The English language is always full of new surprises and confusion. It's amusing to see how many mistakes people do while using the English language. Sometimes while speaking or writing we make mistakes in grammar without realizing it. The language is developing day by day. So being aware of the new words and understanding their correct usage is important.
Why are English words misused?
There are a few common reasons for the mistakes you usually do. You must keep in mind while you are learning and using the English vocabulary:
1. Word meanings:
This is where most people make a very common mistake. People often misunderstand the meaning of a word. They think that this word means this, but actually, it means something else.
2. Usage of Nouns:
Some of the irregular plural nouns do not end with ‘s'. That makes them look like they are in the singular form. So some of the users use them with singular verbs. For example using 'is' instead of 'are.'
3. Exchanging an adjective for an adverb or vice-versa:
An adjective and an adverb can have similar meanings. But, you can apply them in different grammatical formations.
4. Confusing words with the same spellings:
Some of the nouns and verbs share the same spellings. But actually, they have completely different meanings. For example, the word 'object' means a thing and it’s another meaning is 'protest' too.
30 commonly misused English words
Here we have a list of some misused or misspelled words that we use often. It might help you in your work and studies as well.
- Who’s/Whose: 'Who’s' is the shorter version of who is. For example, who’s calling you now? 'Whose' is a possessive pronoun that means something belonging to someone. For example, whose book is this?
- Toward/Towards: These words often make confusion. British English uses 'toward' and American English uses 'towards.'
- To/Too: 'To' is a proposition that indicates direction. For example, she walked to school. You can use 'to' in the infinite form of verbs. For example, Rohan waited until the last minute to finish his school work. The use of 'Too' shows the addition of something; it can also mean 'also.’ For example, Mini waited too long to finish her homework too.
- Their/There/They're: ‘Their’ is a possessive form of the word ‘They.’ Example: Ritu and Neha took their time. While indicating a place you should use 'there.' Example: It took them two hours to get there. 'They’re' is the short form of the word ‘they are.’ Example: They’re almost here.
- Then/Than: The use of 'then' indicates a time or sequence. Example: Ritu took off running and then Neha came along to finish her breakfast. Use of 'than' shows comparisons, for example, Neha runs faster than Ritu.
- Stationary/Stationery: Non-moving things called ‘Stationary.' Example: The car was stationary. 'Stationery' means the letter-writing materials and to the high-quality paper. Example: Ram painted his portrait on the best stationery.
- Inquiry/Enquiry: Both of these words are a request to get some kind of information. An 'inquiry' is the standard spelling for British English. 'Enquiry' is the word of American English.
- Principal/Principle: The word 'Principal' can be a noun or a goal. As a noun, it is also referred to as the person who is in charge of a school or an organization. Example: The principal called the Ram into his office. When using it as an adjective it means most important. Example: The principal reason for this meeting is to discuss marketing ideas. The word 'Principle' is always used as a noun that means a strong belief or idea. Example: Neha doesn’t like to eat meat as a matter of principle.
- Loose/Lose: The word Loose is usually used as an adjective. Example: Ram found that the animals were loose. 'Lose' is always used as a verb. Lose means to misplace something or not win in a competition. Example: Ram was careful not to lose his ticket.
- Learned/Learnt: The word 'Learned' is American English spelling. The word 'Learnt' is British English.
- Lead/Led: 'Lead' means to guide or stand in the first position. Led is the past tense of the verb lead. Example: Neha led the way. The word 'Led' refers to a kind of metal. That is stands for Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) used as a light source.
- Lay/Lie: 'Lay' means to put or to place in a specific position. Example: Rita will lay out her outfit before she goes to bed. One of the ways to remember this is that there is an 'a' in both to lay and to place. 'Lie' has two meanings: 1- to rest or to be in a horizontal state, 2- not to tell the truth. One of the ways to remember is that there is an 'e' in both to lie and to rest. Example: Rishi will lie down for a nap. The past tense of lie is ‘lain.’ Example: Rishi is lain down to sleep over an hour ago.
- It's/Its: 'It’s' is the short form of the word 'It is.' Example: Sheila needs to pack her bags for the trip as it’s only two days away. 'Its' is a possessive pronoun that means something belonging to it. Example: Sheila has an obsession with both the movie and its actor.
- Imply/Infer: 'Imply' means to hint at something without saying it in a direct way. Example: Rishi implied that Neha was in trouble, but he wouldn’t tell her why. ‘Infer’ means to come to a conclusion or conclude something which is not straight stated. Example: Neha inferred that Rishi was nervous about something from the way he had kept looking at her.
- Historic/Historical: 'Historic' means something famous and important. Something that has an influence. 'Historical' means something or some event that belongs to history. Example: Megha showcased a historical bonnet for the exhibition.
- Gray/Grey: The word 'Gray' is for American English. 'Grey' is the standard British English spelling.
- Gaff/Gaffe: A ‘gaff’ is a hook with a long-handled stick or a kind of spear. Example: Rishi finished his costume with a gaff that he borrowed from his friend. A ‘gaffe’ is a social misstep or a faux word. Example: Rita made a gaffe when by mistake she called someone with the wrong name.
- Flaunt/Flout: When someone shows off it means to 'flaunt.' Example: Priya flaunted her new dress. 'Flout' means to challenge. Example: Priya flouted the semi-formal dress code by wearing flip-flops.
- Farther/Further: 'Farther' means to be distant physically. Example: Sheila can run farther than Rishi. 'Further' means to metaphorical distance. Example: Rishi is further away from finishing his project than Sheila.
- Empathy/Sympathy: 'Empathy' is the ability to understand another person’s perspective. 'Sympathy' is a feeling of sorrow for someone else’s suffering. A person who has sympathy is someone that agrees with a certain idea or a cause.
- E.g/I.e.: The two Latin abbreviations are often mixed up. 'E.g.' means for example and 'i.e.' means 'that is.'
- Immigrate/Emigrate: 'Immigrate' means to move into a country from someplace else. Example: Rishi’s sister immigrated to America in 2018. 'Emigrate' means to move out of a city or country to live someplace else. Example: Priya’s father emigrated from the UK sixty years ago.
- Defense/Defence: 'Defense' is the word used in American English. 'Defence' is the word used often in British English.
- Uninterested/Disinterested: 'Uninterested' means bored or not wanting to get involved with something. For example, Sheila behaves like uninterested to attend the Rishi’s singing classes. 'Disinterested' means to be impartial. Example: A panel of disinterested judges that had never met the contestants before, judged the singing contest.
- Compliment/Complement: A 'complement' is a nice thing to say to another person. Example: Priya had received a lot of compliments on her beautiful dress. A 'complement' is something that completes something else. It is usually used to describe things that will go well together. Example: Rishi’s shoes were a perfect complement to his jacket.
- Capitol/Capital: 'Capitol' means a building where a legislature meets. For example, Neha visited the cafe in the basement of the capitol after watching a bill becoming a law. 'Capital' has many meanings. First, it may refer to an uppercase letter. Second, the city from where a government runs the administration of a state or a country. Its other meaning is money also. Example: Rohan visited Kathmandu the capital of Nepal.
- Breathe/Breath: 'Breath' is a verb that means to inhale or exhale. Example: After the plains, dangerous landing Rishi could finally breathe again. 'Breath' is a noun. It means the air that goes in and out of the lungs. Example: Rishi held his breath while Neha skateboarded down the stairs.
- Assure/Ensure/Insure: 'Assure' means to say something that is definitely going to happen or is true. Example: Richa assured she was going to be safe in the new place. 'Ensure' means to guarantee or make sure of something. Example: Priya ensured that no one cheats in the competition. 'Insure' means to take out the insurance policy. Example: Rishi was happy that the car has insurance against the damage caused by the accident.
- Between/Among: You can use ‘between’ to show the relationship of one thing with another thing. Example: She spent all her day carrying messages between Rishi and the other students. But keep in mind that it is not necessary that we use between while talking about two things. You can also use it if you are talking about many binary relationships. You can use 'Among' to express a collective or loose relationship between some items or things. Example: He found a letter hidden among all the papers on the desk.
- Affect/Effect: ‘Affect’ is usually used as a verb. Example: His singing affected her ability to concentrate on the studies. The ‘effect’ is most of the time used as a noun. Example: He was sorry for the effect his singing had. If it is difficult to understand what word to use in a sentence, try to replace it with the word ‘alter’ or ‘result.’
If in a situation 'alter' fits perfect, you should use 'affect.’ If the word 'result' fits perfectly, you should use 'effect.'
How to notice and correct misused words?
Here are a few tips through which you can keep track of the common mistakes and confusing words in English. You can learn the correct usage of words exercises. The important point to keep in mind is that be aware of the grammar rules and the common mistakes. Be up to date with the language which is being used today.
Always keep a good dictionary:
Whenever you are facing any doubt, look up for the words in a good dictionary. In today's times, you don't need to carry a heavy dictionary around with you. You all need to install a good dictionary app on your Smartphone and that's it. These dictionaries also correct common misspellings.
It is a fact that language keeps changing and evolving. Make sure that you never stop learning. Books like Oxford, Cambridge, or some high-quality articles and news will be helpful.
Use spellings and grammar check tools:
While you write, have a spell checker with you. Might be when you skip any word while writing, this spell checker will help you. When using Microsoft word keep the spell check and grammar check mode on. This is going to help you with recognizing your blind spots. The next time you will be aware enough to not make the mistake.
Make the commonly confused words list:
Make a personal list on your computer of the words that you misuse after using the spell-check. This is going to be your personal list that you need to be careful not to use incorrect words. When you make a list, you give yourself the opportunity to learn from your own mistakes.
In conclusion, these are a few common misused words in English grammar. The English language is full of so many words like these. Such words have different spellings and different meanings. Since the words sound very similar so they create confusion.