Common Misused Words and Phrases

When I am reading; posts in the forums of EE, local American newspapers, and even some magazines I often see words and phrases misused. This non standard usage is very distracting and sometimes confusing to the reader, therefore all of us must be aware of this pitfall and earnestly attempt to avoid these common mistakes. Please remember that just because you have seen something in print does not necessarily make that usage correct. Further one must be vigilant to avoid writing some non standard words which may sound the same in the spoken language as the correct written words. An Example of this type of mistake is QUOTED from a local United States Newspaper, with the incorrect words in caps and correct words in parentheses; “ The bank robbery suspects left THERE (their) checkbook on the teller’s counter, which proved THERE (their) COMPLIANCE (complicity) in the ELICIT (illicit) actions.” I personally think the robbers were almost as stupid as the paper’s reporter and editors.

The following list, with explanations and examples, will help you in determining which words to use if you want to be correct in your writing and speaking, and you will be using a more correct form of English than many “Professional” writers. An added benefit of learning the differences in these words will be a marked increase in your vocabulary.

Homonyms – Words that sound the same

Accept – Except: Accept means to receive and Except means excluding or to exclude.

Tire suas dúvidas sobre os tempos verbais, baixe um guia grátis da English Live: Guia de Tempos Verbais em Inglês. Ele contém um resumo bem estruturado para revisar os conceitos que você aprendeu na escola. Clique aqui e saiba como baixar!

  • I will ACCEPT all the results EXCEPT the last one.

Affect – Effect: Affect means to influence while Effect means result or to bring about.

  • The drug caused adverse side EFFECTS, and did not AFFECT the infection.

Allusion – Illusion: Allusion is an indirect reference and Illusion is a misconception or misunderstanding.

  • In my speech I made an ALLUSION to the Presidents speech. The magician’s ILLUSION was complete in that he appeared to make an elephant disappear.

Bare – Bear: Bear has many meanings including the animal, but bare has only one meaning and that is without clothing or covering. Never write “Bare with me”, as you are inviting someone to get naked with you.

  • Please BEAR with me while I take a picture of the BARE ground.

Capital – Capitol: Capital refers to a city or wealth while Capitol refers to a building where lawmakers meet.

  • The Senate meets in the CAPITOL building in the CAPITAL city of Washington.

Climactic – Climatic: Climactic is derived from climax meaning the high point and Climatic is derived from climate and refers to long term weather conditions.

  • The drastic CLIMACTIC changes caused the end of the CLIMATIC period of the dinosaurs and their extinction.

Elicit – Illicit:  Elicit means to bring about or to evoke. Illicit means unlawful.

  • During questioning the detective was unable to ELICIT information regarding the ILLICIT actives of the suspect.

Emigrate from – Immigrate to: Emigrate means to leave (Exit) a country or region and Immigrate (Into) means to enter another country with the intention to reside there.

  • In 1907 my grandfather EMIGRATED from Italy and IMMIGRATED to the United States.

Principal – Principle: Principle means a basic truth, law or belief, while Principal is a person or a sum of money.

  • As a matter of PRINCIPLE I could not lie to the High School PRINCIPAL.

Than – Then: Than is a conjunction used in comparisons, and Then is an adverb denoting time. (Then tells when)

  • I told my girlfriend that I preferred hamburgers rather THAN pizza, THEN she ordered pizza anyway.

There – Their – They’re: There specifies a place, or is an expletive, There is a possessive pronoun and They’re is a contraction of they are, and normally is not used in informal English.

  • THEIR keys are right THERE on the table while THEY’RE going crazy looking for them.

To – Too – Two: To is a preposition, Too is an adverb, and Two is a number.

  • When you play golf, TOO many of your shots hook TO the left, but the last TWO were better.

Your – You’re: Your is a possessive pronoun and You’re is a contraction of you are.
YOU’RE going to get hurt if you don’t move YOUR foot inside the golf cart.

Other Problem Phrases and Words

Supposed to – Suppose to is incorrect keep the “d”
Used to – Use to is incorrect again keep the “d”
Toward – Not Towards there is no “s”
Anyway – Never Anyways again there is no “s”
Couldn’t care less – To say I could care less is wrong when you mean you do not care at all.
Chest of drawers – Never chester drawers, Chester is a man’s name.
Going to – Never use Gonna, it is a non standard word.
Want to – Never use Wanna, it is again a non standard word.

For more misused words and some good laughs see: Commonly Misused Words in the English Language.

Sobre o Autor: Bill Slayman tem 66 anos é americano e mora em Pensacola, Florida, USA. Ele atuou no exército americano e hoje está aposentado. Suas paixões são: andar de Harley Davidson, motocicletas, fotografia e qualquer coisa brasileira. Bill é um dos maiores colaboradores do EE.

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