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21 Confusing English Words Explained!

Confused Face

21 Confusing English Words Explained!

Confused Face

English can be really confusing in more ways than one, but we are all very familiar with those tricky words that sound so similar but have totally different meanings: homophones. These can drive English learners nuts!
This post is here to help keep you from going crazy and hopefully make a lot more confident when using these confusing but important English words. Good luck! ūüôā

1. Its and It’s

This first example is especially puzzling because usually apostrophes (‘)¬†are used to¬†express¬†ownership or possession (the cat’s dinner). However, in this case, the apostrophe is short for ‘it is’. Therefore, when we speak of something that belongs to ‘it’, we use ‘its’¬†without the apostrophe.

“It’s raining outside.”/”the cat is eating its dinner.”

2. Your and You’re

This pair can easily confuse native¬†speakers too, if they don‚Äôt pay enough attention! After all, they are pronounced exactly the same way. But ‘your’¬†is a possessive word, while ‘you’re’¬†¬†is short for ‘you are’.

“Your¬†English is amazing”/”You’re¬†an amazing English student.”

3. There, They’re and Their

Wow. This one¬†is a triple threat. ‘There’¬†is simply an adverb expressing a place that is opposed to ‘here’¬†. ‘They’re’¬†is short for ‘they are’. Finally, ‘their’¬†is a possessive pronoun.

“She is sitting there.”/”They’re learning confusing words.”/”Their house is in the suburbs.”

4. Raise and Rise

Both ‘raise’¬†and ‘rise’¬†talk about something ‘going up’. But, if you ‘raise’¬†something, it means you elevate it or increase it. If something ‘rises’,¬†it goes up by itself, elevates itself.

“Most airlines plan to raise their fares.”/”Prices are rising all the time.”

5. Affect and Effect

These two are¬†similar in¬†meaning and usage, but¬†it is important to understand the key difference: one is a verb and the other is a noun. ‘Affect¬†is usually used as a verb. It is an action word that means to produce a change or influence something. On the other hand, ‘effect’¬†is usually used as a noun, as¬†an event that means a change has occurred.

“The weather will¬†affect¬†my plans for the weekend.”/”Exercise has positive¬†effects¬†on our health.”

6. Quiet and Quite

Although they are¬†spelt and pronounced differently (quiet¬†/kwa…™…ôt/¬†and quite¬†/kwa…™t/)¬†they are often confused by English learners. ‘Quiet’¬†is an adjective that means making¬†little noise or having little activity ¬†‘Quite’¬†is an adverb that means to a significant extent/degree.

“The children are very quiet. The clubs are very quiet on Tuesdays.”/”It’s quite warm outside.”

7. Accept and Except

‘Accept’¬†means to receive something or to agree to something. For example, “I accept that you are a better dancer than me”.

‘Except’¬†usually¬†means “unless” or “not including” or “other than”,¬†but it’s sometimes used as verb “to leave out.

I love all of my school subjects except mathematics.”/”We will accept applications for the next academic year.”

8. Advice and Advise

Similarly to effect/affect, the difference comes down to¬†parts of¬†speech. ‘Advice’ is¬†a noun¬†that means an opinion or recommendation offered as a¬†guide to action. While, ‘advise’¬†is a verb¬†meaning to¬†give¬†advice to or to¬†offer a suggestion.

“My mom always gives me the best advice.”/”I advised her to be cautious.”

9. Knew and New

The confusion here comes from the¬†cheeky¬†silent ‘K’! As long as you¬†remember that ‘knew’¬†is the past tense of ‘know’ (not to be confused with ‘no’) you will be fine! And of course, if something is ‘new’,¬†it was¬†produced, introduced, or discovered recently or didn’t¬†exist¬†before.

“Yesterday¬†I¬†bought a new dress and I knew my husband would be angry.”¬†

10.Aloud and Allowed

‘Aloud’¬†means to¬†speak¬†up¬†so that someone else can hear you.

‘Allowed’¬†is¬†the past tense of letting someone have or do something.

“I prefer to read aloud”/”When I was a child I wasn‚Äôt allowed to drink fizzy drinks.”

Although¬†homophones¬†are abundant in the English language and can prove to be challenging to learners and native speakers alike, it’s important to tackle these confusing words¬†early on. Hopefully, you will¬†accept¬†my¬†advice¬†and become¬†quite¬†confident English speakers! ūüôā


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