Commonly Confused Words
and Pet Peeves
Round One
They’re / Their / There
Copy the sentences below, using the correct
word.
1.(They’re / Their / There) house was
destroyed by the hurricane.
2.Put the television over (they’re / their /
there).
3.(They’re / Their /There) not the ones who
stole the candy.
To / too / two
Copy the following sentences with the
correct form of (to/too/two).
1.You have (to/too/two) minutes to get to
class.
2.We’re going (to/too/two) the movies.
3.There are way (to/too/two) many warmups in this class.
Its / It’s
Copy the following sentences with the correct
form of (its / it’s).
5. (Its / It’s) been so long since I’ve seen you.
6. I can’t believe (its / it’s) finally Friday!
7. The dog managed to get (its / it’s) legs
stuck in (its / it’s) doghouse.
8. (Its / It’s) just a matter of time before a
snake bites (its / it’s) owner.
Then / Than
Copy the following sentences, using the correct
form of (then / than).
9. I can’t believe I’m older (then/than) you.
10. I will take my time, (then/than) I’ll go to
class.
11. My shoes are much cleaner (then/than) yours.
Lose / Loose Your / You’re
Copy the following sentences with the correct
form of (lose/loose) and (your/you’re).
12. His pants were (lose/loose) fitting.
13. Take (your/you’re) feet off the desk.
14. We hope we don’t (lose/loose) today.
15. (Your/You’re) not the first person to say
that.
Through / Threw
Copy the following sentences, using the
correct form of (through/threw):
1.We had to go (through/threw) the metal
detectors.
2.The president (through/threw) out the first
pitch at the game.
3.He (through/threw) up after getting off the
roller coaster.
Who’s / Whose
Copy the sentences, using the correct form of
(who’s / whose).
1. (Who’s / whose) book is this?
2. (Who’s / whose) coming to the football game
tomorrow?
3. The man (who’s / whose) house collapsed is
now homeless.
4. I need to know (who’s /whose) with me.
Accept vs. Except
• Accept is a verb meaning “to receive.”
Did you accept the gift?
• Except is a preposition that
means“excluding.”
We were busy every night except Tuesday.
Affect vs. Effect
• Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.”
Try not to let unkind remarks affect you.
• Effect is usually used as a noun that means
“the result of.”
The effects of the hurricane were evident.
All together vs. Altogether
• All together is an adverb meaning “in
unison,” or an adjective meaning “ in the
same place.
Please sing all together, now.
We were all together for the holidays.
• Altogether is an adverb that means
“entirely.”
Her reaction was altogether unexpected.
Complement vs. Compliment
• The word complement is a noun and a verb. In
either case, it refers to something that completes
or goes well with something else.
– The sauce is a nice complement to the vegetables.
– The sauces complements the vegetables.
• The word compliment is also a noun and a verb,
but it indicates the offering of praise or flattery to
another person.
– He gave her a compliment about how she was
dressed.
– He complimented her on her attire.
All ready vs. Already
The words all ready mean “all prepared”
We were all ready to leave.
The word already means “previously”
We have already painted the sets.
Formally vs. Formerly
The word formally means “in a proper or
dignified manner,” or “according to strict
rules.”
Did you dress formally for the party or wear
everyday clothing?
The word formerly means “previously,” or “done
in the past.”
The lake was formerly a valley.
Desert vs. Dessert
The word desert means “a dry region” or “to
leave or abandon.”
He crossed the desert at night.
She deserted her sister at Kennywood.
The word dessert means “the final, sweet course
of a meal.”
The buffet’s food was great, except for the
dessert, which was dry and bland.
Passed vs. Past
The word passed means “went by, beyond, over,
or through.”
He passed the last car before reaching the
checkered flag.
The word past means “time gone by,” “of a
former time,” or “beyond.”
He told stories about the past.
He has missed the past two days.
He walked right past the snake.
Principal vs. Principle
The word principal means “the head of a
school,” or “main or most important.”
Mr. Stephens is the principal.
The principal export of Brazil is coffee.
The word principle means “a rule of
conduct,” or “a fact of general truth.”
Her principles are very high.
MLK supported a principle of non-violence.
Personal vs. Personnel
The word personal is an adjective meaning
“individual” or “private.”
The store manager gave us personal attention.
The word personnel refers to “a group of people
employed in the same work.”
Management asked personnel to come to
work 10 minutes earlier than last year.
Quiet vs. Quite
The word quiet means “silent” or “still.”
The library is now usually quiet.
The word quite means “completely, rather, or
very.”
He was quite sure he was at school
yesterday.
Waist vs. Waste
The word waist means “the midsection of the
body.”
The pants are too tight around the waist.
The word waste means “a needless expense,”
“unused material,” or “to use foolishly.”
Waiting in line is a waste of time.
Do not waste too much time on video games.
Weather vs. Whether
The word weather refers to “conditions
outdoors.”
The weather has been far from perfect this
week!
The word whether indicates an alternative or
some doubt.
You must decide whether you want to go or
not.
Assure, ensure, insure
• Assure is a verb meaning “to make certain by
removing doubt or suspense; to promise.”
I assure you that will not happen again!
• Ensure is a verb meaning “to make certain by
protecting; to guarantee.”
The First Amendment ensures the freedom of
speech.
• Insure is a verb meaning “to arrange for monetary
payment in case of loss, etc.”
What is the cost to insure both vehicles?
Anxious vs. Eager
• Anxious means “apprehensive,” or nervous, about
something; although, you might have an
excitement for it as well.
I am very anxious about the championship
game.
• Eager means you await something with pleasant
expectations.
I am so eager for summer vacation!
Between vs. Among
• Whether you choose between two evils or
among them depends on the number of
evils.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea.
(Between usually is the choice as an
object of the preposition when choosing
between two).
Between vs. Among (cont.)
• I must choose among The Four Horsemen of
the Apocalypse.
(Among is usually, but not always, required for
three or more)
Between usually carries a more “one-on-one”
connotation than among:
Differing ideologies have caused wars between
nations, but a common enemy may yet bring
peace among them.
Everyday vs. Every day
• Everyday is an adjective.
Her everyday clothes made the rich kids
scoff.
• Every day is an adverb telling “when” or
“how often.”
Every day, he comes into the classroom
ten minutes late.
Everyone vs. Every one
• Everyone is a pronoun, which should be
used only when you can substitute
everybody.
Everyone who answers the questionnaire
will win a prize!
• Every one is a phrase made up of the
adjective every and the pronoun one.
Every one of the players was angry with
their captain.
In, Into, and In to
• In means “within.”
If you walk in a room, you move around within
it.
• Into means “from the outside to the inside.”
If you walk into a room, heads might turn as you
enter.
• In to is two words: to being a preposition and in
being closely related to the preceding adverb.
I turned my paper in to my teacher.
Don’t give in to temptation.
It’s vs. Its
• Its is the possessive case.
The dog took its bone back to its doghouse.
The computer took its time loading.
• It’s is the contraction for It + is.
It’s too late!
It’s the only thing that makes them smile.
Lay vs. Lie
• Lay is a verb that means “to put
[something] in its place.” The past tense is
laid.
Lay the napkins on the table, if they’ve not
already been laid.
Lay vs. Lie (cont.)
• Lie means “to rest, “to recline,” or “to be in a
certain place.” It does not take a direct object.
I might go lie down. I’m not feeling well.
The present participle is lying.
I left the napkin lying on the table.
One problem is that lay is the past tense of lie.
The seed lay on the ground.
Lain is the past participle of lie.
The seed had lain on the ground without
watering, so it died.
May versus Might
• Both usually point to the future, but may
carries a more positive connotation than
might. May shows better odds, too.
We think we may play as early as Friday,
but we might have to wait until
Wednesday.
Cite vs. Site
• The word cite is a verb that means to
mention or quote as an authority or
example.
• The word site means a particular place.
Disinterested vs. Uninterested
• The word disinterested means “impartial.”
– Let a disinterested person judge the dispute.
(an impartial person)
• The word uninterested means “not
interested in.”
– The man is uninterested in our dispute. (not
interested)
Peak vs. pique (as verbs)
• The verb peak means to “achieve a maximum or
to bring to a maximum.”
– The popularity of the show Cheers peaked in the late
1980s.
• The verb pique means “to provoke or arouse,” or
“to provoke resentment or indignation.”
– Which sport piques your interest the most: hockey or
football?
Elicit vs. Illicit
• The verb elicit means “to bring out” or “to
evoke.”
– The teacher tried to elicit a response from the
students.
• The adjective illicit means “unlawful.”
– The illicit material was confiscated
immediately.
Adverse vs. Averse
• Adverse means “unfavorable.”
– That could have an adverse effect on your
health.
• Averse means “opposed” or “reluctant,”
and is usually followed by “to.”
– I am very averse to any vacation that poses a
threat to my safety.
Continual vs. Continuous
• The word continual means “repeated
regularly and frequently.”
– The continual interruptions became tedious.
• The word continuous means “extended or
prolonged without interruption.”
– The broken siren made a continuous wail.
Coarse vs. Course
The word coarse is an adjective meaning
“rough” or “crude”
I scraped my arm on the coarse cement.
My skin is coarse during the winter
months.
Coarse vs. Course (cont.)
The word course is a noun meaning “part of
a meal,” “a series of studies,” “a playing
field,” or a “path of action.”
It is a four course meal.
The speech course made me nervous.
The golf course was difficult to play.
You are on a good course in life.
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Commonly Confused Words and Pet Peeves