SOME EXAMPLES OF TROUBLESOME WORDS AND
accept, except. Accept is a verb meaning “to approve” or “to receive”; except is usually a preposition meaning “not including.”
The gifted child accepted a donation from a generous parent.
All faculty members were promoted except the new ones.
adapt, adopt. Adapt means “to accommodate” or “to adjust to conditions”; adoptmeans “to accept” or “to use as one’s own.”
The class had a hard time adapting to the substitute teacher. The childless couple adopted a beautiful baby girl.
Advice, advise. Advice is a noun meaning “helpful suggestion, recommendation or counsel”; advise is a verb meaning “to give advice.”
The girl sought advice from the priest.
The Dean advised the teacher against taking a leave of absence.
Affect, affect. Affect is a verb meaning to “influence”; effect is usually a noun meaning “a result or consequences.”
His family problems have affected his work performance.
The serious effects of environmental degradation are unimaginable.
All ready, already. All ready means that everyone is ready; already means “previously ” or “by this time.”
The children are all ready for the evaluation next week.
Gordon has already settled his accounts.
All together, altogether. All together means “considered as a group”; altogethermeans “entirely” or “completely.”
They ate all together at the Japanese restaurant.
The mother felt altogether ecstatic when her son topped the exam.
allusion, illusion. An allusion is an indirect reference to something; an illusion is a false perception or unreal impression of something.
In her essay, she made an allusion to the 1987 Constitution.
It is believed that a magician's trick is just an illusion.
a lot (of), lots (of), alot, allot. A lot or lots are colloquial for many or much. Alot is a misspelling of a lot.
His godfather gave him lots of money last Christmas. (Colloquial)
His godfather gave him much money last Christmas. (formal)
Our math teacher has given us a lot of assignments. (Colloquial)
Our math teacher has given us many assignments. (Formal)
Allot means “to appropriate, assign, or distribute to a plan.”
Congress allotted twenty million pesos for infrastructure.
Alright. Nonstandard for all right. Do not use.
Anyone, any one. Anyone is an indefinite pronoun meaning “any person”; any onemeans “a single person or thing.”
Anyone can ask the speaker questions about the lecture.
You are required to answer any one of the questions.
Awhile, a while. Awhile is an adverb.
We stayed awhile in my sister’s house.
Do not use awhile as the object of a preposition (in, or, after); instead, use a while(a noun). For example:
The exam lasted for awhile. (nonstandard)
the exam lasted for a while. (formal)
Beside, besides. Beside is a preposition meaning “by the side of.” Besides is a preposition meaning “except” and an adverb meaning “in addition (to).”
I stood beside my dean at the convention. (by the side of)
She thought of no one besides him. (except)
Besides, she has what it takes to be a star. (In addition)
Burst, busted, bust. Burst is a verb meaning “to break apart or explode.” Its principal parts are burst, burst, and burst. The use of busted or bust is nonstandard and should be avoided.
We were asked to bust the balloon. (Nonstandard)
We were asked to burst the balloon. (standard)
Cite, sight, site. Cite means “to name or mention”; sight means “to see”; sitemeans “place” or “location’.
Writers of academic papers should cite sources of information.
The military sighted the fugitive in a remote province.
The site of the fast food restaurant is beside the university.
Coarse, course. Coarse means “rough in texture”; course refers to a unit of study or a path. For example:
The surface of the floor is coarse.
Two basic courses will be offered next term.
Environmentalists opposed the construction of the golf course.
Complement, compliment. Complement means “to complete or enhance.” Compliment means “to express praise.” Both words can be used as verbs or nouns.
His intelligence will complement her efficiency. (Verb)
For one to succeed, discipline is a complement for hard work. (noun)
The students complimented the chair for her organizational skills.
Responses to compliments may vary across cultures.
Continual, continuous. Continual means “repeated frequently.” Continuous means “without interruption.”
There was continual laughter from the audience during the show.
The clock click continuously.
Council, counsel. Council is a noun that refers to an assembly of people. Counsel as a noun means “advice or guidance,” or refers to an attorney. Counsel as a verb means, “to advice” or “to give a helpful recommendation.”
The council of deans will meet on Thursday. (Noun)
The accused sat beside her counsel during the arraignment. (Noun)
The psychologist counseled the emotionally disturbed person. (verb)
Desert, dessert. Desert as a noun with the accent on the first syllable means “a dry, arid region of land.” Desert as a noun with the accent on the second syllable means “a deserved reward or punishment.” Desert as a verb (accent on the second syllable) means “to leave without any intention to return.” Dessert is a noun meaning “sweets served as the final course of a meal.”
Camels thrive on the desert.
Faculty members who work hard get their just deserts.
Soldiers who desert the military are punished accordingly.
A tray of assorted fresh fruits makes a great dessert.
Device, devise. Device is a noun meaning “a form of equipment.” Devise is a verb meaning “to invent.” For example:
She bought the device in the US.
Jeffrey devised a plan to motivate teachers to do more research.
Different than, different from. Different from is more acceptable. However, use different than when the word than is used to introduce a dependent clause. For example:
The teachers’ part in the program was entirely different from the students’.
The topics they were told to study were different than the things that came out in the exam. (than introduces dependent clause than the things that came out in the exam)
Disinterested, uninterested. Disinterested means “impartial, not influenced by personal bias.” Uninterested means “not interested.” For example:
A judge must be a disinterested party in a case. The students were making noise because they were uninterested in the lecture.
Dyeing, dying. Dyeing means “imparting color to a material.” Dying means “to cease to be alive.”
He is dyeing his shirt again. Pedro was beside his grandmother when she was dying.
Each other, one another. Each other refers to two people. One another refers to more than two people. For example:
Husband and wife should bring out the best in each other. The members of the group helped one another to get a high grade.
Emigrate, immigrate. Emigrate means “to have a country or region.” Immigrate means “to enter a country or a region.”
Several families emigrated from the southern region due to the deteriorating peace and order situation in the area.
Several families immigrated to the city.
Eminent, imminent. Eminent means “prominent in rank.” Imminent means “likely to occur.” For example:
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is an eminent person.
A coup d’ etat is imminent because of the current political crisis.
Farther, further. Farther means “to a more distant place.”; further means “to a greater extent” or “in addition.” For example:
The bus cannot go any farther than Quezon.
He said she cannot help him any further.
Fewer, less. Fewer refers to a number of things; less refers to an amount.
There were fewer participants than we had expected.
There is less water in the glass.
Formally, formerly. Formally means “in a proper form.” Formerly means “at a prior time.” For example:
She was formally introduced to his family.
The lady was formerly connected with the Accounting Division.
Hanged, hung. Use hanged as the past tense or past participle of hang only when it means “an execution.” in all other cases, use hung.
The criminal was hanged in public.
The entries in the lantern contest were hung for public viewing.
Hisself, ourself, theirselves, themselves. These are nonstandard forms of reflexive pronouns. Instead, use himself , ourselves and themselves.
He has no one to blame but himself.
If, whether. Use whether when there is an alternative or choice.
My chair asked me whether I took a service or availed myself of a sabbatical.
The President wanted to know if you finished your Ph. D. (Do not use or not after whether).
Imply, infer. Imply means “to suggest.” Infer means “to conclude based on a suggestion.” Therefore, writers and speakers imply (make a suggestion), whereas readers and listeners infer (draw conclusion).
The speaker implies that there is corruption in every agency of government.
From the given data we can infer that the case will prosper.
Irregardless. Nonstandard usage , instead, use regardless.
We should pursue our dreams regardless of the consequences.
Its, it’s. Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it. It’s is a contraction for it is.
Its length is 120 centimeters.
It’s a wonderful day today.
It’s me. Colloquial for it is I. Although the expression has become acceptable in informal conversation, it is better to use the proper form in writing. For example:
It’s me again. (Colloquial) It is I again. (Formal)
Kind of, sort of. Both expressions are colloquial. Better use somewhat or rather.
The poor are kind of disadvantaged. (Colloquial)
The poor are somewhat disadvantaged. (Formal)
Later, latter. Later, a comparative form of late, means “after the due time” or “tardy.”Latter is used to compare things; it refers to the last one mentioned.
She will see you later today.
Between love and career she chose the latter.
Lay, lie. Lay always takes an object complement. Lay means “to set or to place.” Lie never takes an object. Lie means “rest.”
She will lay her cards on the table during her meeting with the staff.
He usually lies down on the couch before dinner.
Loose, lose. Loose (rhymes with moose) is the opposite of tight. Lose (rhymes with shoes) means “to remove from one’s possession.”
She will always brings loose coins hen she travels.
You will lose your chance of getting a high grade.
Mad, angry. Mad means insane. In writing , do not use when the meaning is angry.
His teacher was mad at him. (Colloquial)
His teacher was angry at him. (Formal)
May be, maybe. May be is a verb phrase similar to might be. Maybe is an adverb that means perhaps.
You may be reprimanded for the lapse you have committed. (verb)
Maybe you should see me soon. (Adverb)
Most, almost. Almost is an adverb meaning nearly. Most is the superlative form of more. Do not use most when you mean almost.
Most all of the students have left the school. (Colloquial)
Almost all of the students have left the school. (Formal)
Myself, (herself, himself, ourselves, themselves, yourself. Do not use reflexive pronouns where a personal pronoun will fit.
The members of the committee are Juan, Pia, and myself. (Nonstandard)
The members of the committee are Juan, Pia, and I (Formal)
Passed, past. Passed (past tense of the verb pass) refers to a movement or successful completion. Past refers to a former time. As a preposition, past means “beyond”.
The boy passed the entrance exam given by the prestigious school.
He passed the ball to his teammate.
Our differences are all in the past.
They walked past the monument.
Personal, personnel. Personal is an adjective meaning “private.” Personnel is a noun meaning “workers” or “employees.”
A resume usually includes personal data about an applicant. The Director issued a memorandum to all personnel.
Principal, principle. Principal can be a noun (“a leader, a chief part, or a sum of money”) or an adjective (“highest in rank”). Principle is a noun meaning “a fundamental truth or law.”
The new high school principal met with the teachers.
She will pay the principal plus interest.
I admire people who do not compromise their principles.
Quiet, quite. Quiet (rhymes with diet) means “not noisy.” Quite (rhymes with right) means “very.”
She is looking for a quiet place where she can concentrate on her review.
The participants did quite well in the competition.
Reason is because, reason why. The reason is because is nonstandard usage. Instead, use the reason is that or just because.
The reason I was absent is because I was hospitalized. (Nonstandard) The reason I was absent is that I was hospitalized. (Formal)
I was absent because I was hospitalized. (Formal)
The reason why is redundant. Instead, use either why or the reason , but not both.
You should know the reason why I was absent. (Colloquial).
You should know why I was absent. (Formal)
You should know the reason I was absent. (Formal)
Stationary, stationery. Stationary means “fixed, not moving.” Stationery is writing paper.
The boats were in a stationary position when the giant waves swept them.
She bought two packs of stationery at the bookstore.
Suppose to, supposed to. Suppose to is nonstandard. Always used supposed to.
We are supposed to abide by the Constitution.
Sure, surely. Sure is an adjective ; surely is an adverb. Colloquially, sure is sometimes used as an adverb.
Her siblings sure want her to graduate this year. (Colloquial) Her siblings surely want her to graduate this year. (Formal)
Than, then. Than is a conjunction used to make comparisons. Then is an adverb meaning “at that time”, or it can be an adverbial conjunction similar to therefore.
The lady basketball player is taller than you.
The teacher then moved on to the group activities.
It rained for a whole day; then roads were impassable.
Their, there, they’re. Their is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to them”
Sheila and Shirley turned in their assignments ahead of time.
There is an adverb meaning the opposite of here. Also, there can be used as the introductory word of a sentence.
I saw the cat there.
There are several causes of air pollution.
They’re is a contraction for they are.
They’re in Afghanistan as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.
To, two, too. To is a preposition.
He moved to Davao City three years ago.
Two is a number.
With her new diet she is losing two pounds a day.
Who’s, whose. Who’s is a contraction for who is or who has. Whose is the possessive form of who (“belonging to whom”). For example:
Who’s going to see the Dean tomorrow? (Who is)
Who’s got loose coins? (Who has)
Whose wallet is on the table?
Your, you’re. Your is the possessive form of you. You’re is a contraction for you are.
Your proposal has been turned down.
You’re the source of inspiration for so many students.