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.

draft / draught

The first refers to a bank transfer or bank draft; the second relates to cold wind blowing under a door or between windows.

dual / duel

We talk about a road with four lanes (two in each direction) as a dual carriageway. A duel is word to describe a fight with guns or swords in the past. Sometimes it is used to describe what the protagonists in a debate are doing with the sharp cut and thrust of verbal debate.

dying / dyeing

The first refers to the end of life and the second to colouring hair or cloth. We also use the first if we want something badly; I'm dying to go to the toilet!

eatable / edible

If something is OK to eat it is eatable; Is that apple eatable? We use edible to refer to something that it is possible to eat without ill-effects. Are those berries edible?

elder / older

We use elder to pick out an individual within a family as older in comparison with others. He's my elder brother. The word older is the comparative form of old; I'm ten years older than my sister.

emigrant / immigrant

Migrants are people who move from one country to another for residence (often permanent). Emigrants leave a country and immigrants enter a country. For example, the UK receives thousands of immigrants each year but many people emigrate from the UK to Australia and elsewhere.

eminent / imminent

Eminent people are well known and often famous for something serious like politics or science. Something that is imminent is something that is about to happen; The fall of the bridge is imminent.

enquiry / inquiry

In British English, an enquiry is something that that we make; Can I make an enquiry about the price of your cars? An inquiry is something that is held by a body or group; The Council is holding an inquiry into the sale of council houses. In American English, the usual term is inquiry rather than enquiry.

farther / further

Farther is to do with distance; It's farther from Nottingham to London than it is from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Further has to do with, for example, additional tasks; He's got further investigations to carry out before he can be sure.

fictional / fictitious

The word fictional is used to describe, for example, imaginary characters. It's a fictional story about two people who fly to the Moon. The word fictitious has to do with truth. He came up with a fictitious story to explain his absence.


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