Appendix – words people confuse

7 Steps to Better Writing - Charles Maxwell 2020

Appendix – words people confuse

This section lists commonly confused English words. It provides pronunciations, explains differences in meaning, and shows examples of the words used correctly. Many of these words are homonyms, that is, words with the same sound, but different meanings.

Pronunciations are general American English and use the New Oxford American Dictionary (NOAD) phonetic key explained at: Both Google and Bing use this phonetic key.

accent, ascent, assent

/ˈakˌsent/, /əˈsent/, /əˈsent/

As a verb, accent means to emphasize or give importance. As a noun, accent is the stress given to certain syllables in spoken language. Accent is also the mark used to indicate that stress. Ascent is a noun meaning an upward journey. As a verb, assent means to agree. As a noun, assent means agreement.

Example: The captain placed a strong accent on the word “go” as he commanded, “Let’s go!” This indicated his hearty assent to make an ascent of the hill.

accept, except

/əkˈsept/, /ikˈsept/

Accept is a verb meaning to receive or to allow. As a verb, except means to exclude. In addition, except is often used as a preposition or as a conjunction to indicate exclusion.

Example: Joan will accept the assignment except task 3. She intends to except herself from that portion of the project.

adverse, averse

/adˈvərs,ˈadˌvərs/, /əˈvərs/

Adverse is an adjective meaning unfavorable or contrary. Averse is an adjective meaning having a strong dislike or opposition.

Example: Mary is averse to John’s plan, because she believes it will have an adverse effect on morale.

advice, advise

/ədˈvīs/, /ədˈvīz/

Advice is a noun meaning counsel or a recommendation. Advise is a verb meaning to recommend or to inform.

Example: Edward advised Joy to take the police officer’s advice.

affect, affect, effect

/əˈfekt/, /ˈafekt/, /əˈfekt/

Generally used as a verb, affect (/əˈfekt/) means to influence, to make a difference, or to pretend. Affect (/ˈafekt/) is used only as a noun in formal English as a technical term in psychology meaning a feeling or emotion as distinguished from a thought. As a verb in formal English, effect means to make, to do, or to accomplish. Generally used as a noun, effect means a result or consequence.

Example: Adam’s statements will affect his children, who affect indifference. This is the effect of his love. Hopefully, it will effect peace.

aide, aid

/ād/, /ād/

Aide is a noun meaning a person who assists. As a noun, aid means help or assistance; and as a verb, aid means to assist or help.

Example: The charity provides aid to those in need. In this context, the chairman’s aide helped the refugee find the staff member empowered to aid those with immigration issues.

all ready, already

/ôl ˈredē/, /ˌôlˈredē/

All ready is an adjective phrase meaning totally prepared. Already is an adverb indicating before.

Example: Brian was all ready for the trip. In fact, he had already saddled his horse.

all together, altogether

/ôl təˈɡeT͟Hər/, /ˌôltəˈɡeT͟Hər/

All together is an adjective or adverb phrase that means in a group. Altogether is an adverb meaning totally or completely.

Example: The weekend spent all together proved altogether fun.

allusive, elusive, illusive

/əˈlo͞osiv,əˈlo͞oziv/, /ēˈlo͞osiv/, /iˈlo͞osiv/

All three words are adjectives. Allusive means indirect. Allusive is related to the noun allusion, which means an indirect but meaningful reference. Elusive means evasive or difficult to capture, find, describe, or remember. Elusive is related to the verb elude, meaning to evade or avoid. Illusive means being deceived or believing in something unreal or unreachable. Illusive is related to the noun illusion, which is something that appears real, but is not.

Example: The solution to the differential equation proved elusive, because the professor’s suggestion proved worse than allusive; in fact, his hint was deceptive. Justifiably, the students felt deceived by his illusive suggestion.

altar, alter

/ˈôltər/, /ˈôltər/

Altar is a noun meaning a sacred table or raised spot. Alter is a verb meaning to change.

Example: The sign reads “Please do not alter the altar.”

among, between

/əˈməNG/, /bəˈtwēn/

Among is an adverb meaning in the company of a group. Between generally is a preposition meaning at, into, or across the space separating two (and only two) objects or places. Between also can be an adverb with the same sense of separating two things.

Example: On her expedition in the Amazon, between the coast and the river, the scientist found several new species among the many insects she collected.

anecdote, antidote

/ˈanəkˌdōt/, /ˈan(t)iˌdōt/

Anecdote is a noun meaning a short, interesting story about a person or event. Antidote is a noun meaning a medicine use to counteract a poison or a similar intervention to improve a bad situation.

Example: The nurse told a charming anecdote of her administering an antidote to a grouchy patient.

appraise, apprise

/əˈprāz/, /əˈprīz/

Appraise is a verb meaning to estimate the value. Apprise is a verb meaning to tell or inform.

Example: Carla apprised the homebuyer that the appraiser would appraise the house by the end of the week.

arbiter, arbitrator

/ˈärbədər/, /ˈärbəˌtrādər/

An arbiter is a noun meaning a person who resolves a dispute or who has ultimate authority over a matter. An arbitrator is a noun meaning an impartial person or organization selected to settle a dispute.

Examples: James disliked the arbitrator’s decision; therefore, he reluctantly agreed to leave the outcome in the hands of God, whom he regarded as the true arbiter of right and wrong.

a while, awhile

/əˈ(h)wīl/, /əˈ(h)wīl/

A while is a noun phrase meaning a period of time, while awhile is an adverb meaning for a short period of time.

Example: Walk with me awhile. I need a while to adjust to your being home.

bare, bear

/ber/, /ber/

As a verb, bare means to uncover or expose. As an adjective, bare means uncovered or exposed. As a noun, bear is a large mammal of the animal family Ursidae. As a verb, bear means to give birth, endure, tolerate, support, carry, or turn.

Example: During the winter, when the chill wind has stripped bare the branches of the oak trees, the she-bear will bear her cubs. Bear in mind, for now, she is a solitary black bear, barely able to bear the company of other members of her species.

berth, birth

/bərTH/, /bərTH/

Berth is a noun meaning a place to rest. As a noun, birth indicates the start of life. As a verb, birth means to give life to a baby or young animal.

Example: The seal gave birth to the pup on the rocky berth.

beside, besides

/bəˈsīd/, /bəˈsīdz/

Beside is a preposition meaning next to. Besides generally is an adverb meaning in addition.

Example: Besides wanting a snack, Lucas wants to sit beside his grandmother.

bolder, boulder

/ˈbōldər/, /ˈbōldər/

Bolder is an adjective meaning more confident, more vivid, or stronger. A boulder is a noun meaning a large rock.

Example: The artist painted the picture in bolder colors, while he sat on a boulder.

born, borne

/bôrn/, /bôrn/

Born is the past participle of the verb bear meaning to give birth. In addition, born is an adjective indicating the existence because of birth of a person, animal, or concept. Borne is a past participle of the verb bear and means carried, supported, endured, or tolerated.

Example: Jane is a born optimist. She was born during April, when the ice was borne away by the flooding river.

brake, break

/brāk/, /brāk/

As a verb, brake means to stop or to decrease the speed of motion. As a noun, brake carries a similar sense of something that slows or stops. Break as a verb means to divide or make unworkable. As a noun, break means an interruption, discontinuity, pause, gap, or a sudden fortunate opportunity. Break when used with helper words creates many idiomatic expressions, such as, break away, break cover, break down, break even, break in, break new ground, break off, hell breaks loose, break the ice, break out, etc.

Example: Please break your habit of always braking so quickly. You are wearing out my car brakes, breaking my patience, and letting all hell break loose with the contents of my glove box. If you stop it now, I’ll give you a break from my complaining.

broach, brooch

/brōCH/, /brōCH/

Broach is a verb meaning to raise a sensitive subject for discussion. Brooch is a noun meaning an ornament fastened to clothing.

Examples: Maria broached the topic with her sister, telling her, “Your brooch doesn’t match your earrings.”

canvas, canvass

/ˈkanvəs/, /ˈkanvəs/

As a noun, canvas is a strong, course cloth. As a verb, canvas means to cover with a strong, course cloth. As a verb, canvass means to ask for votes or to gather opinions. As a noun, canvass means the action of asking for votes or gathering opinions.

Example: The politician canvassed the county seeking support. Often he spoke from a canvas-covered platform attached to the back of an old pickup truck.

censor, censure, sensor

/ˈsensər/, /ˈsen(t)SHər/, /ˈsensər/

As a verb, censor means to examine and to suppress unacceptable parts of a letter, book, movie, or other written or recorded communication. As a noun, censor is the person who examines and suppresses unacceptable parts of written or recorded material. As a verb, censure means to express strong disapproval. As a noun, censure is an expression of disapproval. Sensor is a noun that indicates a device for detecting or measuring physical properties.

Example: The military officer censored the journal article, because it revealed sensitive information concerning a night-vision motion sensor. The officer also censured the author who wrote the article.

capital, capitol

/ˈkapədl/, /ˈkapədl/

As a noun, capital means the leading city of a state or nation, a sum of money, the top of a stone column, or an upper case letter. As an adjective, capital means most important or serious. Capitol is a domed building or group of buildings used for government.

Example: The US Senate meets in the Capitol, which is located on Capitol Hill, this being an important neighborhood in our nation’s capital and the center of huge capital spending.

choose, chose

/CHo͞oz/, /CHōz/

Choose is a verb indicating to select, where choose is the present tense and chose is the past tense.

Example: Today I will choose buttermilk donuts. Yesterday, I chose raisin muffins.

cite, sight, site

/sīt/, /sīt/, /sīt/

The verb cite means to quote or reference. The noun sight is something seen, something worth seeing, or a person’s ability to see. The noun site is a location.

Example: I cite the record, even though it originates from a site where many people have lost sight of the truth.

coarse, course

/kôrs/, /kôrs/

The adjective coarse means large in size, rough in texture, or vulgar in manners. The noun course means a path or plan, such as a course of study or education. The phrase of course is an idiomatic adverbial phrase meaning naturally, as planned, or as expected

Example: Of course, the history course describes the course followed by the army, which included a highway covered with coarse gravel.

complement, compliment

/ˈkämpləmənt/, /ˈkämpləmənt/

Complement is a verb meaning to match or supplement. As a noun, it has the same sense. Compliment is a verb meaning to praise or congratulate; and as a noun, it has the same sense.

Example: Compliment your host, so that gratitude will complement your humility.

conscience, conscious

/ˈkänSHəns/, /ˈkänSHəs/

Conscience is a noun indicating a person’s thoughts about right and wrong. Conscious is an adjective indicating sensibility or awareness of one’s surroundings.

Example: Jane was conscious that her conscience was free of worry.

consul, council, counsel

/ˈkänsəl/, /ˈkounsəl/, /ˈkounsəl/

A consul is a noun indicating an office of government. Council is a noun indicating a group who confers together. Counsel is a noun meaning advice or a person who gives advice, such as a lawyer or barrister. Counsel is also a verb meaning to give advice or talk with others.

Example: The German consul met members of the Council on Foreign Relations seeking counsel to console the prime minister, who had been alarmed by high-priced counsel.

datum, data

/ˈdādəm,ˈdadəm/, /ˈdadə,ˈdādə/

Datum is a noun meaning one piece of information, such as a number, while data is the plural form of datum. Modern usage has grown to accept data as a singular noun meaning a collection of facts.

Example: The data are correct, now that John corrected the bad datum. This caused Mary to say, “The data is now OK.”

decent, descent, dissent

/ˈdēs(ə)nt/, /dəˈsent/, /dəˈsent/

Decent is an adjective meaning good or wholesome. Descent is a noun meaning the action to go down or the origin of a person in terms of genealogy or ethnicity. Dissent is a noun meaning disagreement.

Example: Smith is a decent fellow of German descent. However, he expressed his dissent with the ruling, which allows descent of commercial aviation to 5,000 feet over the city.

desert, deserts, deserts, dessert

/ˈdezərt/, /ˈdezərts/, /dəˈzərts/, /dəˈzərt/

As a singular noun, desert (/ˈdezərt/) means a dry place, and as a plural noun, deserts (/ˈdezərts/) means several dry places, while deserts (/dəˈzərts/) means a person’s entitlement to punishment or reward. As a verb, desert (/dəˈzərt/) means to abandon. Dessert (/dəˈzərt/) is sweet food, typically served at the end of a meal.

Example: While visiting the desert of Arizona, I ate a lot of frozen desserts. Because I deserted (abandoned) my diet, I put on a lot of weight, which was my just deserts (punishment).

device, devise

/dəˈvīs/, /dəˈvīz/

Device is a noun meaning a tool or instrument. Devise is a verb meaning to prepare or fix.

Example: Please devise a device to help people eliminate this divisive practice.

discreet, discrete

/diˈskrēt/, /diˈskrēt/

Both words are adjectives. Discreet means careful with what one says or does. Discrete means separate or distinct.

Example: Diane used discreet language to describe the discrete events.

disburse, disperse

/disˈbərs/, /dəˈspərs/

Disburse is a verb meaning to distribute money. As a verb, disperse means to spread out over a large area or throughout a large space. As an adjective, disperse is the quality of being widely distributed.

Example: The controller disbursed the monthly payments to the chemical lab, which was investigating how to better disperse oil in water.

dominant, dominate

/ˈdämənənt/, /ˈdäməˌnāt/

Dominant is an adjective that means most important or influential. Dominate is a verb meaning to exercise control or to be the most conspicuous.

Example: The most dominant species dominate the habitat.

dual, duel

/ˈdo͞oəl/, /ˈdo͞oəl/

Dual generally is an adjective indicating two. Duel is a noun meaning a formal match or fight.

Example: The duel served dual purposes: striking down the villain and freeing the oppressed.

dyeing, dying

/ˈdīiNG/, /ˈdīiNG/

Both words are verbs. Dyeing means to apply a color through soaking in a liquid. Dying means giving up or losing life.

Example: Your hair is dying, because you are dyeing it too much.

elicit, illicit

/ēˈlisət/, /i(l)ˈlisit/

Elicit is a verb meaning to cause or provoke. Illicit is an adjective meaning illegal.

Example: Cheating can elicit other illicit activities.

eligible, illegible

/ˈeləjəb(ə)l/, /i(l)ˈlejəb(ə)l/

Both words are adjectives. Eligible means suitable. Illegible means unreadable.

Example: The teacher told Jacob that he was not eligible for recess, because his report was illegible.

eminent, imminent

/ˈemənənt/, /ˈimənənt/

Both words are adjectives. Eminent means prominent or important. Imminent means soon to happen.

Example: The eminent astronomer predicted an imminent solar eclipse.

ensure, insure

/inˈSHo͝or, enˈSHo͝or/, /inˈSHo͝or/

Both words are verbs. Ensure means to assure or reassure. Insure means to financially protect.

Example: A person should ensure that they have insurance from a sound company that insures against losses. When insurance companies insure their clients against losses, they generate emotional security among their clients, which ensures mutual success.

fair, fare

/fer/, /fer/

As an adjective, fair means equal, reasonable, or equitable. As a noun, fair means a gathering to share merchandise or advice. Fare is a noun meaning a fee or payment.

Example: The airline charged a fair fare for people attending the Biggin Hill International Air Fair.

farther, further

/ˈfärT͟Hər/, /ˈfərT͟Hər/

As adjectives and adverbs, farther and further have the common meaning of being at or extending over a greater distance. Further also means additional or more advanced. And, as a verb, further means to promote or to develop.

Example: The further I think on your advice, the more I am inclined to further the argument that he should move farther away from the highway.

flaunt, flout

/flônt,flänt/, /flout/

Flaunt is a verb meaning to show off. Flout is a verb meaning to disregard a rule or social convention.

Example: The maid flouted the house rules by taking a photo with her smart phone of the actress flaunting a large pearl necklace.

forbear, forebear

/fərˈber, fôrˈber/, /ˈfôrber/

Forbear is a verb meaning to restrain an impulse. Forebear is a noun meaning an ancestor.

Example: Please forbear talking further about your repugnant forebear.

formally, formerly

/ˈfôrməlē/, /ˈfôrmərlē/

Both words are adverbs. Formally means rigidly. Formerly means before.

Example: The firm formally resolved to abandon practices that formerly proved dangerous.

forth, fourth

/fôrTH/, /fôrTH/

Forth is an adverb meaning forward. Fourth is the ordinal number associated with the cardinal number four (4).

Example: Proceed forth to the fourth block, turn right, then proceed forth another four blocks.

gibe, gybe, jibe, jive

/jīb/, /jīb/, /jīb/, /jīv/

As nouns, gibe and jibe both mean an insult or a taunt; and as verbs, gibe and jibe mean to insult or mock. As verbs jibe and gybe mean to change the course of a ship by shifting the sail to the other side of the vessel; and as nouns, jibe and gybe mean the act of making such a change in the sails. Jibe, used as a verb, also means to agree. As a noun, jive means a lively type of dancing popular in the 1940s and 1950s or lively, meaningless talking. As a verb, jive means to dance to lively music.

Example: As the yacht jibed /gybed to starboard, the bandleader gibed / jibed (mocked) the performers, who were jiving to a recording by Glenn Miller. The director’s jests failed to jibe (agree) with the dancers’ mood.

hall, haul

/hôl/, /hôl/

A hall is a noun meaning a corridor between rooms or a large room for gatherings. Haul generally is a verb meaning to pull or drag. As a noun, haul means a long distance traveled or a stolen property.

Example: Should I haul the box into the main hall?

hear, here

/hir/, /hir/

Hear is a verb meaning to perceive sound. Here is an adverb meaning at the present place.

Example: I hear that you were here yesterday.

hoard, horde

/hôrd/, /hôrd/

As a verb, hoard means to collect or to selfishly keep, and as a noun, hoard means a large store of money or valuable objects. Horde is a noun meaning a large group of people.

Example: A detachment from the Golden Horde discovered a hoard of gold coins in the fortress, which had been hoarded by the prior ruler.

holey, holy, wholly

/ˈhōlē/, /ˈhōlē/, /ˈhōl(l)ē/

Holey is an adjective meaning to have holes. Holy is an adjective meaning sacred. Wholly is an adverb meaning totally or completely.

Example: The priest’s holy vestment was holey, having been wholly infested with moths over many years.

ingenious, ingenuous

/inˈjēnyəs/, /ˌinˈjenyo͞oəs/

Both words are adjectives. Ingenious means clever or inventive. Ingenuous means innocent or unsuspecting.

Example: The journeyman carpenter exercised the ingenious ability to use most of the scrap lumber. The ingenuous apprentice failed to recognize the significance of his boss’s accomplishment.

instance, instants

/ˈinstəns/, /ˈinstənts/

Both words are nouns. Instance is one event, while instants is the plural of the word instant, and thus means several moments of time.

Example: During this instance, the conveyors experienced several instants of light loading.

irrelevant, irreverent

/əˈreləvənt/, /əˈrev(ə)rənt/

Both words are adjectives. Irrelevant means not meaningful. Irreverent means disrespectful.

Example: The supervisor made several irreverent remarks that were irrelevant to the issue.

its, it’s

/its/, /its/

Its is the possessive pronoun for the word it. It’s is the contraction of it is.

Example: It’s time to understand its impact.

know, no

/nō/, /nō/

Know is the verb meaning to understand or be acquainted with. No is the adverb or adjective meaning not.

Example: Know this, when I say “no,” I mean no.

ladder, later, latter

/ˈladər/, /ˈlātər, ˈlādər/, /ˈlatər, ˈladər/

Ladder is a noun meaning a device for climbing. Later is used both as an adverb and as an adjective to mean after or following in time. Latter is an adjective meaning near to the end.

Example: Later in the presentation, we learned how production of ladders surged in the latter months.

lead, lead, led

/led/, /lēd/, /led/

Lead (/led/) is a noun indicating a heavy, soft, gray metal. Lead (/lēd/) is the present tense of the verb meaning go ahead while encouraging others to follow. Led (/led/) is the past tense of the verb lead (/lēd/) meaning to go ahead while encouraging others to follow.

Example: Monica took the lead to eliminate lead (metal) from the chemical inventory. This led to us having more storage space.

lessen, lesson

/ˈles(ə)n/, /ˈles(ə)n/

Lessen is a verb meaning to make less. Lesson is the noun meaning a learning experience.

Example: The mechanic learned the lesson that he had to lessen tension on the pulley.

loath, loathe

/lōTH, lōT͟H/, /lōT͟H/

Loath is an adjective meaning reluctant or unwilling. Loathe is a verb meaning to strongly dislike.

Example: Sue is loath to admit that she loathes watermelon.

loose, lose, loss

/lo͞os/, /lo͞oz/, /lôs, läs/

Loose is an adjective meaning to be free from restraint, relaxed, or limber. Lose is a verb that means to fail to keep. Loss is a noun indicating damage or waste.

Example: Be aware not to lose the screw. If it is too loose, it might vibrate loose, thus losing it and creating an even bigger loss.

main, mane

/mān/, /mān/

Main is an adjective that means the most important. Mane is a noun that means the long hair on the neck of a horse, lion, or other animal.

Example: The boy’s main focus when currying (grooming) the horse was combing the mane and tail.

moral, morale

/ˈmôrəl/, /məˈral/

As an adjective, moral means ethical or correct. As a noun, moral means a lesson or ethical standard. Morale is a noun that means the mental attitude of a person or group.

Example: This experience cemented the well-known moral that moral behavior improves team morale.

passed, past

/past/, /past/

Passed is the past tense and past participle of the verb to pass, which means to go by or to transmit something. As an adjective, adverb, or preposition, past can mean having occurred or existed in a previous time. As an adverb or preposition, past also can mean moving from one side to another or being later in time. As a noun, past means the time period before the moment of time in question or the history of a person or thing.

Example: During the past, the forklift passed this point often. And now, I see it moving slowly past the garage door.

peace, piece

/pēs/, /pēs/

Both words are nouns. Peace is a condition free from dissension or distraction. Piece is a portion of something.

Example: Eliminating distractions proved a key piece to achieving peace.

peak, peek, pique, piqué

/pēk/, /pēk/, /pēk/, /pēˈkā/

As a noun, peak means the top of a thing or the highest point. As a verb, peak means to reach the highest point. It also means to decline in health or spirits. In addition, as an adjective, peak means the greatest, best, or most. As a verb, peek means to look quickly; and as a noun, peek is the action of looking quickly. As a verb, pique means to stimulate interest or to be irritated by a cause. In addition, as a noun, pique is a feeling of irritation or resentment. Written with an acute accent mark and pronounced /pēˈkā/, piqué is a stiff fabric woven with a strong ribbing or raised pattern.

Example: When John peeked out the window, he saw the tourists returning who had climbed the neighboring mountain peak. They wore red, piqué polo shirts. Their adventure piqued John’s admiration, but John’s son was still in a fit of pique, because he had been required to stay on the farm during the peak harvest.

peal, peel

/pēl/, /pēl/

As a verb, peal means to ring loudly or make a loud sound in a manner like a bell. As a noun, peal is the sounding of a loud bell. As a verb, peel means to remove the skin of fruit, vegetables, or other similar items. As a noun, peel is the outer surface of fruit or vegetables.

Example: The young woman peeled an apple while the church bells pealed.

pedal, peddle, petal

/ˈpedl/, /ˈpedl/, /ˈpetl, ˈpedl/

As a noun, pedal is a foot-operated lever. As a verb, pedal means to move by pushing pedals, such as riding a bicycle. Peddle is a verb meaning to sell, especially small goods by going from place to place. A petal is a colored segment of a flower.

Example: Rather than pedal his bicycle, the boy stood by the wall, awestruck by the roses with the variegated petals. Meanwhile, the street vendor continued to peddle his wares.

pendant, pendent

/ˈpendənt/, /ˈpendənt/

Pendant is a noun meaning a piece of hanging jewelry or a hanging lamp, fan, rope, or chain. Pendent is an adjective meaning hanging down, pending (about to happen), or undecided.

Example: Jacqueline remained pendent about her choice of a gold pendant.

personal, personnel

/ˈpərs(ə)n(ə)l/, /ˌpərsəˈnel/

Personal is an adjective meaning pertaining to a particular individual. Personnel is a noun meaning a group of people hired to work.

Example: She made a personal commitment to challenge the newly hired personnel.

plain, plane

/plān/, /plān/

As an adjective, plain means simple, clear, or obvious. As a noun, plain means a flat land without trees. As a noun, plane is a smooth surface, either flat or sloped. In this sense, plane is used to describe shapes in geometry and to describe machines that fly, for example, airplanes. As a verb, plane means to make smooth, to fly without wing movement, or to skim over the surface of a liquid.

Example: The plan became plain, as the engineer worked on the design of the plane. He was drafting a plane, which sloped at a 3.2-degree angle. Later the technician would plane a board to resemble the plane’s wings.

pole, poll

/pōl/, /pōl/

The noun pole is a long, slender object. As a noun, poll is a location where voting occurs, the process of voting, or the top of a person’s head where hair grows. As a verb, poll means to record votes or to cut the horns off an animal, such as a cow.

Example: While the ranchers gathered at the wooden pole, the researcher took an opinion poll by asking who preferred polled (dehorned) cattle.

poor, pore, pour

/po͝or, pôr/, /pôr/, /pôr/

As an adjective, poor means lacking wealth or being of a low quality. As a noun, pore means a small opening on a surface, such as on the skin of an animal or plant. As a verb, pore means to think intently, such as to mentally absorb information through careful study or reading. Pour is a verb meaning to allow a liquid or granular substance to flow.

Example: Sweat poured from his pores, as the poor farmer poured clover seed into the planting machine. He had pored over the question of what to do to improve the quality of his poor land.

populace, populous

/ˈpäpyələs/, /ˈpäpyələs/

Populace is a noun meaning the people living in a place. Populous is an adjective meaning having a large population.

Example: The television ad wants you to believe that the populace of London enjoys living in a populous city.

precede, proceed

/prəˈsēd/, /prəˈsēd, prōˈsēd/

Both words are verbs. Precede means to come before. Proceed means to go forth or continue.

Example: If we proceed with this design now, we will precede the competition.

presence, presents

/ˈprezəns/, /prə'zents/

As a noun, presence means attendance or appearance. As a verb, presents means to give or introduce. As a noun, the word presents means gifts.

Example: Even though the handbook presents a warning about gift giving, the team leader distributed presents in the presence of the crew.

principal, principle

/ˈprinsəpəl/, /ˈprinsəpəl/

As an adjective, principal means the main or most important. As a noun, principal means a school official, the owner or leader of a business, or a quantity of money or wealth. Principle is a noun meaning an important idea or truth.

Example: The principal designer emphasized the correct engineering principles he had learned under the hands of the academy principal years before. This principle ensured the firm’s principals (owners) would be protected.

prophecy, prophesy

/ˈpräfəsē/, /ˈpräfəˌsī/

Prophecy is a noun meaning a statement about the future. Prophesy is a verb meaning to predict the future.

Example: The market analysts prophesy that prices will rise. As a stockholder, I like this prophecy.

prostate, prostrate

/ˈpräsˌtāt/, /ˈprästrāt/

Prostate is a gland in male mammals. As a verb, prostrate means to lie face down or to reduce someone to extreme physical weakness. As an adjective, prostrate means lying face down.

Example: His father had prostate cancer. As the cancer spread to other parts of his body, it prostrated his former strength.

quiet, quit, quite

/ˈkwīət/, /kwit/, /kwīt/

Quiet is an adjective meaning without sound. Quit is a verb meaning to stop. Quite is an adverb meaning completely or considerable.

Example: I am quite comfortable, as long as the office is quiet. Quit disturbing me, and I will be quite happy.

rain, reign, rein

/rān/, /rān/, /rān/

As a noun, rain is moisture that falls through the atmosphere. As a verb, rain means to fall as droplets. As a verb, reign means to rule as king or queen. As a noun, reign is the time when a king or queen rules. As a noun, rein is a strap attached to a bit, which is placed in an animal’s mouth (especially a horse’s mouth) and used to guide the animal. As a verb, rein means to use reins to guide or slow the movement of an animal (especially a horse). Rein also means to restrain anything.

Example: During the reign of King Henry, it rained much. The severe weather reined in the king’s military campaign.

rational, rationale

/ˈraSH(ə)n(ə)l/, /ˌraSHəˈnal/

Rational is an adjective meaning logical. Rationale is a noun meaning reasons for action or belief.

Example: The actress prided herself on being a rational person, and therefore she had strong rationale for her belief.

respectfully, respectively

/rəˈspek(t)fəlē/, /rəˈspektivlē/

Respectfully is an adverb meaning giving respect or honor. Respectively is an adverb indicating the same order of items.

Example: Respectfully addressing the crowd, the manager summarized the earning statement, which showed the company achieved April and May profits of $850,000 and $920,000, respectively.

right, rite, write, -wright

/rīt/, /rīt/, /rīt/, /rīt/

Right is an adjective meaning correct, proper, or fair. It is also a direction, such as right turn or right hand. As a verb, right means to straighten, rectify, or correct. As a noun, right means justice or ownership. As an adverb, right means straight or direct, as in “He walked right to his house.” Rite is a noun meaning a ritual or ceremony. Write is a verb meaning to put words, numbers, or symbols into a record, such as writing on paper or writing an email on a computer. The suffix “-wright” means a worker, as in wheelwright.

Example: The shipwright turned the drawing right side up. There he proceeded to write instructions in the right margin with the ferocity of a Celtic priest performing an ancient rite.

segue, Segway

/ˈseɡwā/, /ˈseɡwā/

As a verb, segue means to move into another discussion topic, movie scene, or piece of music. As a noun, segue means an uninterrupted transition from one discussion topic, piece of music, or film scene to another. Segway is a trademark for a two-wheel, motorized vehicle introduced in 2001 where the rider stands directly above the axle and controls the vehicle from handles mounted on a vertical post.

Example: The appearance of the police officer on a Segway gave Jane an opportunity to segue the conversation into another topic.

sense, since

/sens/, /sins/

As a verb, sense means to feel or perceive. As a noun, sense is the faculty to feel or perceive. Since is an adverb meaning before or therefore.

Example: They sense the design is correct, since all the pieces match. In this sense, they are correct. I have known this since yesterday.

shone, shown

/SHōn/, /SHōn/

Shone is the past tense form of the verb shine, meaning to give forth light. Shown is the past tense form of the verb show, meaning to display.

Example: Blue light shone from the monitor, falling across the dark room. Thus, I was shown the scene again.

specie, species

/ˈspēSHē,ˈspēsē/, /ˈspēsēz,ˈspēSHēz/

Both words are nouns. Specie is money in the form of coins. Species is a group of living things capable of reproducing.

Example: Queen Ann used specie to buy feathers of a beautiful species of parrots.

stanch, staunch

/stôn(t)SH,stän(t)SH/, /stôn(t)SH,stän(t)SH/

Stanch is a verb meaning to stop, especially to stop the flow of blood. Staunch is an adjective meaning loyal or committed.

Example: The staunch supporter of the revolution tried to stanch the continuing loss of membership from the political party.

stationary, stationery

/ˈstāSHəˌnerē/, /ˈstāSHəˌnerē/

Stationary is an adjective meaning fixed, not moving. Stationery is a noun meaning paper and other materials used for writing.

Example: The secretary stood stationary in front of the stationery store.

steel, steal

/stēl/, /stēl/

As a noun, steel is a strong alloy of iron and carbon. As a verb, steel means to make your feelings or resolution strong. Steal is a verb meaning to take unlawfully. Steal also means to move quietly so as not to be detected.

Example: Robbers like to steal expensive steel wheels from unprotected cars. The thieves steel their fear of being caught as they steal through the streets at night looking for targets.

straight, strait

/strāt/, /strāt/

Straight generally is an adjective or adverb meaning staying in the same direction without bending. As a noun, straight means something that is free from curves or in a row (such as the straight in a racetrack or a straight in a card game like poker). As an adjective, strait means narrow. As a noun, strait means a narrow passage or situation characterized by trouble or difficulty.

Example: After passing through the strait, Captain Magellan sailed straight northwest, because his crews were in a dire strait from a severe food shortage.

tail, tale

/tāl/, /tāl/

Both words are nouns. Tail is the hindmost part of an animal, object, or group. A tale is a story or narrative.

Example: The fisherman told another tale as he cut the heads and tails from the day’s catch.

tare, tear, tear

/ter/, /ter/, /tir/

As a noun, tare is a weed or the vetch plant, which is cultivated for fodder or silage. A tare also is an allowance made for the weight of a container or package when weighing an object or substance. As a verb, tare means to set a weighing device to accommodate the weight of a container or package. As a noun, a tear (/ter/), is a breach or a split, which generally damages an item. As a verb, tear (/ter/) means to pull apart. As a noun, a tear (/tir/) is a drop of liquid from in an eye. As a verb, tear (/tir/) means to produce tears, to cry.

Example: The chemist knew the tare weight of the weighing dish and used this knowledge to tare the analytical scale. Later, she found a tear in her lab coat. This brought a tear to her eye.

than, then

/T͟Han, T͟Hən /, /T͟Hen/

Than is a conjunction or preposition used in comparisons. Then is an adverb that refers to time.

Example: After removing the paper, you then can make more than a few corrections.

their, there, they’re

/T͟Her/, /T͟Her/, /T͟Her/

Their is a possessive pronoun meaning belonging to persons or things. There is an adverb used to show an object’s location. They’re is a contraction of they are.

Example: Their book is located over there, near the entrance. They’re sure to find it there.

threw, through

/THro͞o/, /THro͞o/

Threw is the past tense of the verb throw. Through is a preposition meaning in one end and out the other.

Example: The motor threw a rod through the engine wall, thoroughly destroying the machine.

to, too, two

/to͞o, tə/ /to͞o/, /to͞o/

To is a preposition that shows movement or direction. The adverb too means also. Two is the cardinal number 2.

Example: Sending the claim to the two companies should not be too difficult.

venal, venial

/ˈvēnl/, /ˈvēnēəl/

Venal is an adjective meaning motivated by bribery. Venial is an adjective denoting a small sin or crime.

Example: The venal politician was guilty of more than venial mistakes.

veracity, voracity

/vəˈrasədē/, /vəˈrasədē/

Both words are nouns. Veracity means truthfulness. Voracity means gluttony.

Example: The king’s voracity completely discredited his veracity.

weak, week

/wēk/, /wēk/

Weak is an adjective meaning the opposite of strong. Week is a noun meaning the length of time marked by seven days.

Example: This activity reveals the weak link in this week’s schedule.

weather, whether

/ˈweT͟Hər/, /weT͟Hər/

As a noun, weather means the condition of the air and sky. As a verb, weather means to change or wear away do to exposure to air, rain, sunlight, and temperature change. Whether is a conjunction that introduces two or more alternatives.

Example: Whether we understand the weather or not, we have to enjoy its variability. A wet climate can weather exposed lumber rapidly.

whose, who’s

/ho͞oz/, /ho͞oz/

Whose is a possessive pronoun meaning associated with a person. Who’s is a contraction of who is.

Example: Whose responsibility is it? And who’s going to do something about it?

your, you’re

/yôr, yo͝or/, /yo͝or, yôr/

Your is a possessive pronoun indicating the person or persons being addressed by the speaker. You’re is a contraction of you are.

Example: You’re correct. That is your best option.

could of, should of, would of

Could of, should of, and would of are incorrect renderings of could’ve, should’ve, and would’ve, which are contractions of could have, should have, and would have.