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.

flare / flair

A flare is something that produces a bright light and it is often used on boats or by climbers. If someone has a flair for something, it means that they have a talent for doing something. He has a flair for music.

flaunt / flout

If we flaunt something we show it off in a confident way. She flaunted her new clothes. The word flout is generally to do with ignoring a rule or a law. He flouted the law and sold the watches on the pavement.

flounder / founder

We flounder around when we have problems and we don't know what to do sp we think about all sorts of options. A ship founders when it is overcome by the waves and sinks.

for ever / forever

These words have various meanings, typically 'for all time' or 'permanently' (eg. Food does not last forever. or (informally) taking 'a long time' (as in: I have been waiting for the bus forever.; I want to stay here for ever. 'forever' sometimes has a different meaning such as 'always','typically' or 'extremely frequently'. (e.g. He is forever making jokes means that makes jokes very often, perhaps too often!

formally / formerly

The word formally means officially or in an official way. The building was formally opened by the Mayor. The word formerly has to do with things that happened in the past. He was formerly a ship's captain before he retired.

fulfil / fulfill

These are two spellings of the same word, and both are accepted. The past tense for both is fulfilled.

gaol / jail

These are two spellings of the same word, and both are accepted in the UK. The former is not used in the USA.

gorilla / guerrilla

The former is a large mammal and the latter is a fighter in an informally organised army.

hangar / hanger

Planes are kept on a large building called a hangar. A hanger is used to put clothes on, for example, in a cupboard.

hanged / hung

The word hanged is only used when we are referring to someone who was executed. The word hung is the past tense form and past participle of the verb to hang.


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