Mini lesson #23: Pesky Pairs

The Writing Center@KSU
318 Satterfield Hall, (330) 672-1787
Mini Lesson #23: Pesky Pairs (Homonyms and Other
Easily Confused Terms)
– Accept is a verb meaning "to receive" (as in "take").
He will accept the invitation.
She has accepted the award.
– Except is a preposition meaning "to exclude" (as in "leave out").
Everyone was invited except Nadia.
(Rare: Except can also be used as a verb meaning "to leave out," though this usage is not
common: Seniors were excepted from the regulation.)
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meanings of accept and except, think of this diagram:
– Affect is a verb meaning "to influence" (as in "change").
Nothing I do seems to affect her opinion of me.
The war affected the birthrate.
– Effect is a noun meaning "a consequence or result."
My gift did not have the effect I wanted.
The war had an effect on the birthrate.
(Rare: Effect can also be used as a verb meaning "to cause or to bring about," but this
usage is less common: She effected her escape.)
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meanings of affect and effect, think of this diagram:
– Affluence is a noun meaning "to have in abundant supply, to be wealthy/rich."
– Influence is a noun meaning "the act or power of producing an effect without
force or direct authority."
Influence can also be a verb meaning "to affect or alter, to sway."
Because of their affluence, the Vanderbilts had a great deal of influence in
American business circles.
He was accused of using his position to influence the judge's decision.
– Allude is a verb meaning "to refer indirectly to."
The professor alluded to the hand washing scene from Macbeth.
– Elude is a verb meaning "to avoid or to escape."
The murderer eluded the police for three weeks.
* * * Memory jogger: To recall the meaning of elude, remember that elude means to escape.
– Allusion is a noun meaning "an indirect reference."
The students did not understand the professor's allusion to the hand washing
from Macbeth.
– Illusion is a noun meaning "a false or misleading belief or appearance."
She is under the illusion that he loves her.
Magicians are masters of illusion.
already/all ready
– Already is an adverb meaning "before a particular time" or "sooner than expected."
I'm not dressed yet, and the guests are here already.
– All ready means "entirely or completely prepared."
Are you all ready to go?
* * * Memory jogger: Are you all ready, already?
altogether/all together
– Altogether is an adverb meaning "entirely."
That is a different situation altogether.
– All together is an adjective phrase meaning "as a group."
Once we were all together, we returned to camp.
* * * Memory jogger: I'm not altogether sure we can go all together.
a lot/alot
– A lot is the accepted spelling; alot is a substandard, or incorrect, spelling.
– Among is used with "three" or more, and between is used with "two."
Just between you and me, I think Emily is the best hitter among the infielders.
– As is used as a subordinate conjunction--to attach dependent clauses to independent
Professor Winslow is an accomplished teacher as his students will happily tell
As is also used as a preposition, to make an exact equivalence.
Professor Winslow is known as the most dedicated teacher on campus.
Like is used as a preposition, to refer to similarity.
Ms. Adams hopes to teach like Professor Winslow.
– Cite is a verb meaning "to quote" or "to refer to."
In proving her point, the author cites three outdated authorities.
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meaning of cite, think of the noun "citation." Be sure to
have a "citation" for each author you cite in your paper.
– Sight is a noun meaning "view" or "the ability to see."
Old Faithful is a wonderful sight for tourists.
* * * Memory jogger: To remember this meaning of sight, think of going "sight seeing."
– Sight is also a verb meaning "to aim" or "to see."
The first sailor to sight land is always rewarded.
– Site is a noun meaning "location."
This is a perfect site for a picnic.
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meaning of site, think of "situated." Since this was a
perfect site for a house, that is where it is now "situated."
– Complement as a verb means "to complete or fill out."
The National Guard complements the armed forces.
Her outgoing personality complements his shy demeanor.
– Complement as a noun means "that which completes" or "the full crew of a ship."
The Island Queen cruise ship has a complement of 600.
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meaning of complement, think of the word "complete,"
which is also spelled with an e.
– Compliment as a verb means "to express praise."
The coach complimented the team on their effort.
– Compliment as a noun means "an expression of praise."
Their boss is always ready with a compliment for those who do their work well.
* * * Memory jogger: To remember the meaning of compliment, think of the word "praise,"
which is also spelled with an i.
– Council means "a group of people, often elected or appointed."
My sister was elected to the student council.
– Counsel, as a verb or a noun, means "advice" or "to advise."
Mr. Jones counseled me to sell my stocks, which was very poor counsel indeed.
I need to seek legal counsel immediately.
– Elicit is a verb meaning "to draw out, evoke."
The Senator's speech elicited an angry response.
– Illicit is an adjective meaning "unlawful, illegal."
The captain of the football team was expelled for dealing in illicit drugs.
* * * Memory jogger: To recall the meanings of elicit and illicit, remember that elicit means to
evoke, and illicit means illegal.
– Use either term to refer to"distance."
John ran farther than he ever has before.
We have just a little further to go to reach camp.
– Use further to mean "more" or "in addition."
With further revisions, this paper could be an "A."
* * * Memory jogger: To remember this use of further, think of "furthermore."
– Use fewer with things that can be counted and less with things that cannot be counted.
February has fewer days than any other month.
People have less faith in the government than ever.
– Use good as an adjective.
The orchestra gave a good performance tonight.
– Use well as an adverb.
She sang well this evening.
– Use well as an adjective to refer to health.
She doesn't feel very well just now.
– Use imply to mean "express indirectly" or "hint."
Are you implying that I deliberately forgot my paper?
– Use infer to mean "draw a conclusion."
Am I to infer from your statement that you do not believe my excuse for being
* * * Memory jogger: Remember that the writer/speaker implies, and the reader/listener infers.
– Its is a possessive pronoun.
The car flipped onto its top and slid into a ditch.
– It's is a contraction of "it is."
It's [It is] too late to go to the matinee.
– Use later to refer to time.
I will go to the post office later.
– Use latter to refer to the second of two things.
The latter suggestion is better than the former.
– Lie/lay/lain/lying mean "to recline."
I like to lie in the sun, so yesterday I lay in the sun for most of the afternoon.
In fact, I have lain in the sun at least part of every day this week.
I was lying down for a nap when the fire alarm sounded.
– Lay/laid/laid/laying mean "to put" or "to place."
I like to lay my keys on the desk so I can find them.
Last night, I laid my keys next to the phone, but now they're gone.
I have laid my keys on that desk ever since I moved here, but if I find them, I am
not laying them there again.
* * * Memory jogger: When the writer/speaker is "reclining," use a form of the verb lie. When
the writer/speaker is "putting something somewhere," use a form of the verb lay.
– Passed is a verb meaning "to go by" or "to go around."
Jeff passed the accident on his way home.
– Past is a noun or adjective referring to time, or as a preposition referring to direction.
The past continues to influence our lives.
We should learn from our past experiences.
Jill ran past the front door.
– Precede means "to come before in time or rank."
A warm-up band always precedes the main band in a tour.
– Proceed means "to go forward."
We will proceed with the plan Dr. Miller presented.
* * * Memory jogger: pre- is a prefix meaning "before."
– Principal means the "main or chief."
The principal of the school spoke at graduation.
The principal you invested in stocks has earned high dividends.
The principal reason for this meeting is to discuss the budget cuts.
– Principle means "rule" or "general truth."
The principle of "innocent until proven guilty" is a cornerstone of American law.
She is a lawyer without principles.
* * * Memory jogger: Principal is your pal.
Principle is the rule.
– Quite means "very" or "completely."
You are quite right.
– Quiet means "silent."
A school building is very quiet without students.
– Quit means "to stop" or "to leave."
Please quit making that awful sound.
Did Michael quit his job with the post office?
– Sit/sat/sat/sitting mean "to seat oneself."
I must sit for a while.
I sat by the side of the pool for over an hour.
I have sat in this waiting room for two hours.
I will be sitting here at midnight if the doctor doesn't hurry.
– Set/set/set/setting means "to place."
I will set your books on the hall table.
I set my coffee on my essay and stained the paper.
I have set the chess pieces on the board for our game.
I have been setting photographs on the piano.
– Stationary means "to stand in one place."
Soldiers at the tomb of the unknown soldier must remain stationary for hours.
– Stationery means "paper used for writing letters."
Aunt Sally always uses scented stationery.
* * * Memory jogger: Stationary means to stand.
Stationery is used with a pen.
sympathy, apathy, empathy
– All three words are nouns dealing with relationships between individuals.
– Sympathy is a relationship wherein "what affects one similarly affects the other."
– Empathy is a relationship in which "one individual participates in the feelings of
– Apathy is the "complete indifference of one individual to the feelings of another."
I have a great deal of sympathy for parents whose children die.
When told that the poor of France did not even have bread to eat, Marie
Antoinette's statement, "Let them eat cake," indicated her complete apathy
to the plight of the peasants.
– Many mothers have so much empathy for their children that they suffer right along with
their children during times of physical pain or mental anguish.
– sympathize and empathize are verbs.
– sympathetic, apathetic, and empathetic are adjectives.
– Than is used to compare.
John is taller than Mark is, but he is shorter than Paul.
– Then refers to time.
I can't be there by then, but I will be there later.
* * * Memory jogger: Remember than means to compare, and then means time.
– They're is a contraction for "they are."
They're late, as usual.
– Their is a possessive pronoun, so it must be followed by a noun that can be owned or
Their books are all over the living room floor.
Their love defies all reason.
Their father is a domineering man.
– There means "at that place."
I won't go there with you.
There is also used before a form of the verb "to be" in sentences like the
There are many reasons why I cannot accept your offer.
– There's is a contraction for “there is."
There's a traffic jam on the expressway.
– Theirs is a possessive pronoun. Where students are concerned, the responsibility to
study is theirs.
– The number 2 is represented by the word two.
We had two mysterious phone calls last night.
– Too means "also."
If it would help, Steve can go too.
Too is used to compare, as well.
She was too old for the lead part in the play.
– To is used for all other meanings.
Jane went to the store to see the manager.
– You're is a contraction of "you are."
You're a very talented pianist.
– Your is a possessive pronoun, so it must be followed by a noun that can be possessed.
Your coat is in the hall closet.
Your smile is all the thanks I need.