A List of Most Commonly Confused Words (Part 1)
English is large and includes many a word that looks and/or sounds very much like another word. This list aims to help you keep such words straight.
access vs. excess
Access is used as a noun referring to the ability to enter, as in "access to the building," and as a verb meaning "to enter," as in "access the stage from the rear."
Excess functions as a noun or adjective that typically has to do with an amount that is more than usual or necessary, as in "an excess of salt" and "excess baggage."
addition vs. edition
Addition and edition are both nouns. Addition refers to something added, as in "new additions to the museum's collection" and "an addition to the house," as well as to the process of adding, as in "the addition of cream to the soup" and "math problems involving addition and subtraction." It's also the word used in phrases with in: "cookies in addition to the pie and cake."
Edition refers to a particular version of a book, product, newspaper, etc., as in "an illustrated edition," or to something presented as one of a series, as in "tonight's edition of the show."
allude vs. elude
Allude is a verb that means "to speak of or mention something or someone in an indirect way," as in "they alluded to difficulties at their former school."
Elude is a verb that most often means "to avoid or escape someone or something by being quick, skillful, or clever," as in "a criminal who has eluded capture."
allusion vs. illusion
Allusion is a noun that means "a statement that refers to something without mentioning it directly," as in "a colleague's allusion to a former spouse."
Illusion is a noun that refers to something that looks or seems different from what it is, as in "paint that creates the illusion of metal" and "an optical illusion." It also refers to an idea that is based on something that is not true, as in "they were under the illusion that the car was brand new."
base vs. bass
Base is a noun, verb, and adjective. The noun has a variety of meanings, several of which refer to a literal or figurative foundation or bottom, as in "the lamp's base," "the base of a mountain," "the company's customer base," and "base of operations." It's also used in various phrases like "touch base" and "on base." The verb base means "to have a particular place as the main place where a person works or lives or where a business operates," as in "a company based in Iowa." It is also used in phrases with on and upon: "an economy based on tourism." The adjective base means "not honest or good," as in "base motives."
Bass is a noun that refers to a low or deep sound or voice, or to a musical instrument. Another word bass rhymes with pass and refers to a kind of fish.
bridal vs. bridle
Bridal is an adjective that is used to describe things relating to a bride or wedding, as in "a bridal gown" and "bridal party."
Bridle is a noun that refers to a device that fits on a horse's head and that is used for guiding and controlling the horse. Bridle is also a verb with two meanings: one is "to put a bridle on a horse"; the other is "to react in an angry way," as in "he bridled at their criticism of his methods."
climactic vs. climatic
Climactic and climatic are both adjectives. Climactic is related to the word climax; it means "most exciting and important," as in "the movie's climactic chase scene."
Climatic means "of or relating to climate," as in "climatic conditions in the region that make it an ideal place to grow grapes."
collaborate vs. corroborate
Collaborate and corroborate are both verbs. Collaborate means "to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something," as in "collaborating on a book about dogs."
Corroborate means "to support or help prove a statement, theory, etc. by providing information or evidence," as in "two witnesses corroborated her story" and "a theory corroborated by recent studies."
currant vs. current
Currant is a noun that refers to a small raisin or berry.
Current is a noun that refers to a continuous movement of water or air in the same direction, as in "ocean currents," and also to a flow of electricity, as in "a strong/weak electrical current." Current also functions as an adjective meaning "happening or existing now," as in "the current month" and "the magazine's current issue."
desert vs. dessert
Desert functions as a noun referring to an area of very dry land that is usually covered with sand and is very hot. Desert is also a verb that means "to leave a place," as in "residents deserted the town," or "to leave someone or withdraw support for someone," as in "a promise to never desert them." Desert is also the word in the phrase just deserts.
Dessert is sweet food that is eaten after a meal: "ice cream for dessert."
detract vs. distract
Detract and distract are both verbs. Detract means "to reduce the strength, value, or importance of something," as in "a minor error that does not detract from the overall quality of the report."
Distract means "to cause someone to stop thinking about or paying attention to someone or something and to think about or pay attention to someone or something else instead," as in "noises in the hallway that distracted the students."
device vs. devise
Device is a noun that most often refers to an object, machine, or piece of equipment that has been made for some special purpose, as in "electronic devices."
Devise is a verb that means "to invent or plan something that is difficult or complicated," as in "devising a new method for converting sunlight into electricity."
eminent vs. imminent
Eminent and imminent are both adjectives. Eminent means "successful, well-known, and respected," as in "an eminent physician."
Imminent means "happening very soon," as in "awaiting their imminent arrival" or "their arrival is imminent."
envelop vs. envelope
Envelop is a verb that means "to completely enclose or surround someone or something," as in "she enveloped the baby in the blanket" and "mist enveloping the mountains."
Envelope is a noun that refers to an enclosing cover for a letter, card, etc. The word is also used in the phrase "push the envelope," which means "to go beyond the usual or normal limits by doing something new, dangerous, etc.," as in "a writer whose new novel pushes the envelope."
formally vs. formerly
Formally and formerly are both adverbs. Formally is used to describe things done in a serious and proper or official way, as in "guests were dressed formally" and "she has formally announced her candidacy."
Formerly means "at an earlier time," as in "a car formerly owned by my neighbor."
forth vs. fourth
Forth is an adverb used especially in literary contexts to mean "out into notice or view," as in "spring's blossoms bursting forth," and "onward or forward in time or place," as in "from this day forth." It is also used in various phrases such as "and so forth," "back and forth," "bring forth," and "set forth."
Fourth is used as a noun, an adjective, and an adverb with meanings that relate to the number four. As a noun it can mean "number four in a series," as in "arriving on the fourth of May," and "one of four equal parts of something," as in "cut the cake into fourths." As an adjective it means "occupying the number four position in a series," as in "the fourth day"; as an adverb it means "in the fourth place," as in "he finished fourth in the race."
hoard vs. horde
Hoard is used as a noun to refer to a large amount of something valuable that is kept hidden, as in "a dragon's hoard of treasure," and as a verb to mean "to collect and hide a large amount of something valuable," as in "a dragon hoarding treasure."
Horde is a noun that refers to a large group of people, as in "a horde of shoppers crowded the store."
Read this article for more on these two words.
incredible vs. incredulous
Incredible and incredulous are both adjectives. Incredible means "difficult or impossible to believe," as in "a movie telling an incredible story of survival," and "extremely good, great, or large," as in "the musician's incredible skill" and "a place of incredible beauty."
Incredulous means "not able or willing to believe something," as in "people were incredulous that the child had achieved the feat."
This article can give you more detail on these two words.
liable vs. libel
Liable is an adjective that can mean "legally responsible for something," as in "determining who is liable for the damage"; or "likely to be affected or harmed by something," as in "a condition that makes her liable to illness"; or "likely to do something," as in "you're liable to fall if you're not more careful."
Libel is a noun and a verb. As a noun it refers to the act of publishing a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone, as in "a newspaper found guilty of libel." As a verb it means "to write and publish a false statement that causes people to have a bad opinion of someone," as in "the jury found that the article libeled him."
Source: Merriam Webster