Posted in Writing advice

What Are The Most Commonly Confused English Words? Homophones.

There are many confusing things in English language but nothing is as confusing as homophones.

What is a Homophone?

Homophones are the words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have a different meaning. They are fairly common in the English language. Most adult people know the difference but it can be really confusing for a child just learning to read or people learning English.

There are several types of homophones:

  • Homophone – all words that sound alike but have different meanings.
  • Homograph – all words that sound the same and are spelled the same but have different meanings.
  • Homonym – words that are spelled the same but have a different meaning
  • Heterograph – words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings
  • Multinym – words that sound the same but have more than two different meanings and spellings

words different pronunciation spelling meaning

Source: Wikipedia

Common Examples

    • Affect/Effect

Affect indicates influence. Effect is a noun, meaning consequence.

    • To/too/two

To is a preposition while too means excessive and two is a number.

    • Buy/by/bye

Buy means to purchase while by is a preposition used to show direction and bye means goodbye.

    • Weather/whether

Weather is a word used to describe the state of the atmosphere while whether is a conjunction which introduces choices.

    • Stationary/stationery

Stationary means that something is standing still while stationery means pens, pencils, paper, notebooks and so on.

    • Compliment/complement

Compliment means to say something nice to another person while to complement means something that enhances or completes.

    • Brake/break

Brake is a part or a motorized vehicle or a bicycle used to stop it while break means a pause.

    • Aloud/allowed

Aloud means to say something out loud and allowed means to give permission.

    • Lie/lay

To lie means to recline and lay means to place something somewhere. This is also often confused with to lie which means to not tell the truth and lye which is a strong alkaline solution.

    • Bear/bare

Bear is an animal but it could also mean supporting or holding. Bare means naked.

    • Their/they’re/there

This is one of the most common mistakes in spelling nowadays, especially on social media. Their means that something belongs to them, they’re is short for they are and there indicated the location.

    • Accept/except

Accept means to receive something and except means to exclude.

    • Know/no

Know means to be aware of something while no is a word opposite to yes.

    • Peace/piece

Peace is a state of serenity and piece is a part, an element of something.

    • Whole/hole

Whole means complete or entire and hole means the lack of something or something missing.

These have been some of the most commonly confused words in English language. Hopefully, this guide will help clear some of the confusion and assist you in using each word properly.