Commonly Confused Words

Learning Objective:

  • Use correct terms commonly confused with similar words.

There are a number of words in the English language that writers can easily confuse because even though they sound the same, they are spelled differently and have different meanings. These words are called homophonesWords that sound the same when spoken but that have different meanings and often (but not always) different spellings. For example, rain and rein, or rose (a flower) and rose (past tense of rise).. It is important to know the difference between these words because if you use them incorrectly, you will confuse your reader. This lesson will focus on some of the most commonly confused words.





Accept – to agree or take what is offered

We can accept the terms of the agreement.

Except – left out, other than, excluding

We agree to everything except the last requirement.


Affect – to influence or cause a change in

We hope to affect the outcome of the meeting.

Effect– something produced or brought on by something else

Our work had an immediate effect on the outcome of the meeting.

All ready/Already

All ready – completely prepared

The family is all ready to go.

Already – by this time

By now they already should have left.


Compliment – an expression of admiration or approval

She often offers compliments when she likes people's clothing choices.

Complement – to go together well

She is especially fond of shoes that complement purses.


It's – it is

It's not too late to join the team.

Its – the possessive form of it

Its first practice is next week.


Site – a location

We found the perfect site for our tent.

Sight – the ability to see, the act of seeing, or what one sees

I had never seen such a beautiful sight in my entire life.

Cite – to refer to a source

His ability to cite the rules of safe camping was impressive.


Then – at that time; next in order of time

We will work independently, and then we will review each other's work.

Than – used as a comparison

We would rather work independently than in a group.



There – in, at, or to that place; at that point

The musicians will play there.

They're – they are

They're going to arrive tomorrow.

Their – the possessive form of they

They will bring their instruments.



Too – in addition; also

I found a blue hat and a red one, too.

Two – the number that follows one and comes before three

I found two hats.

To – in the direction of; as far as

I went to the store for my hats.


Weather – conditions in the atmosphere, such as rain, snow, storms, etc.

The weather suddenly became much worse.

Whether – used to introduce a choice or alternative

I wondered whether I should continue my bike ride.


Where – at, in, or to what location or position

It was not clear where we had stopped.

Were – the past tense of be

We were in a place we had never seen.


Whose – the possessive form of who

The person whose coat you found will probably be looking for it.

Who's – who is

Who's willing to return the coat?


Your – the possessive form of you

She refers to your work often.

You're – you are

You're one of her favorite authors.

The above list contains some of the commonly confused words that writers tend to use most often; however, this is not a complete list of commonly confused words. Remember, even if these words are used incorrectly, spell-check will not identify these words since they are spelled correctly. If you have difficulty with choosing which word to use, make sure you have another person read your essaysA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. before you turn them in.

Hint: If you are in a situation where you do not know the correct word and cannot have someone else proofreadThe process of carefully searching a writing draft for mistakes at the sentence- and word-level in order to correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. it before you turn it in, try to rewrite your sentence using a synonymA word or phrase that has an identical or very similar meaning to another word. Example: tiny is a synonym for small. of the homophone.