Writing Solutions | Easily confused words
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Easily confused words

Easily confused words

In English there are lots of confusing pairs of words. Do you know the difference between:
1. continuous and continual? or
2. definitive and definite?

Take a look at the list below to discover the exact difference between some of these confusing words.

Advice – guidance or recommendation about future action – a noun.
EG: I gave him some advice about which job to take.
Advise – to recommend a course of action – a verb.
EG: Please advise me about the new regulations.

Affect – change, make a difference, influence – a verb.
EG: The discount will affect sales. The toxins from the factory will affect the river.
Effect – a) most commonly a noun: the result, consequence.
EG: Paracetamol has pain-reducing effect.
b) Can also be a verb (less common): to bring about (a result), to cause.
EG: She will effect many changes in the group. He effected a cost-cutting exercise.
(Best to avoid and use “bring about”, “cause”, or “carry out” according to context).

Assist – to help.
EG: Please would you assist me with this suitcase which is very heavy.
Attend – to take part in an event, to be one of the people at a party etc.
EG: If you attend the seminar, please take notes for me.

Complement – to add something in a way that improves, make complete.
EG: The sweet white wine complemented the delicious dessert.
Compliment – praise, congratulate.
EG: He complimented the teacher on the good results.

Compare WITH – difference.
EG: Please compare these prices with the ones we pay today.
Compare TO – similarity.
EG: In order to know if the two products are identical, please compare the first to the second very carefully.

Continuous – uninterrupted.
EG: There was continuous noise all night.
Continual – goes on and on, but there are breaks.
EG: We have a continual problem with late arrival of participants at meetings.

Definitive – authoritative, final, decisive.
EG: The definitive resolution of the Board was that the project.
Definite – certain, clearly defined, without ambiguity.
EG: I need a definite answer by tomorrow morning.

Eligible – satisfying.
EG: Her fine score in the exam made her eligible for a scholarship.
Illegible – not clear enough to be read.
EG: Doctors often have illegible handwriting.

Ensure / assure / insure.
Insure (insurance) – to arrange for payment in the event of loss/damage (against risks).
EG: You should insure your household belongings against fire.
Assure – to affirm, to give confidence, to say in a positive way.
EG: I assure you that I am correct about this issue.
Ensure – to make sure/certain.
EG: Please ensure to lock the door when you leave.

Less – measurable quantity or proportion.
EG: There was less than U$200 available for the project. He had less than 20 liters of petrol in his car.
Fewer – numbers or individual items or people.
EG: Fewer than 10 people came. There were fewer problems this time.

Lose – the opposite of to find – verb.
Loose – the opposite of tight – not fixed or tied.
EG: If I manage to lose that much weight my clothes will look loose!

Practice – UK: Noun only – Repeated performance of an activity in order to learn or perfect a skill.
EG: The football practice was very long yesterday evening.
Practise – UK – Verb (In the US only “practice” is used for the noun and verb).
EG: You need to practise your English in order to speak more fluently.

Stationary – not moving – adjective.
EG: The traffic light went green but the car remained stationary.
Stationery – writing paper, also used more generally for materials used for writing – noun.
EG: I need to buy more stationery for my office.