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Kelly Smith

When it comes to writing and spelling, English is easily one of the most challenging languages around. English learners often find themselves confused when facing two words that look similar, but mean completely different things. Here's a list of some of the most tricky English words that tend to get mixed up by those battling their way through the intricacies of the English language.

it's/its

While the first one can mean 'it is' or 'it has', the second one is simply a possessive determiner – something like 'yours' or 'mine'.

borrow/lend

This confusion stems more from the meaning of these words then their spelling. To borrow is to receive something from another person for a specified period of time – to lend means to temporarily give something to someone. Two sides of the same coin!

other/another

These two are really similar, but their use is restricted to context and the noun in question. 'Other' is used when you've got two things to choose from or with plural nouns. 'Another' basically means 'additional' and is used exclusively with singular nouns.

lay/lie

While 'lay' is a transitive verb and will always involve an object (for instance, 'Lay a book on a table'), 'lie' is an intransitive verb and simply means 'to remain in a certain place' – 'I like to lie on the grass'.

clothes/cloths

These two are really tricky. 'Clothes' is something you wear, like jeans, t-shirt or a blouse – 'cloths' are pieces of material used for various purposes, for instance cleaning – 'I have a few cloths that I use to clean the kitchen'.

lose/loose

Those look and sound similar, but mean completely different things. 'Lose' is a verb, which is used as an opposite of 'gain' or 'win', as well as 'misplace something'. 'Loose' is an adjective that means the opposite of 'tight'.

listen/hear

Those two tend to be confused by many speakers, whose native languages derive from Latin, like Italian or French. The difference between the two is intention – listening is intentional, and hearing doesn't involve an intention – it's something you don't do on purpose. Tricky part: when talking about a completed action, you should use 'hear': 'I heard that song last night'.

history/story

While 'history' means a chronological account of events composed to show some kind of development or progression (for instance, the history of the French Revolution), 'story' is a representation of events that might be real or fictional, but are usually recounted to entertain the listener.

lonely/alone

'Lonely' is used to describe someone who has no companions or friends to spend time with and is sad because of this. 'Alone', on the other hand, is used when talking about someone who is separated or isolated from other people.

affect/effect

The difference here is simple – affect is used as a verb, effect almost always as a noun. See: 'Smoking negatively affects your health' vs. 'The effects of smoking on your body are really bad'.

safe/secure

'Safe' is an adjective that means opposite to 'dangerous', and 'secure' is used to mean 'confident' or 'not at risk of being damaged or lost'.

Messages In This Thread
Confused Words: Words That English Learners Tend to Confuse -- Kelly Smith
Re Confused Words: Words That English Learners Tend to Confuse -- Antecedtly smith
View Thread · Previous · Next Return to Index › Confused Words: Words That English Learners Tend to Confuse






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