English words that often get confused

Sometimes people get words confused because they look or sound similar; some are confused because they are rarely used or because people hear other people misusing them.

We have 110 items in the database.

idle / idol

If you are idle, you are lazy and inactive. An idol is something that is loved or worshipped. She was my idol. I worshipped her.

illegal / illicit

Illegal means that something is against the law. The word illicit refers to an action which may be against the law or it may simply be not generally acceptable in terms of general social norms.

abdicate / abrogate

To abdicate means that a monarch resigns from office, e.g. The king abdicated in favour of his son. The word abrogate means to end an official agreement or law.

accede / exceed

To accede to a request is to agree to it; to exceed something is to go over/above a specific limit in terms of such things as speed or quantity.

accept / except

We accept something when we agree to take it. The word except points out someone or something that is different. We all agreed except for John.

adjacent / adjoining

Adjacent means nearby but adjoining means directly connected.

advice / advise

Advice is a noun (She gave him some good advice.) and the second is a verb (I advise you to.....).

affect / effect

Affect relates to someone or something having an influence: His illness affected him badly. The noun effect concerns the result of something. The effect of the stock market crash was disastrous. Less commonly, effect is used as a verb meaning to cause something to happen The company will effect these changes immediately.

afflict / inflict

Something bad afflicts someone (He was afflicted by malaria.). Someone inflicts themselves or something else on someone. (The Australians inflicted a stunning defeat on the English cricket team.)

aggravate / exacerbate

Aggravate means to annoy someone, probably in an on-going way not just one-off; exacerbate means to make a situation worse.


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