction and can be used to mean:

  • In what way or manner. For example, he will pay you, truly, however else.
  • To whatever extent or degree. He couldn’t convince her, however hard he tried.
  • On the other hand, in spite of that. For example, it still looks possible, however, that the profit margins will improve.
  • How was it possible. For example: however did you achieve that.

This/these vs. that/those

This, these, that, those are some of the confused words for English writers. They’re demonstrative pronouns which means that they’re used to specify which person or thing we are talking about in the context. This and that are used with singular nouns, and those and these with plural countable nouns. How we use it will depend on how close or far away the speaker is.

This is used to indicate a singular person or thing that is located near you. If they are many, use these. Example: this is our teacher, and these people here are his students.

That is used to show a singular person or thing that is located far from you. If they are many, use those. Example: That is my brother’s car, and those people around it are his friends.

Than vs. then

Than is used for making comparison statements. For instance: an airplane is faster than a train.

On the other hand, then is used to show the sequence or time. For instance: he left the office, then went to his car.

Who vs. Whom

Who is a pronoun and is used as the subject of your sentence. For instance: who is responsible for submitting the group projects?

Whom is a pronoun and refers to the object of a preposition or a verb. For instance: This book is for whom?

When you’re uncertain, replace the word with “he” or “she” – if it fits, then use who. If it doesn’t fit, then use whom.

Which vs. That

That is used if the clause or phrase that follows it is important in that sentence. For instance: students that fail to proofread thoroughly often miss out on important points.

Which is used if the clause or phrase that follows it is not important. For instance: procrastinated answers, which students regularly write, reduce their classes’ desired grades.

Affect vs. effect

Affect is a verb and it means to influence or make a difference to a particular thing. For instance: the condition of the engine affects the vehicle’s performance.

Effect is a noun and it means to cause or result in something happening. For instance: The condition of the engine has a great effect on the vehicle’s performance.

If you’re in doubt, try inserting the word “alter” and “result”. If “alter” fits (…alters the vehicle’s performance), then use affect, and if “result” fits (…great result on the vehicle’s performance), then use effect.

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Prevent confusing words

During writing, you must pick the right words according to their meaning in the context and their spelling. Not only does choosing the appropriate word enhance your vocabulary and writing but it also creates a great impression on the readers and improves clarity. These tips will help you to avoid using these confused words wrongly:

  • Use a dictionary. Always have a dictionary on your desk when you’re writing. When in doubt, look up the words for their spellings and meanings. There are several dictionaries on the internet as well. It will help you to use the correct words and avoid using confused words wrongly.
  • Have a list of your commonly confused words. Be aware and keep a list of the words that confuse you. If you realize a pattern of confused words, have a list and refer to it whenever you’re in doubt. Refer to the list again before submitting your assignment to the instructor.
  • Study the confused words. You may not be aware of the words that easily confuse you, but when you’re going to write, look up the confused words on this list.
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In a Nutshell

English is filled with plenty of words that sound or look alike but mean completely different things. Therefore, it is easy to find yourself confusing some of them. However, if you’re aware of the meanings of different words, you won’t fall into these traps. Here are the main takeaways from confused words:

  • To write accurately, it is essential for writers to understand the confused words.
  • Even if the confused words may sound or look alike, their meanings are different.
  • The best way to make sure that you’re using the right choice of words is to consult the dictionary. You can also have a list that has the confused words that you can keep referring to when writing or studying.
  • When you use the right words in your writing, it eliminates confusion and creates a positive impression on the readers.

Easily confused words appear in several locations besides school and work. Be on the lookout for these words every time. Keep a mental note of that error and recall its correction to use in your pieces of writing.