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.

cereal /serial

Cereal is breakfast food made of things like wheat and barley. A serial often relates to a programme on the radio or tv which goes on for a long time and is built around a set of characters.

chord / cord

Chord relates to music and is a combination of notes; cord is a type of thick-ish string or rope.

cloths/ clothes

The first is pieces of cloth e.g. cleaning cloths; the second is the clothes or garments that we wear.

complement / compliment

Complement means to enhance something else; to make it better by adding something suitable to it. That jacket really complements the colours of your skirt.

council / counsel

A council is a ruling body, committee or other group of representatives, The Council for Environmental Change. 'council' is never used as a verb.Counsel is advice that we give someone else. A counsel is also a type of lawyer. 'counsel' is used a noun or verb depending on context.

credible / creditable

credible means believable. The story he told me was not credible. Incredible means unbelievable or to emphasise the exceptional nature of something. She is incredibly hardworking. Creditable relates to an action that deserves credit or praise.

credulous / incredulous

A credulous person is one who will believe anything however silly. Someone is incredulous if they see or hear something they are unwilling or unable to believe. He was incredulous when I told him how much I had won on the lottery.

crevice / crevasse

A crevice is a small to medium crack in rock; a crevasse is a large crack in an ice-sheet or glacier which people could fall in to.

criterion / criteria

The former is singular and the latter plural because of the Latin base. The most important criterion is honesty. The other criteria are less important.

currant / current

We eat currants (dry grapes). Currents are flows especially of liquids, gases and electricity. The thermal currents carried the hot-air balloon far from home. The strong currents carried the swimmer out to sea. The ampere is a measure of electrical current.


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