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.


loose vs. lose

Loose is most often used as an adjective with a variety of meanings that have to do, either literally or figuratively, with something not being tight or tightly fastened, attached, or held. Some examples are: "a loose tooth," "a loose belt," "loose rocks/papers," "a loose coalition." It is also used in various phrases like "break loose," "cut loose," and "let loose." It is also a verb meaning "to release or untie an animal or person" and "to make something less tight."

Lose is a verb with various meanings typically having to do with being unable to find, keep, or hold something, as in "I keep losing my keys," "losing power," "lose money," "lost an advantage," and with failing to win something, as in "losing a game/election." It also appears in common phrases like "lose out," "lose it," "lose contact," and "lose your way."


 median vs. medium

Median and medium both function as both nouns and adjectives. As a noun, median can refer to a grassy or paved area that divides a highway (also called "a median strip"), or, in mathematics, to the middle value in a series of values arranged from smallest to largest. The adjective median is usually used in mathematics to mean "having a value that is in the middle of a series of values arranged from smallest to largest," as in "the median price of homes in the area."

Medium as an adjective means "in the middle of a range of possible sizes, amounts, etc.," as in "a person of medium height" and "a medium blue." The noun medium has several meanings, among them "something that is sold in a medium size," as in "I wear a medium," and "a particular form or system of communication (such as newspapers, radio, or television)," as in "an effective advertising medium."


moral vs. morale

Moral is a noun and an adjective. The noun refers to a lesson that is learned from a story or an experience, as in "the moral of the story is to appreciate what you have," and in its plural form morals to proper ideas and beliefs about how to behave in a way that is considered right and good by most people, as in "I don't question her morals." The adjective is used with a variety of meanings having to do with right or wrong behavior, as in "moral issues/standards" and "moral conduct."

Morale is a noun referring to the feelings of enthusiasm and loyalty that a person or group has about a task or job, as in "employee morale was high in the wake of the project's success."


peace vs. piece

Peace is a noun that has several meanings relating to an end to war or fighting or to a state of calm, as in "a wish for world peace," "looking for some peace and quiet," and "peace of mind." It is also used in phrases like "hold your peace" and "make peace with."

Piece is a noun and a verb. As a noun piece has various meanings most of which have to do with a part, amount, or type of something, as in "a piece of pie," "a large piece of land," or "pieces of paper," and "a piece of land." It's also used in various phrases including "to pieces" and "say your piece" more on this phrase The verb piece is typically used with together to express the idea of bringing parts together, as in "piecing together scraps for the quilt" and "we pieced the facts of the story together."


 pedal vs. peddle

Pedal is a noun that most often refers to a flat piece of metal, rubber, etc., that you push with your foot to make a machine move, work, or stop, as in "the bike's pedals" and "the car's brake pedal." As a verb it typically means "to push the pedals of something, such as a bicycle," as in "pedaling faster and faster."

Peddle is a verb that is usually used to mean "to sell something usually in small amounts and often by traveling to different places," as in "peddling fruits and vegetables from a roadside cart."


 personal vs. personnel

Personal is an adjective often used to describe what belongs to or relates to a particular person, as in "personal property" and "my personal opinion," or to a person's private thoughts, feelings, etc., as in "a very personal question."

Personnel is a noun most often used to refer to people who work for a particular company or organization.


 plain vs. plane

Plain functions as an adjective, adverb, and noun. As an adjective, it often describes what lacks decoration, pattern, extra features, etc., as in "plain paper" or "a pair of plain shoes." As an adverb, it means "truly, completely," as in "it's just plain wrong." The noun plain refers to a large area of flat land without trees.

Plane most often functions as a noun referring to an airplane or to a flat surface. It also has verb and noun use with meanings relating to carpentry.


 pole vs. poll

Pole is a noun. It can refer to a long, straight piece of wood, metal, etc., that is often placed in the ground so that it stands straight up. Additionally, pole refers to either end of the imaginary line around which something (such as the earth) turns, as in "the north/south pole"; to either one of the two ends of a magnet; to the positive point or the negative point on a battery; or to either one of two opposite positions, situations, etc., as in "opposite poles of an argument."

Poll functions as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it refers to an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something; this noun use has a related verb use: a magazine might "conduct a poll," and a magazine might "poll its readers." The noun poll in its plural form polls refers to the record of votes that were made by people in an election or to the places where those people vote.


 pore vs. poor vs. pour

Pore functions as a verb meaning "to read or study something very carefully," as in "spent hours poring over the map." As a noun it refers to a very small opening on the surface of your skin.

Poor is an adjective used to mean "having little money or few possessions," as in "a poor person," or to describe something of low quality ("poor soil"), or someone of low skill ("a poor player").

Pour is a verb that means "to cause something to flow in a steady stream from or into a container or place," as in "pour a cup of coffee."


 pray vs. prey

Pray is a verb that is used to mean "to speak to God especially in order to give thanks or to ask for something," as in "praying for forgiveness," as well as "to hope or wish very much for something to happen," as in "praying they will succeed."

Prey is used as a noun to refer to an animal that is hunted or killed by another animal for food, as in "the owl's prey," or to someone who is a victim. It also functions as a verb meaning "to hunt," or "to hurt, cheat, or steal from someone," as in "thieves who prey on the city's tourists."


 preposition vs. proposition

Preposition and proposition are both nouns. Preposition refers to a word (such as in, on, or to) that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object.

Proposition is a noun that most often refers to something, such as a plan or offer, that is presented to a person or group of people to consider, as in "a business proposition."


quiet vs. quite

Quiet functions as an adjective, a verb, and a noun. As an adjective, it mostly describes things or people who make little noise, as in "a quiet engine" and "a quiet person," or a situation or event in which there is little noise, as in "a quiet dinner for two." As a verb, it means "to make or become calmer or less noisy," as in "a lullaby to quiet the crying baby." The noun quiet refers to the quality or state of being quiet or calm, as in "the quiet of the house at midnight."

Quite is an adverb that most often means "very," as in "quite tired"; "completely or entirely," as in "we quite agree"; or "exactly or precisely," as in "not quite what I said."


 resume vs. résumé

Resume is a verb that is usually used to mean "to begin again after stopping," as in "the musicians resumed playing.

Résumé is a noun used especially to refer to a short document describing your education, work history, etc., that you give an employer when you are applying for a job.


 right vs. rite vs. write

Right functions as an adjective, adverb, noun, and verb. Some common adjective uses are "morally or socially correct or acceptable," as in "the right thing to do," and "accurate or correct," as in "the right answer." Adverbial uses include the directional "toward the right," as in "turn right," and "correctly," as in "you guessed right." Among meanings of the noun right are "behavior that is morally good or correct," as in "knowing right from wrong," and "something that a person is or should be morally or legally allowed to have, get, or do," as in "human rights." As a verb, right often means "to correct something wrong or unjust," as in "trying to right a wrong."

Rite is a noun that refers to an act that is part of a usually religious ceremony, as in "funeral rites."

Write is a verb with various meaning including "to form letters or numbers on a surface with a pen, pencil, etc.," as in "learning to write the alphabet," and "to create a book, poem, story, etc.," as in "writing a book about parrots."


 role vs. roll

Role is a noun that to refers to the character played by an actor, or to a part or function that someone has in a group, situation, etc., as in "scientists who had a role in finding a cure to the disease."

Roll functions as a verb and a noun. As a verb it has various meanings relating to movement, especially by turning over and over, as in "a ball rolling down a hill," or in a smooth continuous movement, as in "clouds rolling past" and "a car rolling to a stop." As a noun, roll often refers to a long piece of cloth, paper, film, tape, etc., that is rolled to form the shape of a tube or ring, as in "a roll of tape," or to a round sweet cake ("a cinnamon roll"), or to a deep continuous sound, as in "a roll of thunder."


stationary vs. stationery

Stationary is an adjective meaning "not moving" or "not changing," as in "a stationary target" and "a stationary population."

Stationery is a noun that refers to materials (such as paper, pens, and ink) that are used for writing or typing, or specifically to paper that is used for writing letters and that usually has matching envelopes, as in "business stationery."


 statue vs. stature vs. statute

Statue, stature, and statute are all nouns. Statue refers to a figure usually of a person or animal that is made from stone, metal, etc.

Stature refers to the level of respect that people have for a successful person, organization, etc., as in "a writer of her stature," as well as to a person's height, as in "a person of rather short stature."

Statute refers to a written law that is formally created by a government, or to another kind of written rule or regulation.


track vs. tract

Track functions as a noun and a verb. As a noun, it often refers to a mark left on the ground by a moving animal, person, or vehicle, as in "tire tracks," or to a pair of metal bars that a train, trolley, or subway car rides along, as in "train tracks." The verb track often means "to follow and try to find an animal by looking for its tracks and other signs that show where it has gone," as in "hunters tracking deer," or "to follow and find someone or something especially by looking at evidence," as in "tracking the suspect."

Tract is a noun that usually refers to a system of body parts or organs that has a particular purpose, as in "the digestive tract," or to an area of land.


waist vs. waste

Waist is a noun that refers to the middle part of your body between the hips and chest or upper back, or to the part of a piece of clothing that fits around your waist.

Waste is a verb that means "to use something valuable in a way that is not necessary or effective," as in "trying not to waste water/money/time." As a noun, waste often refers to material that is left over or that is unwanted after something has been made, done, used, etc., as in "industrial waste."


wander vs. wonder

Wander is a verb used especially to mean "to move around or go to different places usually without having a particular purpose or direction," as in "wandering through the meadow."

Wonder functions as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it often means "a feeling caused by seeing something that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.," as in "staring up at the monument in wonder." As a verb it frequently means "to think about something with curiosity," as in "wondering about the city's history."


Source: Merriam Webster


See more: A List of Most Commonly Confused Words (Part 1)