Published 12th March 2019


We know how easy it is to make mistakes when speaking English and to use the wrong word.  Many of these mistakes are mistakes our learners make even though they know they are mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes become fossilised and are difficult to correct. However, there are some mistakes that our learners make because they genuinely do not know they are using the words incorrectly.  Some native English speakers can even get confused with some word pairs.

 11 common mistakes with word pairs

Advice vs advise

This may seem like a little spelling error but actually it’s a matter of pronunciation as well. Advice with a c is a noun and advise with an s is a verb. A handy way to remember it is that ice is a noun but is is a verb.

Every day vs everyday

Everyday is an adjective. It is used to describe something that is common or unexceptional. Every day is used to talk about something that happens every day.

Dessert vs desert

The one is nice to eat and the other has a lot of sand, but which is which? The Sahara is a desert and ice cream is a dessert, because with dessert we always want more (s’s).

Lose vs loose

This matter of the extra o may seem trivial but it totally changes the meaning of the word. Lose is the opposite of win and loose is the opposite of tight. To remember it just think that lose lost an o.

Quite vs quiet

Quiet is the opposite of loud, while quite means very.

Sensible vs sensitive

This may be problematic because of first language transfer. Sensible is an adjective meaning having common sense, while sensitive is an adjective meaning to hurt easily.

Felt vs fell

Felt is the past tense of feel, while fell is the past tense of fall.

Recipe and receipt

You might these are quite an odd pair to get confused but it may be because they are both unusual words in terms of spelling and pronunciation. A recipe is the list of ingredients and instructions for making a dish and a receipt is the slip of paper you are given after buying something.

Bear vs bare

Yes a bear is an animal but that’s not the meaning of the word that is so confusing. Bear is also a verb, meaning to support a heavy weight or to endure or suffer. Bare, on the other hand, means naked. The expressions these are most commonly confused in are bear with me or bear in mind.

 Affect vs effect

In this case the difference is not so big because the two words belong to the same word family but they belong to different word categories. Affect is a verb while effect is a noun.

Compliment vs complement

A compliment is what someone gives you when they say “Your hair looks lovely”. Complement is used to describe two things which go well together – “This wine really complements this meal”.

When your learners make these mistakes, don’t be too hard on them – some of your friends probably make the same mistakes too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *