21 Confusing English Words Explained!
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! 🙂
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’t 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 /kwaɪət/ and quite /kwaɪt/) 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’t 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! 🙂button