Published 17th April 2019

English learners

Its or it’s?     To, two or too?     They’re, there or their?     You might think these are silly examples but you’d be surprised how many people get them confused. In fact, English is so complicated that even native speakers can get confused using the language. Even English teachers! Of course, as teachers we are expected to know the language inside out and not make mistakes when speaking English. However, there are quite a few words which are confusing for all of us.

To make sure you are not making these mistakes (and teaching them to your learners!), read this list and make sure you know the difference.

Commonly confused English words

Accept vs except

Accept is a verb, meaning to receive.

Except is a conjunction, meaning apart from.

He accepted her gift.

She remembered to pack everything except her umbrella.

Affect vs effect

Affect is a verb, meaning to produce a change in.

Effect is a noun, meaning the result brought about by a change.

The town was badly affected by the storm.

The next day everyone could see the disastrous effects of the storm.

Bad vs badly

Bad is an adjective, meaning not good.

Badly is an adverb, meaning not well or done incorrectly.

Going out so late at night was a bad idea.

He didn’t want to go with her because she always drove badly.

Borrow vs lend

Borrow is a verb, meaning to take something from someone with the intention of returning it after a time.

Lend is a verb, meaning to give something to someone with the expectation that they will return it after a time.

She borrowed his book because she had left hers at home.

He lent her his book because she had left hers at home.

Breathe vs breath

Breathe is a verb, meaning to take air in and out of your lungs.

Breath is a noun, referring to the air you take in and out of your lungs.

If you start to panic, breathe deeply and you’ll feel better.

He took a deep breath and immediately felt better.

Compliment vs complement

Compliment is a verb, meaning to say something nice to someone, or a noun, referring to what is said.

Complement is a verb, meaning to complete something, or a noun, referring to the thing which completes something else.

He liked her dress so he complimented her on it.

He gave her a compliment on her dress.

The Malbec really complemented the lamb dish.

But wait, that’s not all! Stay tuned for our next post when we look at more commonly confused words for both English learners and teachers.