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.

deduce / induce

We deduce something when we work out the meaning from the evidence. We induce something when we cause something to happen; often in the passive form. I was induced into handing over the papers.


definite / definitive

A definite answer is one that is one taken when a decision has been made and that decision will not be changed. A definitive answer is one that is (as far as we can tell) absolutely and unchallengeably correct. The judge gave a definitive judgement in the case.


defuse / diffuse

Bombs are defused (made safe). Diffuse light is light that is spread so that it produces a soft glow not a hard, bright light.


dependent / dependant

Children are dependent on their parents; a child is therefore adependant. In other words, the former is an adjective and the latter a noun.


derisive / derisory

If someone laughs or shouts in a derisive way this is intended to hurt and to humiliate. If something is derisory, then people may shout in this way.


desert / dessert

We can cross a desert on a camel; we eat dessert after our main meal.


device / devise

A device (noun) is an object for doing something; I have a device for saving files more quickly. Devise (verb) relates to producing or investing something with a special purpose; I have devised a new way to win in the casino.


disc / disk

We have discs between the bones of the spine, we also have music discs. However, we generally talk about a disk when referring to computers.


discreet / discrete

She won't say anything; she is very discreet. In other words, it is safe to tell her something; she won't tell other people. The word discrete refers to something specific which is separate from and significantly different from something else in some way or other. There are discrete departments in our company, although all with the same overall objective.


disinterested / uninterested

Disinterested means that a person has no specific involvement; We need a disinterested judge to make the decision.




 

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