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.

may be / maybe

Both mean perhaps but the word maybe can be replaced by perhaps.Are you coming tonight? Well, maybe, but we'll decide later. However, may be cannot be directly replaced by perhaps. We may be late tonight so don't wait up for us.

meter / metre

A meter is a device for measuring something such as a parking meter or a speedometer. Metre, millimetre and kilometre are units of measurement of length.

moral / morale

Children's stories often have a moral to them. The moral of Red Riding Hood may be that young girls should not go wandering in woods by themselves. If we say something is immoral we mean it is evil or wicked. Morale has to do with attitudes especially feelings of confidence, or lack of it. The army's morale is low after several major defeats.

motive / motif

A motive is a reason for doing something, either good or bad. I suspected his motives when he offered to give her a lift. A motif is a particular decorative pattern, often one that is repeated on printed cloth or carved wood.

naval / navel

The word naval relates to the ships and the navy. There were many naval battles in the First World War. The word navel relates to someone's tummy, specifically the 'belly button'.

no one / no-one

Both of these are widely used.

notable / noticeable

If something or someone is notable it is worthy of respect and viewed as important. It was a notable victory and the first of many. If something (usually a thing) is noticeable it is a thing that is easy to see and likely to be seen. It was noticeable that his hair had turned white in the year he'd been away.

nutritional / nutritious

Both are adjectives (describing words) but nutritional has to do with broader issues of food processing and absorption. The nutritional impact of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables is unchallengeable. The word nutritious deals with whether or not foods contain the minerals and vitamins that can keep us healthy. Oranges are far more nutritious than a hamburger.

passed / past

Passed is a verb and behaves in the normal way that verbs do. He passed his driving test on Tuesday and now he likes to pass other cars. The word past relates to time that has gone by. In the past he was very adventurous.

patient (patience) / patient (in hospital)

It's the same spelling! He waited for an hour but he was very patient. I was a patient in the hospital for a week. The patients will be seen by the doctor soon. She needed great patience to deal with his annoying habits.


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