Accept and except

  • “Accept” means to receive something, while “except” refers to excluding something.
  • Examples:
    • I’ll gladly accept the award.
    • I like all of the Beatles except Ringo Starr.


Affect and effect

  • “Affect” is a verb that means to influence something, while “effect” is a noun referring to the result of something else.
  • Examples:
    • I am affecting your ability to drive by punching your face.
    • The effect of the ice storm was a snow day.


Allusion, illusion

  • An “illusion” is something that is not there, similar to a mirage. However, an “allusion” is a reference to something else.
  • Examples:
    • The oasis in the desert was just an illusion.
    • Bryan alluded to the time we ate the cookies in the world.


Alternately and alternatively

  • “Alternatively” is another way of saying ‘on the other hand,’ while “alternately” means to change the order of or to rotate something.
  • Examples:
    • We plan to go to the gym or, alternatively, to the ice cream factory.
    • His mood alternates between happy and sad.


Their, there, and they’re

  • “Their” is a word that indicates possession, “there” refers to a location, and “they’re” is a contraction of ‘they are.’
  • Examples:
    • The pot of coffee is over there.
    • The girls forgot their jackets at the restaurant.
    • They’re so silly.


Complementary and complimentary

  • A “compliment” refers to saying something nice, while “complement” refers to how well things interact with each other. Additionally, you may be familiar with a usage of “complement” referring to the number of people required to man a boat or ship.
  • Examples:
    • You are in a very complimentary mood today.
    • The cake and frosting combined to create a delicious, complementary flavor.


Desert and dessert

  • A “desert” is an arid expanse of sandy land, while “dessert” is the best part of any meal.
  • Samples:
    • Would you like some delicious dessert?
    • The Saharan Desert is in Africa.


Economic and economical

  • “Economic” is an adjective that refers to the economy, while “economical” means financially savvy, prudent, or frugal. Something “economical” is good from a financial standpoint.
  • Examples:
    • The economic forecast for this month is not good.
    • Sarah made an economical purchase when she bought her hybrid car.


Hear and here

  • If you are listening to music, you are “hearing” it. Telling someone where you are might result in saying “I’m over here!
  • Examples:
    • Did you hear that?
    • Joe, come over here!


Than and then

  • “Than” is a word used to compare two or more things. “Then” is used to describe the steps of a process, or to refer to time.
  • Examples:
    • I will go to school then to soccer practice.
    • I feel happier than I did yesterday.


You’re and your

  • “You’re” is a contraction for ‘you are’, while “your” refers to ownership.
  • Examples:
    • You’re using too much toothpaste.
    • Your car is being towed right now.


Want to learn more about commonly misused words in English? Check out some of the resources included below: