Common Mistakes and Confusing Words in English

advice vs advise | accept vs except | affect vs effect | a lot/alot/allot
all ready vs already | all right vs alright | alone vs lonely
altogether vs all together | any vs some | apart vs a part
been vs gone | beside vs besides | bored vs boring | bought vs brought
borrow vs lend | by vs until
check vs control | come over vs overcome | complement vs compliment
concentrate vs concentrated | council vs counsel
councillor vs counsellor
data vs datum | decent vs descent | discreet vs discrete
don't have to vs mustn't
| downside vs underside
effect vs affect | either vs as well / too
every day vs everyday | excited vs exciting
expand vs expend | experience vs experience(s)
fewer vs less
| for vs since (time) | good vs well | gone vs been
hard vs hardly | hear vs listen | heroin vs heroine | he's vs his
holiday vs the weekend | homework vs housework
"How do you do?" vs "How are you?"

I vs me | interested vs interesting
lay vs lie
| lay down vs lie down | less vs fewer
look after vs look for | look at vs watch | look forward(s) | look forward to
look over vs overlook | loose vs lose
me vs I | me vs my | most vs the most | most vs mostly | nor vs or
overtake vs takeover / take over
personal vs personnel | practice vs practise
precede vs proceed | principal vs principle
| remember vs remind
said vs told | see vs watch | shortage vs shortness | so vs such
some vs any | stationary vs stationery
take care vs take care of | that/which/who | to/too/two| there/their/they're
trainer vs trainee | travel/trip/voyage/journey
used to vs used to do
wander vs wonder | what vs which | who vs whom

accept vs except

Accept is a verb, which means to agree to take something .

For example: "I always accept good advice."

Except is a preposition or conjunction, which means not including.

For example: "I teach every day except Sunday(s)."


advice vs advise

Advice is a noun, which means an opinion that someone offers you about what you should do or how you should act in a particular situation.

For example: "I need someone to give me some advice."

Advise is a verb, which means to give information and suggest types of action.

For example: "I advise everybody to be nice to their teacher."

!Often in English the noun form ends in and the verb form ends in ...ise.


affect vs effect

Affect and effect are two words that are commonly confused.

affect is usually a verb (action) - effect is usually a noun (thing)

Hint: If it's something you're going to do, use "affect." If it's something you've already done, use "effect."

To affect something or someone.

Meaning: to influence, act upon, or change something or someone.

For example: The noise outside affected my performance.

To have an effect on something or someone

!Note: effect is followed by the preposition on and preceded by an article (an, the)

Meaning: to have an impact on something or someone.

For example: His smile had a strange effect on me.

!Effect can also mean "the end result".

For example: The drug has many adverse side effects.


all right vs alright

All right has multiple meanings. It can mean ok, acceptable, unhurt.

The single word spelling alright has never been accepted as standard.

However in a search on Google you'll get around 68,700,000 hits for alright and 163,000,000 for "all right". So, it might become a respected alternative spelling. Personally I have no problem with it, but what do other people think:-

Kingsley Amis The King's English 1997: "I still feel that to inscribe alright is gross, crass, coarse and to be avoided, and I now say so. Its interdiction is as pure an example as possible of a rule without a reason, and in my case may well show nothing but how tenacious a hold early training can take."
Bill Bryson Troublesome Words 1997: "A good case could be made for shortening all right to alright. ... English, however, is a fickle tongue and alright continues to be looked on as illiterate and unacceptable and consequently it ought never to appear in serious writing."
Robert Burchfield The New Fowler's Modern English Usage 1997: "Alright ... is the demotic form. It is preferred, to judge from the evidence I have assembled, by popular sources like the British magazines The Face ... New Musical Express and Sounds, the American magazine Black World, the Australian journal Southerly, the Socialist Worker, by popular singers ... and hardly ever by writers of standing ... It is commonplace in private correspondence, especially in that of the moderately educated young. Almost all other printed works in Britain and abroad use the more traditional form ... "  
(At which point in there did you first get the urge to smack him?)
Graham King The Times Writer's Guide 2001: If we accept already, altogether and almost, why not alright? Although it carries with it the whiff of grammatical illegitimacy it is and has been in common use for a century ..."


alone / lonely

Alone, can be used as an adjective or adverb. Either use means without other people or on your own.

For example: "He likes living alone."
"I think we're alone now." = There are just the two of us here.

Lonely is an adjective which means you are unhappy because you are not with other people.

For example: "The house feels lonely now that all the children have left home."

!Note - Just because you're alone, doesn't mean you're lonely.


a lot / alot / allot

A lot, meaning a large amount or number of people or things, can be used to modify a noun.

For example:-

"I need a lot of time to develop this web site."

It can also be used as an adverb, meaning very much or very often.

For example:-

"I look a lot like my sister."

It has become a common term in speech; and is increasingly used in writing.

Alot does not exist! There is no such word in the English language. If you write it this way - imagine me shouting at you - "No Such Word!"

Allot is a verb, which means to give (especially a share of something) for a particular purpose:-

For example: "We were allotted a desk each."


all ready vs already

All ready means "completely ready".

For example: "Are you all ready for the test?"

Alreadyis an adverb that means before the present time or earlier than the time expected.

For example: "I asked him to come to the cinema but he'd already seen the film."

"Are you buying Christmas cards already? It's only September!"


altogether vs
all together

All together (adv) means "together in a single group."

For example: The waiter asked if we were all together.

Altogether (adv) means "completely" or "in total ".

For example: She wrote less and less often, and eventually she stopped altogether.

!To be in the altogether is an old-fashioned term for being naked!


any vs some

Any and some are both determiners. They are used to talk about indefinite quantities or numbers, when the exact quantity or number is not important. As a general rule we use some for positive statements, and any for questions and negative statements,

For example:-

I asked the barman if he could get me some sparkling water. I said, "Excuse me, have you got any sparkling water?" Unfortunately they didn't have any.

!Note - You will sometimes see some in questions and any in positive statements. When making an offer, or a request, in order to encourage the person we are speaking to to say "Yes", you can use some in a question:

For example: Would you mind fetching some gummy bears while you're at the shops?

You can also use any in a positive statement if it comes after a word whose meaning is negative or limiting:

For example:-
A. She gave me some bad advice.
B. Really? She rarely gives any bad advice.


apart vs
a part

Apart (adv) separated by distance or time.

For example: I always feel so lonely when we're apart.

A part (noun) a piece of something that forms the whole of something.

For example: They made me feel like I was a part of the family.


been vs gone

been is the past participle of be

gone is the past participle of go

Been is used to describe completed visits. So if you have been to England twice, you have travelled there and back twice. If you have gone to England, you have not yet returned.

! Now you've been and gone and done it!


beside vs besides

Thanks to Dheepa Arun

beside is a preposition of place that means at the side of or next to.

For example: The house was beside the Thames.

besides is an adverb or preposition. It means in addition to or also.

For example: Besides water, we carried some fruit. = "In addition to water, we carried some fruit."


bored vs boring

bored is an adjective that describes when someone feels tired and unhappy because something is not interesting or because they have nothing to do.

For example: She was so bored that she fell asleep.

boring is an adjective that means something is not interesting or exciting.

For example: The lesson was so boring that she fell asleep.

!Note Most verbs which express emotions, such as to bore , may use either the present or the past participle as an adjective, but the meaning of the participles is often different.


borrow vs lend

To lend:

Meaning: to hand out usually for a certain length of time.

Banks lend money.

Libraries lend books.

For example: "My mother lent me some money, and I must pay her back soon."

To borrow:

Meaning: to take with permission usually for a certain length of time.

You can borrow money from a bank to buy a house or a car.

You can borrow books for up to 4 weeks from libraries in England.

For example: "I borrowed some money off my mother, and I must pay her back soon."

! For a happy life - Never a borrower nor a lender be.


bought vs brought

bought past tense of the verb to buy
For example: "I bought a newspaper at the newsagents. "

brought past tense of the verb to bring
For example: "She brought her homework to the lesson."

!There is an 'r' in brought and an 'r' in bring = they belong together.


by vs until

Both until and by indicate “any time before, but not later than.”

Until tells us how long a situation continues. If something happens until a particular time, you stop doing it at that time.

For example:

They lived in a small house until September 2003.
(They stopped living there in September.)

I will be away until Wednesday.
(I will be back on Wednesday.)

We also use until in negative sentences.

For example:

Details will not be available until January.
(January is the earliest you can expect to receive the details.)

If something happens by a particular time, it happens at or before that time. It is often used to indicate a deadline.

For example:

You have to finish by August 31.
(August 31 is the last day you can finish; you may finish before this date.)

We also use by when asking questions.

For example:

Will the details be available by December?
(This asks if they will be ready no later than December.)


check (v)
control (v)

To check means to examine. To make certain that something or someone is correct, safe or suitable by examining it or them quickly.

For example: "You should always check your oil, water and tyres before taking your car on a long trip."

To control means to order, limit, instruct or rule something, or someone's actions or behaviour.

For example: "If you can't control your dog, put it on a lead!"

What you shouldn't do is use the verb control in association with people and the work they do.

For example: "I check my students' homework, but I can't control what they do!"


In Business English there is often a lot of confusion because of the term control in accounting.

In most organizations the controller is the top managerial and financial accountant. The controller supervises the accounting department and assists management in interpreting and utilizing managerial accounting information.


come over (v) vs overcome (n)

Come over is a phrasal verb, that can mean several things.

To move from one place to another, or move towards someone.

For example: "Come over here."

To seem to be a particular type of person.

For example: "Politicians often come over as arrogant."

To be influenced suddenly and unexpectedly by a strange feeling.

For example: "Don't stand up too quickly or you may come over dizzy."

Overcome is a verb, which means to defeat or succeed in controlling or dealing with something.

For example: "Using technology can help many people overcome any disabilities they might have."


complement (v) vs compliment (n)

Complement is a verb, which means to make something seem better or more attractive when combined.

For example: "The colours blue and green complement each other perfectly."

Compliment is a noun, which means a remark that expresses approval, admiration or respect.

For example: "It was the nicest compliment anyone had ever paid me."

Tip! Having problems with your spelling? Try these mnemonics:-

If it complements something it completes it. (With an e.)

I like compliments. (With an i.)

Thanks to Georgiy Pruss for pointing out my mistake.

concentrate vs

The verb - When you concentrate you direct all your efforts towards a particular activity, subject or problem.

For example: You need to concentrate harder when you listen to something in another language.

The adjective - If something is concentrated it means it has had some liquid removed.

For example: I prefer freshly squeezed orange juice to concentrated.

!Note The simple past of "to concentrate" is "concentrated" this is where the confusion may arise.

For example: She concentrated very hard in the exam.


council vs counsel

Council  is a group noun. It refers to a group of people elected or chosen to make decisions or give advice on a particular subject, to represent a particular group of people, or to run a particular organization.

For example: "The local council has decided not to allocate any more funds for the project."

Counsel can be a verb, which means to give advice, especially on social or personal problems.

For example: "She counsels the long-term unemployed on how to get a job."

Counsel can also be a noun, which means advice.

For example: "I should have listened to my father's counsel, and saved some money instead of spending it all."

Thanks to Daniel Hugo

councillor vs counsellor

Councillor  is a noun which means an elected member of a local government.

For example: "He was elected to be a councillor in 1998."

Counsellor is a noun, which means someone who is trained to listen to people and give them advice about their problems.

For example: "The student union now employs a counsellor to help students with both personal and work-related problems."

Thanks to Daniel Hugo

data vs datum

This isn't so much a common mistake as a common cause for arguments (as is often the case with words of Latin origin).

The dictionaries treat data as a group noun, meaning information, especially facts or numbers, collected for examination and consideration and used to help decision-making, or meaning information in an electronic form that can be stored and processed by a computer.

Then they go on to confuse matters by giving the following kind of example:-

The data was/were reviewed before publishing.

So, which is it, was or were? Strictly speaking 'datum' is the singular form of and 'data' is the the plural form.

If you're writing for an academic audience, particularly in the sciences, "data" takes a plural verb.

For example:-

The data are correct.

But most people treat 'data' as a singular noun, especially when talking about computers etc.

For example:-

The data is being transferred from my computer to yours.


decent vs descent

Decent is an adjective meaning socially acceptable or good.

For example: Everyone should be entitled to a decent standard of living.

Descent is a noun which can mean a movement downwards, or your ancestry.

For example: The plane began its final descent prior to landing. / "She found out that she was of Welsh descent."


discreet vs discrete

Discreet is an adjective.

It means to be careful or modest, not to cause embarrassment or attract too much attention, especially by keeping something secret.

For example: To work for the royal family you have to be very discreet.

Discrete is an adjective.

It means something is distinct and separate or has a clear independent shape or form.

For example: She painted using strong colours, discrete shapes, and rhythmic patterns.


don't have to vs mustn't

Don't have to = Do not have to We have to use don't have to to say that there is no obligation or necessity to do something.

For example: "You don't have to do the exercises at the end of this page."

Mustn't = must not is a modal verb used to show that something is not allowed. When you use mustn't you are telling people not to do things. It has the same force as don't , as in: Don't do that!

For example: "You mustn't drink if you're going to drive."


downside vs underside

Downside is a noun that means the disadvantage of a situation.

For example: "One of the downsides of living in London, of course, is that it is very expensive."

Underside is a noun that means the side of something that is usually nearest the ground.

For example: "Look at the underside of your iMac display. If you see an Ambient Light Sensor, you have a second generation iMac G5."


either vs as well / too

Either is used with a negative verb when you are agreeing with something someone doesn't do or like etc.

For example:- B agrees with A in the negative

A - "I don't like cheese." B - "I don't like it either."

A- "I haven't seen Lord of the Rings." B - "I haven't seen it either."

As well / Too are used with an affirmative verb when you are agreeing with something someone does or likes etc.

For example:- B agrees with A in the positive

A - "I love ice cream." B - "I love it too."
/ "I love it as well."
A- "I've seen Gladiator." B - "I've seen it too." / " I've seen it as well."


every day vs everyday

Every day - here every is a determiner and day is a noun.

When you say every day you mean each day without exception.

For example: You have been late for school every day this week.

Everyday is an adjective.

When you say everyday you mean ordinary, unremarkable.

For example: My culture pages offer an insight into the everyday life of Britain.


excited vs exciting

Excited is an adjective that describes when someone feels happy and enthusiastic about something.

For example: She was so excited that she couldn't sleep.

Exciting is an adjective that means something is making you excited.

For example: The football match was so exciting that she couldn't wait to tell everyone about it.


expand vs expend

Expand is a transitive or intransitive verb. It means to increase in size, number or importance, or to make something increase.

For example: Jarp is expanding his vocabulary on the forum, but Hermine's hips are expanding as well.

Expend is a transitive verb. It means to use or spend something (especially time, effort or money).

For example: She is expending a lot of effort to help her students.


experience vs experience(s)

Experience can be an uncountable noun. You use it when you're talking about knowledge or skill which is obtained from doing, seeing or feeling things.

For example: Do you have any experience of working internationally?

Experience(s) can be a countable noun. You use it when you are talking about a particular incident or incidents that affect you.

For example: It was interesting hearing about his experiences during the war.

Experience can also be a verb. It means something that happens to you, or something you feel.

For example: When I first moved to Germany I experienced a lot of problems.

Thanks to Ngoc Khanh

fewer vs less

Everyone gets this wrong - including native speakers. The general rule is to use fewer for things you can count (individually), and less for things you can only measure

For example:

There were fewer days below freezing last winter. (Days can be counted.)

I drink less coffee than she does. (Coffee cannot be counted individually it has to be measured).

!Note - "Less" has to do with how much. "Fewer" has to do with how many.

See the grammar pages for more information on countable/uncountable nouns.


for vs since

The prepositions for and since are often used with time expressions.

For indicates a period of time.

For example:

I have been working here for 2 years.

Since indicates a point in time.

For example:

I have been working here since the year before last.

See the grammar pages for more information on prepositions of time.


good vs well

Good is an adjective. We use good when we want to give more information about a noun.

For example:

My dog Sam is very good. He's a good dog.

She didn't speak very good English. Her English isn't very good.

Well is usually used as an adverb. We use well when we want to give more information about a verb.

For example:

He usually behaves very well.

She didn't speak English very well.

Note! The exception to this can be when you talk about someone's health:

For example:-

She wasn't a well woman.

and when you describe sensations:

For example:-

This pizza tastes/smells/ looks good.

If you say "You look good." It means they look attractive.

If you say "You look well." It means they look healthy.

Note! Younger people might reply to the question "How are you?" with "I'm good." This is what I call MTV English.


hard vs hardly

Hard is an adjective. It can mean solid, industrious, or difficult.

For example:-

Heating the clay makes it hard (solid) .
She is a hard (industrious) worker.
It was a hard (difficult) test.

Hardly is an adverb and means only just or certainly not.

For example:-

The teacher spoke so quietly I could hardly (only just) hear her.
You can hardly (certainly not) expect me to do the test for you!


hear vs listen

hear is a verb that means to receive or become aware of a sound using your ears, so you don't have to make an effort in order to just hear something.

For example:-

She heard a noise outside.

listen is a verb that means to give attention to someone or something in order to hear them, so you make an make an effort in order to hear something properly.

For example:-

She listened to the noise and realised it was only a cat.

Note! In some circumstances we use hear when we listen to someone or something attentively or officially.

For example:-

I heard a really interesting speech on the radio this morning.
These people need to be heard.


heroin vs heroine

Heroin is a noun, it is a powerful illegal drug, obtained from morphine and is extremely addictive.

For example: "He was arrested for supplying heroin, a class A drug."

Heroine is a female person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something great. The male equivalent is hero.

For example: "Grace Darling is one of England's best known heroines."


he's vs his

He's is the short form of 'he is' or 'he has'.

For example: " Don't be scared - he's very friendly."

His is a possesive pronoun, it is used to show something belonging to or connected with a man, boy or male animal that has just been mentioned.

For example: " Mark just phoned to say he'd left his coat behind. Do you know if this is his?"


holiday vs weekend

A holiday (noun), a time, often one or two weeks, when someone does not go to work or school but is free to do what they want, such as travel or relax. You usually have to book your holiday with your boss.

For example: "Where are you going on holiday this year? Somewhere nice I hope."

The weekend (noun) - the time from Saturday and Sunday, or Friday evening until Sunday night. It's the part of the week in which most paid workers living in the West do not go to work. It is a time for leisure and recreation, and/or for religious activities. ...

For example: "What are you doing this weekend? Anything nice?"

For 111wing on the forum.

homework vs housework

Homework (noun) - refers to tasks assigned to students by teachers to be completed mostly outside of class, and derives its name from the fact that most students do the majority of such work at home.

For example: "A lot of students in the UK get too much homework."

Housework (noun) - refers to domestic household chores such as cleaning and cooking.

For example: "I never seem to have enough time to do the housework. There's always something that needs dusting or polishing."


"How do you do?"
"How are you?"

If I had a Euro for every time someone got this one wrong - I'd be a rich bunny!

How do you do?

This is not a question. It is another, very formal way of saying "Hello." It is also very British.

The correct response is; "Pleased to meet you." or "How do you do." or just "Hello."

We only really use it the first time we meet someone.

How are you?

This is a question.

A polite response is; "I'm fine thanks. And you?"


I vs me

Usually we choose the correct form by instinct.

For example;-

I am a teacher. (not me)

Give that to me. (not I)

There are other times when people make mistakes with these two pronouns. I/me is difficult when it is coupled with another pronoun or with a noun. This is when you have to think about the subject/object in a sentence.

For example;-

"It was I who did the homework," or "It was me who did the homework."

Make the statement simpler:-

"I did the homework." so "It was I who did the homework," is correct.

The teacher gave the homework to my friend and me. (Not I)

!If you don't understand why the above sentence is correct, simplify the sentence again.

Deal with the two people separately.

The teacher gave the homework to my friend.
The teacher gave the homework to me.

= The teacher gave the homework to my friend and me.


interested vs interesting

Interested is a past participle. When used as an adjective it says how someone feels.

For example: "I was very interested in the lesson."

Interesting is a present participle. When used as an adjective it describes the people or things that cause the feelings.

For example: "It was an interesting lesson ."


lay vs lie

Lay is an irregular transitive verb (lay / laid/ laid - laying). It needs a direct object. It means to put something or someone down (often in a horizontal postion).

For example: "Lay your head on the pillow."

Lie is an irregular intransitive verb (lie / lay / lain - lying). It does not take a direct object. It means to rest in a horizontal position1 or to be located somewhere2.

For example: "If you are tired lie here and have a rest."1
"Nottingham lies in the Midlands."2

!Lie also means to say something that isn't true but it takes the following form (lie / lied / lied - lying).


lay down vs lie down

Lay down has several different meanings.

If you lay something down it can mean you officially establish a rule, or officially state the way in which something should be done.

For example:-

Please follow the rules laid down by the administrator.

If you lay something down your weapons it means you stop fighting.

For example:-

They laid down their guns and surrendered.

If you lay wine down it means you are storing it for drinking in the future.

For example:-

I laid down this bottle in 1998, it should be perfect for drinking now.

Lie down means to move into a position in which your body is flat, usually in order to sleep or rest.

For example: "If you are tired lie down and have a rest."


look after vs look for

To look after; means to take care of or be in charge of something or someone.

For example: "I often ask my mother to look after the children."

To look for; means to try to find something or someone.

For example: "I am looking for my keys. Have you seen them?"


look at vs watch

In this context look is usually followed by the preposition at.

When you look at someone or something you are interested in the appearance.

Generally we look at things that are static.

For example:

Look at these photos, they're really good.
I went to the art gallery to look at the exhibition of paintings.

Watch is a verb.

When you watch someone or something you are interested in what happens.

Generally we watch things that move or change state.

For example:

I watch TV every night.
The security guard watched the shoplifter steal the clock.

!If I say to you "Look at him!" I mean for you to check out his appearance. But, if I say to you "Watch him!" I mean it as a warning.


look forward / forwards vs look forward to

If you look forward / forwards it simply means you are looking ahead of you.

Look forward to is a phrasal verb.

When you look forward to something, you feel happy and excited about something that is going to happen.

For example:-

I always look forward to seeing my family and friends when I travel to England.


look over vs overlook

Look over is a phrasal verb.

When you look over something or someone you quickly examine it or them.

For example:-

I asked my teacher to look over what I had written.

Overlook is a verb.

When you overlook someone or something you fail to notice or consider it or them.:

For example:

I think my teacher overlooked some of my mistakes.

!Look over is two separate words, overlook is one word.


loose vs lose

Loose is an adjective. If something isn't fixed properly or it doesn't fit, because it's too large, it's loose.

For example:-

My headphones weren't working, because a wire was loose.

Lose is a verb that means to no longer possess something because you do not know where it is, or because it has been taken away from you.

For example:

A lot of people will lose their job if there is a recession.


nor vs

nor (conjunction) nor is always used in the negative, usually before the second or last of a set of negative possibilities, after 'neither'.

For example: He drinks neither wine nor beer.

or (conjunction) or is used to connect different possibilities.

For example: Is it Tuesday or Wednesday today?


me vs my

As in I vs me we usually choose the correct form by instinct.

Me is used as the object of a verb or preposition. You use me to refer to yourself.

In short answers, we usually use this form.

For example:-

  • Knock at the door - "Who's there?" ~ "It's me!"
  • "I want to buy that new DVD." ~ "Me too!"

My is a possessive adjective.

For example:-

My mother loves me.

Now consider the following sentences:-

"I'm going to me and Margaret's room." or "I'm going to my and Margaret's room."

Which is correct? Me or my?

Simplify the sentence by removing the second person:-

"I'm going to my room." So, "I'm going to my and Margaret's room," is correct.

A real point of confusion arises when considering the use of "my" or "me" as the "subject" of a gerund.

The teacher didn't like me telling jokes in class.

The teacher didn't like my telling jokes in class.

But which is correct? Well they both are - sort of, but the use of the possessive, "my telling jokes in class " serves to isolate the telling of jokes as the object of my teacher's anger. It's hopefully not "me" at whom she/he has become upset, but the telling of jokes. In the sentence, "me telling jokes in class", it might seem as though the teacher doesn't like me personally. The rule is that the subject of a gerund is supposed to be in the possessive case.

Remember though that this is a purists view. Both are now becoming acceptable through common usage. However, you can avoid any confusion by writing the sentence in a different way:-

"The teacher didn't like the way I told jokes in class."


most vs the most

Most without an article is usually used as an adjective, which means almost all.

For example:-

  • They ate most of the cake.
  • Most days I go for a jog.

It's also used to form the superlative where it goes in front of most adverbs.

For example:-

He objected to the results of the election most strongly.

The most is usually used to form the superlative where it goes in front of longer adjectives.

For example:-

The Miss World competition is held every year to find the most beautiful woman in the world.

!Note - This is only a general rule - as ever there are exceptions.


most vs mostly

Most without an article is usually used as an adjective, which means almost all or the largest part.

For example:-

  • Most days I go for a jog.
  • They ate most of the cake.

It's also used to form the superlative where it goes in front of most adverbs.

For example:-

  • He objected to the results of the election most strongly.

Mostly is an adverb. It's not used very often. It means generally, mainly, chiefly, usually etc.

For example:-

  • They're mostly good people, although they have made a few mistakes.


overtake vs takeover / take over

Overtake is a verb.

It can mean to go beyond something by being better, or if you're driving to come from behind another vehicle or a person and move in front of it.

For example: You should always check your rear view mirror before you overtake another car.

Takeover as a noun is used when one organisation gains control of a company by buying most of its shares.

For example: In September 2006 Merck announced their takeover of Serono SA.

Take over as a phrasal verb means to get control of a company by buying most of its shares.

For example: Merck finally took Serono over in 2007.


personal vs personnel

Personal is an adjective.

It can mean relating to or belonging to someone.

For example: Your personal belongings are the things that belong to you.

It can relate to the private parts of someone's life, including their relationships and feelings.

For example: If you have personal problems, it means you have problems that are private and sensitive to you. Perhaps problems in a relationship.

It can also mean something that is designed for or used by one person.

For example: a personal computer or stereo.

And it can relate to your body

For example: when talk about personal hygiene.

!If you are rude about or offensive towards someone it could be said that you are being personal.

Personnel is a noun.

The people who work for an organisation are the personnel.

For example: military personnel are the members of an army.

The department of an organisation that deals with finding people to work there, keeping records about them, etc is the Personnel Department. The head of that department is the personnel manager.

For example: "I need to speak to someone in Personnel."

!Many businesses have renamed their Personnel Department to 'The Human Resources Department' or HRD for short.


practice vs practise

Practice is a noun

For example: We need to put these ideas into practice.

Practise is a verb

For example: To learn English well you have to practise.

!Note - This is only true in British English.

!Note - Often in British English the noun form ends in and the verb form ends in ...ise.


precede vs proceed

Precede is a verb that means to be or to go before something or someone in time or space.

For example: Ecological extinction caused by overfishing precedes other human disturbance to coastal ecosystems.

Proceed is a verb that means to continue as planned.

For example: The government has decided not to proceed with the legislation.

Thanks to Komala.


principal vs principle

Principal as an adjective means first in order of importance:

For example: The Mississippi is the principal river of the United States.

Principal as a noun can mean the head teacher in a school or college:

For example: The teacher sent the unruly student to see the principal.

Principal as a noun can also mean the original amount of a debt on which interest is calculated

For example: She lives off the interest and tries to keep the principal intact.

Principle is a noun which means a basic idea, standard of behaviour or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works:

For example: The country works on the principle that all citizens have equal rights.


raise vs rise

When used as a verb they both have the same general meaning of "to move upwards", the main difference is that rise is an intransitive verb (it does not take an object), while raise is a transitive verb (it requires an object):

As you can see from these examples, (nobody is pushing up the sun!), whereas (Mary moved her hand upwards/The government make laws to increase taxes).

rise (v) Something rises by itself

For example:-
The sun rises in the east.
The chairman always rises to the occasion.
I will rise tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. to walk the dog.
Rise is an irregular verb: rise / rose / risen

raise (v) Something else is needed to raise something.

For example:-
Lynne raised her hand.
The government is going to raise taxes.
They can't raise the Titanic.
Raise is a regular verb: raise / raised / raised


remember vs remind

To remember  v. meaning to be able to bring back a piece of information into your mind, or to keep a piece of information in your memory.

For example:- I remember when every home had clotheslines in the back yard or garden.

To remind v. meaning to make someone aware of something they have forgotten or might have forgotten.

For example:- Could you remind me to check the forum?

!Note - If you remind someone of something, then they'll remember it.


say / said
tell / told

Said v. is the past simple and past participle of to say.
It can be used in direct speech:
For example: "I am sorry", said the criminal.
It can be used in indirect (reported) speech (followed by that).
For example: "The criminal said that he was sorry.

Said adj. is used before the name of a person or thing you have already mentioned:
For example: "The said party denied the charges"

Told v. is the past simple and past participle of to tell.
It is normally used in reported speech, i.e. it is used to talk about what people say (followed by an object + that:):
For example: I told him that I would be late.

When told has the meaning of "instruct", it can be followed by an object and an infinitive.
For example: He told me to leave.


to see vs
to watch

To see means to be aware of what is around you by using your eyes.

For example: "I can see the smoke from here."

To watch means to look at something for a period of time, especially something that is changing or moving.

For example: "I watched the cricket."

!Note - We watch things that move, such as TV, a film, sport. We look at static things, such as a photograph, a painting, the stars.


shortage vs shortness

Shortage is a noun meaning when there is not enough of something.

For example: There is a shortage of skilled workers in the industry.

Shortness is a also a noun meaning the condition of being short spatially.

For example: Shortness in children and young adults nearly always results from below-average growth in childhood.


so vs such

So when used as in front of an adjective or an adverb means very.
For example: "My English teacher is so patient. She teaches us so well."

Such when used as a determiner can be used in front of a noun or an adjective and a noun to show extremes, you can't use it in front of adverbs.

For example: "She is such a patient teacher."

!Note - Remember that without the noun you need to use "so."

such + a + patient + teacher

so + patient


stationary vs stationery

Stationary means standing still or not moving
For example: "The car was stationary."

Stationery means the items needed for writing, such as paper, pens, pencils and envelopes.
For example: "It is the secretary's job to order the stationery?"

!'e' is for envelopes 'a' is for automobiles.


take care
take care of

Take care is used when saying goodbye to someone. It actually means "Take care of yourself."

For example: "Bye! Take care. "

Take care of means to look after someone or something:

For example: "You should take care of your new car, it cost a lot of money."


that, which, who

"Who" (or whom) is a pronoun, and is used as the subject or object of a verb to show which person you are referring to, or to add information about a person just mentioned. It is used for people, not things.

"Which" is a pronoun, and is used as the subject or object of a verb to show what thing or things you are referring to, or to add information about the thing just mentioned. It is used for things, not people.

"That" is a pronoun, and is used as the subject or object of a verb to show which person or thing you are referring to, or to add information about a person or thing just mentioned. It can be used for people and things. It can sometimes be omitted.


The girl who was hungry.
The boy whom I talked to.

The dog that wagged its tail.
The software ( that) I wrote.
The company, which / that hired me.


there, their, they're

There can be used as an adjective of place:-
For example: "The car is over there in the car park."

There can also be used as the introductory subject in sentences:-
For example: "There are some grammar pages on this web site."

They're is the a contraction of "they are".
For example: "They're always surfing the Internet."

Their is a possessive pronoun like "her" or "our".
For example: "Have they done their homework?"

Example: "There's a large family in this town. Look they're over there by their car."

!If you've written "they're," ask yourself whether you can substitute "they are." If not, you've made a mistake. There" has "here" inside it to remind you it refers to a place, while "their" has "heir" buried in it to remind you that it has to do with possession.


trainee vs trainer

A trainee is a person who is learning and practising the skills of a particular job.

For example: "There is a shortage of trainee dentists in the UK."

A trainer is a person who teaches skills for a particular job, activity or sport.

For example: "I like to think of myself as an English trainer, not an English teacher."


to, too or two?

To is the most common form. When to is used before a verb it forms part of the infiinitive:-

For example: to learn, to do, to be, to drink...
"I need to visit the dentist."

To is also a preposition, often used to indicate direction, which begins a prepositional phrase.

For example: to the limit, to hell and back
Example: "I need to go to the dentist."

Too is an adjective meaning "extra or more than necessary" - after all it has 2 Os - 1 too many?

For example: too much, too big, too small...
"The film was too long."

Too is also an adjective meaning "also"

For example: me too
"I thought it was too long, too."

Two is a number.

For example: one, two, three...
"I only drank two pints of beer."

More examples: We went to a football match. (preposition)

We like to watch a good film. (infinitive)

We ate too much. (meaning "excessively")

I like baseball, too. (meaning "also")

Six divided by three is two. (number)

They own two cars. (number)

! Many other words in English which reflect the number two are spelled with tw.

For example: twin, twice, twenty, between, tweezers, etc.


travel, trip voyage or journey?

Travel (v) is used in general terms as a verb - it usually means to change location. The word travel is very rarely used as a noun.

For example: I have to travel a lot for work.

Trip (n) is often substituted for the word 'holiday' when the travelling distance was short.

For example: How was your trip?

It is often used in connection with business.

For example: I have to travel a lot for work. I am off on another business trip next week.

Trip (v) has a totally different meaning. It means to nearly fall over.

For example: I tripped over the carpet and sprained my ankle.

Voyage (n) is usually a long journey by boat. The word voyage is very rarely used as a verb.

For example: The voyage to South Africa took over six weeks.

Journey (n) is used more in British English than American English. It means the 'piece' of travel between 2 or more points. The word journey is very rarely used as a verb.

For example: The journey from Darmstadt to Nottingham takes 12 hours.


used to vs used to do

Used to can be used as an adjective and we use it to talk about things that have become familiar, and are no longer strange or new.

For example: "I am used to mistakes now."

You can also be used to doing something.

For example: "I am used to making mistakes now."

Used to do - If we say something used to happen we are talking about repeated events and actions in the past, usually things that happened a long time ago and are now finished.

For example: "I used to smoke."


wander vs wonder

Wander (v) means to travel aimlessly.

For example: "I often wander through the woods, it helps me think."

Wonder (v) means to consider or question some issue.

For example: "People often wonder whether I really run this website alone ."

Wonder (n) means the feeling aroused by something strange and surprising.

For example: "The pyramids are a wonder to behold."

!Note - I have it on very good authority that wander and wonder are not homophones. ;)


what vs which Which and what are both used in questions:-

What is used to ask a question when there are an unknown number or infinite possibilities for an answer. You know that there are many, many ways that exist to address your question, and you want to find out—from all those possibilities that you might not even know about—the best way.

For example: "What movie did you go to see?"

Which is used if you are choosing between two items, already defined, in a different sentence, like this:

For example: "Which shoes should I wear with this dress—my blue ones or my black ones?"

You can use which when you have a very small or limited field to choose from. Certainly use which, not what, when there are only two choices, or if both speaker and listener can visualize all the items under consideration:

For example: "Which foot did you break?"

Often, either which or what can be used for several choices, depending on what is in the speaker’s mind:

For example:-

a - "Which bus goes into the centre?"

b - "What bus shall I take?"

Both sentences are fine. The speaker is probably thinking about fewer buses in sentence (a) than in sentence (b).

who vs whom

Who is used as the subject of a verb. Basically anytime "I", "she" or "he" 'feels' right, who can be used.

For example:-

She is the one who built that funny English website.

In questions who is used when asking which person or people did something, or when asking what someone's name is. In fact in informal writing and speech who is used most of the time.

For example:-

"Who is that girl over there?"
"Who let the dogs out?"
"She asked me if I knew who had got the job."

Whom is used in formal writing as the object of a verb or preposition.

For example:-

"He took out a photo of his son, whom he adores."
"There were 500 passengers, of whom 121 drowned."

!Note - Whom is rarely used in questions. For example:

"To whom do you wish to speak?" (This sounds very old-fashioned and stilted.)

! If in doubt, try the “he or him” test:-

Try rewriting the sentence using “he or him ”.

For example:

"He took out a photo of his son, whom he adores." - "He adores he" should 'feel"'wrong. So it must be "He adores him."

If you're still not sure, go with who, 99.9% of the time you'll be right.

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