by Marc Anderson

Attention All English Language Learners – Avoiding The 200 Most Common English Mistakes

Holding on tight to the rocks.

1. Writing “then” when you mean “than.” The first is a description of time – “I will go to the bank and then I will stop at the store.” Than is used when making a comparison – “I am a faster runner than my friend.”

2. Confusing “into” with “in to.” The word into is a preposition that answers the question, where? It does not need to be a physical place. – “The doctor walked into the room to greet me” and “My sister had gotten into graduate school.” In to is used as in a prepositional phrase – “I ran in to my best friend at the zoo.” Notice the two words are written separately and they appear side by side.

3.  Using “a/an” incorrectly. It is not “an banana” and “a apple”. Use the article “an” to precede words in the English language that sound like a short vowel. Use the article a” before all other words. So “I would like a banana and an apple for lunch.” Watch your articles – they are very important.

4. Using “centered around.” The correct phrase is “centered on” – “My science report is centered on space exploration.” If the center is the middle point, then it can’t center around something.

5. Using “irregardless.” This word is often listed as “non-standard” in a dictionary. It is best to use the word regardless to mean despite everything. “My dog will stay outside for hours regardless of the weather” and “I will learn English regardless of how difficult it may be at times and how much time I must invest in study.”

6. Using “could of,” “would of”, and “should of.” None of these expressions are proper English. You need to use the verb have with each of the helping words could, would and should. I can assure you that you will commonly hear people use of or a instead of the verb have as in the above examples: could of and coulda, etc., but this is not correct grammar.

7. Using “I and somebody else.” This is a common error. You need to put the other people you are referring to in your sentence before yourself. So instead of saying “I and my friend took the class”, you need to say “My friend and I took the class”.

8. Using “that” instead of “who”. If you’re writing about people, always use who. You should say “The students who study on-line English are working really hard” not “The students that study on-line English are working really hard.”

9. Using “it’s” when you mean “its.”  The contraction it’s stands for the words it and is. Whenever you see this word, you can go back and reread the sentence to see if it is used correctly. You can also reread the sentence to make sure its does not mean it is. For example, “The dog wagged its tail” (not it is tail) and “It’s my turn to drive the car” (it is my turn…) are correct.

10. Using a random apostrophe. Often you will see an apostrophe used in a word that is plural like in the example, “I bought three pizza’s for the party” or it is absent in the example, “Its October and the weather has turned colder.” However, the apostrophe should be used to show possession as in “The teacher’s briefcase was lost on the bus”. You can see that the teacher owns the briefcase. And in the sentence about October and the weather, an apostrophe is needed to say “It is October…colder.”  

11. Being redundant. For example, ATM stands for automated teller machine so you would not say, “I am going to get some money from the ATM machine” and PIN stands for personal identification number so you would not say, “I forgot my PIN number.” These are just two of the hundreds of examples that illustrate this point.

12. Mixing up the words “accept/except”. You accept an apology and a gift, etc. The word except means other than as in “Everyone feels well except for Mr. Jones”. In this sentence, Mr. Jones is not feeling well.

13. When to use “ad/add”. You read an ad in the newspaper which is short for advertisement. You add numbers or other items to make a larger group. This is easy to remember because the word add is in the longer word addition, so you can be reminded that add means addition.

14. The distinction between “adapt/adopt”. These two words are often interchanged, but they have different meanings. You can adapt to change and you can adapt to the weather. But you adopt a child or you adopt a new way to exercise. The word adapt means to change something and the word adopt means to take on or assume.

15. Listen carefully to the ending of “advise/advice”. The word advise is a verb and means to offer suggestions and to give council, while advice is a noun and means the knowledge, recommendations and guidance that is given. For example, “The professor will offer advice to the graduate students by advising them on what courses to take to complete a degree.”

16. Using “affect/effect”.  The pronunciation is different and the meanings are different, as well.  Many people use these words interchangeably.  Affect is pronounced with a short “a” and means to have an effect upon or to produce an influence.  The sentence, “My father affected my strong character because he taught me the importance of being honest and humble” shows the correct use of affect.  In the sentence, “The effect of the wildfire was devastating”, the word effect is pronounced with a short “e” at the beginning of the word and means an event, condition, or state of affairs that is produced by a cause.

17. The words “aid/aide”.  These words are both pronounced the same, but they have different meanings.  Aid is a noun to mean the act of helping or it can be a verb to mean to help or assist.  However, aide is always a noun that means the person who is the assistant.  So you have, “The aide gave first aid to the patients in the hospital.”

18. Both “aloud/allowed” sound the same.  Aloud means to be clearly heard as in “The manager of the store read the announcement aloud to the customers.”  And allowed is the past tense verb for allow which means permitted as in the sentence “The student was allowed to take the English exam on-line.”

19. Confusion with “all ready/already”.  Both words sound similar, but if you listen carefully you will notice that all ready has a slight pause between two single words.  This is a signal to you in how the words are used.  For example, “The teacher was all ready for class.”  This means prepared.  Whereas, already is an adverb that means before a certain time or by the time.  An example sentence is “Bob was already finished with his task.”

20. Confusion with “altogether/all together”.  These words sound similar, too, but there is a slight pause in all together used correctly in the sentence, “We sang the chorus all together.”  This means everyone sang as one unit. They were all in a group and all with each other.  However, the word altogether is an adverb that means completely and fully.  The sentence, “It’s best to avoid the situation altogether” means to avoid the situation completely.

21. Agreement with verb tenses.  When you use English, the verb tenses need to be the same. This is called “verb agreement”. For example, if you say, “I could have danced last night, but I done it”, or “I could have danced last night, but I do it” , the verbs “done” and “do” are not in the same tense as “could have danced”. The correct sentence would be, “I could have danced last night, but I did not.” Always double-check your verbs to ensure they are in agreement within the same sentence.

22. The difference between “angle/angel”.  Both words are nouns, but they are pronounced differently and have different meanings.  Angle is a mathematics term which is a figure formed by two lines extending from the same point or it can mean a point of view.  For example, “The equilateral triangle has all three angles of the same degrees” and “The marketing department of the company wanted to create a commercial with a new angle to attract more customers.” The word angel is a noun for a heavenly being or something/someone who is lovely and good.  For example, “Your children are angels when they pick flowers for you.”

23. The two words:  “attain/obtain”. Notice these are different words with different pronunciations and meanings. Attain means to accomplish, achieve or arrive as in “The student attained his/her diploma. Obtain means to win or earn with effort like in the sentence, “I obtained by B.A. degree in three years.”

24. The difference between “autobiography” and “biography”. An autobiography is a story written by a person about his/her life because the prefix auto means self. In contrast, the word biography is a story written about someone by someone else.

25. These words are not the same: “a way/away”. When you say the words a way you mean one method or avenue as in, “I knew there was a way to solve the puzzle.” But, when you use the word away, you refer to a distance or going from. An example of this word used correctly in a sentence is “The birds flew away after eating from the bird feeder.”

26. One is a noun and one is a verb: “belief/believe”. “Your company has a belief (noun) and that is what they believe (verb).” These words have different spellings, pronunciations and meanings.

27. The words “biweekly/semiweekly” both involve the number “2”. Biweekly means two times a month and semiweekly means two times a week. These words are often mixed up and used incorrectly. Publications like newsletters and magazines may come biweekly or semiweekly. You may do some tasks biweekly or semiweekly, as well. It is important to keep these words straight so you understand the person’s intent.

28. “Bologna/baloney” are two different words!  Bologna is sausage and baloney is something that is not true. Both are nouns but mean completely different things! Interesting to note is that you pronounce them the same way. The last two letters “na” in bologna are pronounced “nee”, and the middle “o” is a long “o” sound. This matches the long “o” in baloney.  Maybe you have eaten a bologna sandwich. And maybe you have heard the word baloney used before as in the sentence, “That’s a bunch of baloney!  I don’t believe that story.”                

29. The words “breathe/breath” are often mispronounced, misspelled and misused. Breathe is a verb and means to bring air into your lungs while breath is a noun that means the actual air that is taken in your body. So you breathe the air and you take a breath of air.

30. The words “capital/capitol” vary slightly in pronunciation but are used in different ways. This pair of words is tricky even for the native speaker. The word capital means the main city, having accumulated wealth, a tall letter of the alphabet, excellent, or resulting in death (e.g. capital punishment or capital crime). However the word capitol means the building in which the state legislator meets.

31. You pronounce these two words the same: “carrot” and “karat/carat”. A carrot is a vegetable that you eat on a salad or by itself. And a karat or carat (both are pronounced the same and mean the same thing) is a unit of fineness of gold. So you can order carrots on your salad, and when you go to a jewelry store, you can ask about the gold rings to see their worth in karats/carats.

32. The words: “censure/sensor”.  Censure as noun means the act of blaming or as a verb means to find fault with.  These sentences show two meanings:  “The newspapers were unanimous in their censure of the columnist” and “The government will censure the Hollywood movies”.  Whereas, the word sensor means a device that responds to a physical stimulus.  For example, “When a car is six feet away from the garage door, a built-in sensor opens the door.”

33. The differences between “cite/site/sight”.  All three words are pronounced the same.  Let’s look at what they mean.  Cite is a verb that means to quote or to mention in support of.  For example, “The criminal cited his constitutional rights.”  The word site is a noun that means the location or position of something.  It can also refer to computers like a computer site.  So you might say, “The site of our future cabin overlooks the lake.”  Site as a verb means to locate as in the sentence, “The Army will site the enemy’s cannon.”

34. How about “clothes/close”?  The first clothes is a noun that refers to what you wear.  The second close is a verb that means to shut, to stop, or to block.  For example, “You close the door”, “The mailman closed the crate”, and “The student’s mind was closed when it came to studying calculus.”

35. When do you use “complement/compliment”?  These words are similar in pronunciation except for the second syllable.  Complement as a noun means something that completes like “A good wine is a complement to a meal.”  The second syllable is pronounced “pluh”.  When complement is used as a verb, it means to complete and is pronounced the same way.  An example sentence is, “A good wine complemented the meal.”  On the other hand, compliment – with a short “i” sound in the middle – can be a noun to mean an expression of praise or a verb to mean to pay positive praise.  Examples include, “The boss gave a compliment to his secretary for her outstanding work” and “The boss complimented the secretary on her outstanding work”.

36.  “Confident or Confidant”?  Confident with a short “e” sound in the last syllable is an adjective that means feeling positive and self-assured.  For example, “The student who studied hard was confident that he did well on the TOEFL test.”  Confidant – spelled with an “a” in the last syllable and pronounced with a short “a” sound – is a noun meaning a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter.  A confidant could also be a close friend or the best friend.  For example, “She kept no secrets from her confidant.

37. Which one is which:  “costume/custom”?  A costume as a noun means a set of clothes in a style typical a particular country or time period.  A costume as a verb means to dress in a particular set of clothes.  For example, “The clown wore a colorful costume for the parade” and “The clown group was costumed in colorful clothing for the parade.”  Custom as a noun means the practice of doing something like it was custom for the man to give his seat on the bus to a lady.  Custom as a noun can also mean a duty or tax as in, “The government collected customs when the foreigners entered the country.”  Custom can also be an adjective as in made to order.  For example, “The custom suit was designed by the tailor.”  And finally, custom can even be a verb to mean how something is made in a particular order.  For example, “She had her wedding gown customized with inlaid pearls.”

38. Call them two different words:  “decent/descent”?  Decent is an adjective that means acceptable or good enough.  You can describe many things as decent like food, clothing, work, and even people.  The word descent is accented on the second syllable as opposed to decent which has an accent on the first syllable so the words are pronounced differently.  Descent is a noun that means the action of moving downward or falling like in the sentence, “The airplane has gone into a steep descent.”  Descent can also mean something completely different.  It means the origin or background of a person in terms of their family or nationality.  For example, “My grandmother is of Swedish descent.”

39. The words:  “moral/morale”.  These words are pronounced differently and mean different things.  Moral as a noun means the practical meaning like the moral of a fable or moral practices or teaching.  Moral can also be an adjective meaning righteous, noble, and ethical.  Morale, on the other hand, is a noun that means the mental and emotional attitude of an individual.  For example, “The soldiers had a positive morale all the way to the end of the battle.”

40. Which is which:  “expound/expand”?  Both words are verbs and are pronounced differently, but they are pronounced exactly as how they look.  Expound means to present and explain a theory or idea in detail.  For example, “Einstein expounded on the theory of relativity.”  Expand means to become or make larger or more extensive.  For example, “The computer business expanded into other third world countries.”

41. Should I use “exceptional/exceptionable”?  Both words are adjectives.  Exceptional means unusual and not typical.  For example, “Usain Bolt is an exceptional sprinter from Jamaica.”  Exceptionable means causing disapproval and open to objection.  For example, “Lance Armstrong’s continuous winning records were exceptionable especially after the accusations of doping.”

42. What about “extend/extensive”?  Extend is a verb that means to make longer or wider, to cover a large area, or to hold out to someone.  For example the sentences, “The city will extend the parking time”, “Florida extends into the Gulf of Mexico”, and “The manager extended his hand to welcome me to the new position”.  Extensive means to affect a large area.  For example, “Her reading was extensive” and “The extensive farming techniques yielded a large crop.”

43. What is the difference between “feelings for/feelings about”?  When you use a phrase “feelings for”, the message is always positive.   However, when you use the phrase “feelings about”, the message can be positive or negative.  For example, “I have a bad feeling about the test” not “I have a bad feeling for the test.”

44. “Founder/flounder” – what should I use?  Founder as a noun means one who begins or establishes something like the founder of a city or company.  Founder as a verb is not used extensively but it can mean to experience failure or to fill with water and sinkFlounder is a completely different word.  As a noun, it is a type of marine fish.  As a verb, it means to struggle to move or to proceed ineffectively.  For example, “The Company floundered in the midst of the stock market crash.”

45. Is it “for sale or on sale”?  When something is for sale, it means the item is available for purchase.  For example, “The house is for sale” or “The car is for sale.”  As a customer, you need to ask what the price of the item is to buy.  The phrase on sale means the item is reduced in price.  In other words, it is sales price and you will pay less for the item than its full price.  Have you ever bought something on sale?

46. Do you know the difference between “formally and formerly”?  Noticed the words are spelled differently and they are pronounced differently.  In fact, they mean completely different things.  You must be careful how you say them and how you use them.  Formally means in accordance with the rules or officially.  For example, “The Olympics were formally declared” means the Olympic competition officially began.  And when you receive an invitation that says “formally attired”, it means to dress up.  However, formerly means in the past or earlier times.  For example, “The Company formerly employed only two employees and now boasts a workforce of 100.”

47. These words are often confused:  “garnish/garner”?  They both can be verbs and nouns.  Garnish as a verb means to decorate like “You garnish a salad with orange slices.”  It can also mean to hold funds from like “The employee’s wages were garnished to pay back taxes.”  As a noun, garnish means something that decorates.  For example, “Parsley is a garnish for a dinner plate.”  Garner as a verb means to gather or collect something especially information or approval.  For example, “The police garnered the evidence for the crime.”  As a noun, garner means a storehouse of grains like a silo on a farm.

48. “Lessen/lesson” both sound alike.  Lessen is a verb that means to make or become less like “Her savings lessened as she spent money for college tuition.”  Lesson is a noun that means a period of learning or teaching.  For example, “She studies an English lesson online.”

49. “Gig/jig”?  Jig is a lively dance or a device that holds a piece of work and guides tools to operate on it.  So, you can “dance a jig” or work in a factory with a “jig”.

50. A common mistake “went/gone”.  Both words are verbs but, went is the past tense of “to go”.  Went never has a helping verb.  You say, “I went to work” not “I have went to work”.  Gone always is used with a helping verb.  For example, “She has gone to work”, “They have gone to work”, or “He had gone to work.”

51. “Had better/ought to/should” what is the difference?  These three verbs are all used to give advice.  Had better is strongest emphasis because it implies a negative consequence if the advice is not followed.  Another difference is that ought to and had better are not used with questions.  For example, “Should I ask my boss for a raise?” Not, “Ought I to ask my boss for a raise?” And not, “Had I better ask my boss for a raise?”

52. “If I was/if I were”?    Both expressions mean the same thing in English.  However, the phrase if I was + (a hypothetical situation) is considered by many people to be grammatically incorrect.  This is not acceptable in more formal writing.  For example, “If I were ten years younger, I would save more money.”  Notice that the first part of the sentence implies that you are ten years younger which really cannot happen.  Therefore, you use the expression, if I were.  On the other hand, you say, “If I was rude on the phone with you, I apologize.”  This means that it could happen.

53. “Install/instill”?  These words are both verbs.  Install means to make ready or to put someone in an important job.  For example, “I will install the new software for the computer” and “The University recently installed the new president.”  Instill means to gradually cause someone to have an attitude, feeling, etc.  For example, “Martin Luther King instilled in his followers a dream to have racial equality.”

54. When do you use “instance/instant”?  Instance is a noun which means an example of a type of action or situation.  It can also mean an occasion of something happening.  For example, “The confusion over the new procedure shows another instance of incompetence.”  Instant can be a noun to mean a short period of time or an adjective to mean happening or done without delay.  For example, “In an instant, my headache was gone when I took an aspirin.”  Another example is “I sent an application for a job, and I received an instant reply.”

55. “Last name/family name”- what to use?  In western culture, a person’s last name is their family name.  However, in many other cultures, the family name might be placed before the first name.  Therefore, it might be confusing if you are asked “what is your last name”.  In other words, just remember your last name is your family name.

56. How do you use the words “former/latter”?  Both words are adjectives.  Former means previously field a role or it can mean the first of two things or people mentioned.  Someone could have a former boss or former job.  The word latter means occurring nearer to the end of something, like the latter half of the 21st century.  Latter is the opposite of former when it is used to mean the second of two things or people mentioned.

57. How do use “lie/lay/laid”.  Lie is an action you take to yourself, and lay is something you do to something or someone.  For example, “We were so tired last night that we had to lie down and rest” and “Please lay down the books and listen to me.”   Lay is the past tense of lie and Laid is the past tense of lay.  The examples are:  “He lay in the shade to take a break” and “She laid her infant down for a nap”.

58. When to use “let/leave”?  Do not be confused with these two words as let means to permit or to allow while the verb leave means to go away from or to put in a place.  Examples:  “We should never let our disagreement destroy the friendship” and “Please leave them alone.”

59. “Led/lead”? The word lead has two specific meanings. As a noun (pronounced like bread), it is a metallic element. It is labeled “Pb” on the periodic table and is sometimes found in old paint. It can also be used as a verb, but then it is pronounced differently (pronounced like greed). In this case, it means to guide or direct like a parent who leads their child through example. However, the word led is a verb that means the past tense of the verb lead. If you can substitute the words “guided” or “directed” into the sentence, then you know that you used the word led correctly.

60. When do you use each word: “many/much”?  Both of these words mean a lot of. Usually, if a noun is singular, you use the word much. And if a noun is plural, you use the word many. For example, “You can have much work to do” and “You will invite many friends to the party.”

61. Is it “lightening/lightning”?  The word lightening is a verb that means to make something lighter in color as in “We lightened the dining room by painting it white.”  Also, lightening refers to the process of making something lighter in weight.  The word lightning is a noun and means a phenomenon that is followed by thunder.

62. When to use “loose/lose”?  Loose is an adjective, the opposite of tight.  For example, “These shoes are too loose.”  And, the word lose is a verb that means to miss from one’s possession.  For example, “Don’t lose that money.” The words are pronounced differently with loose rhyming with moose and lose rhyming with choose.

63. “The majority is/majority are”?  The word majority can be either singular or plural.  If the word is to be used for a collection of individuals, then the word majority should be treated as plural:  “The majority of students do not like when the tuition is raised.”  If the word refers to a collective group, then it should be treated singular:  “A 75% majority agreed to the decision made by the president.”

64. “May/might”?  May is used for the possibility:  “You may leave now.”  And the word might is used when there is a limited possibility:  “I think it might snow tomorrow.”

65. “Maybe/may be”?  Maybe is a compound word that means “perhaps” or “possibly”, as this sentence shows:  “Maybe we will go to see the movie tonight.”  On the other hand, may be is a verb phrase that has the meaning “might be” or “could be”as in the sentence:  “She may be going to the park to see her friends.”

66. “Drown/sink”?  Drown is a verb which means to die of suffocation by being underwater too long:  “Many migrating wilder beasts drown while they cross the fast flowing river.”  The word sink is to mean a process of being immersed:  “The fishing line will sink with the bobber.”

67. “Mislead/misled”?  Both words are verbs. Mislead is the present tense while misled is the past tense.  Mislead means to give someone false information as in “I believe that the company’s recent comment was made to mislead the shareholders.”  Misled is the past tense form of mislead as in “We were misled by his deceiving statement.”

68. “Minute/minuet”?  Minute is a unit of time equal to one sixtieth of an hour (60 seconds).  Minuet is a form of dance that is slow and graceful. This dance was popular in the 18th century.

69. When to use “overlook/oversee”? Overlook is to forget to check something either intentionally or accidentally like when a teacher overlooks a small mistake in an essay and she wants to concentrate on the intent of the essay. Oversee means to check or supervise as a manager or boss would do of people’s work.

70. The difference between “parameter/perimeter”? Parameter is a limit like when your boss sets a parameter for certain rules of using the internet on the job or a dress code, or even a quota you need to reach. Perimeter is a noun that refers to the border of an enclosed space. You have a perimeter of a room, your yard, etc. The words are pronounced differently as the first and second syllables contain a short “a” sound (parameter) or a short “i” sound followed by a short “e” controlled “r” sound (perimeter).

71. When to use “passed/past”? Passed is the past tense of pass. For example, “The student passed the test” or “The train passed the intersection.” Past means time that is gone. For example, “In past years, the computer was not as important as it is today.”

72. How about “patience/patient”? Patience is a noun and means the capacity, habit or fact of being calm (or patient). Patient can be an adjective to mean showing self-control and calmness. It can also be a noun to mean a person under medical care. You can see that the endings of the words are different and, too, they are pronounced differently:  one with a “c” sound and the other with a “t”.

73. What is the difference between “peasant/pheasant”? At first glance you can see that the word pheasant has an added letter to the beginning of the word. The “ph” beginning blend sounds like an “f” so you would pronounce the word as “fezent” with a short “e”. A pheasant is a long-tailed game bird. The word peasant refers to the class or small landowners or laborers who work tilling the soil; they are usually people of low social or cultural status.

74. How to use “perpetrate/perpetuate”? Perpetrate means to carry out or commit as in a harmful, illegal or immoral action. For example, “There has been a robbery perpetrated by the street gang. Perpetuate means to make something that is usually bad to continue indefinitely. For example, “Please don’t perpetuate racism.”

75. When to use “persecute/prosecute”? Persecute, a verb, means to treat someone unfairly mostly because of their race, religious views or political views. Prosecute, also a verb, means to follow to the end as in prosecute a war or to bring legal action for punishment of a crime or violation of a law. “You feel persecuted by others for your beliefs”, and “The attorney will prosecute the criminals”. The words differ also in pronunciation with the first syllable: “per” in persecute and “pro” in prosecute.

76. What is the difference between “personal/personnel”? Personal relates to your person or body, or it implies a sense of closeness. You might be a personal friend of someone, which means you are a close friend. However, the word personnel refers to a group of people, usually people who work at a company or in the military. The word personnel can also be used as the name of a department that manages employees. It can also be used as an adjective to describe situations related to manage employees. Personnel can be singular or plural. English language specialists suggest that when personnel is plural, it means people, and when it is singular, it is a collective noun to mean staff or board. For example, there could be a directive for all personnel to wear blue jeans on Friday so this would be plural to mean people. Or you would say the most important aspect of a school district is how much personnel is retained after the cuts. In this case, personnel is singular to mean staff. A clue to help you remember the difference is that personal has one “n” and so it means one person; and personnel has two “n’s to mean many people.

77. When do you use these words: “perspective/prospective”? Perspective is almost always used as a noun to refer to a view or the angle from which something is viewed. The word prospective is an adjective to mean likely to happen or likely to become. So you could say, “… from a fan’s perspective the hockey team played better than ever.” And you would say, “It is a helpful suggestion to research prospective employers before you interview for a position.”

78. What is the difference between “phantom/fathom”? A phantom is a ghost. The initial “ph” sounds like the letter “f”. It is used as a noun. For example, you could say, “There might be a phantom in the attic because sometimes I hear noises at night time coming from there.” But fathom is a nautical measure of depth. When you don’t understand something and you can’t “get to the bottom of it”, you would say, “I can’t fathom it.” I this case, it is used as a verb.

79. How to use “phenomenon/phenomena”?  Phenomenon is singular and phenomena is plural.  The word means an observable fact(s). Example, “There are many phenomena in nature like floods, hurricanes, rain, etc.”

80. When do you use “poisonous/venomous”?  Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they carry two different meanings.  Poisonous creatures secret a toxin externally and so they are dangerous to the touch or when they are ingested. Venomous creatures inject a toxin usually from an internal gland.

81. How are these words different: “precedence/precedents”? Both words are nouns that are pronounced the same. However, the word precedence means priority or a ceremonial order of rank, as in “My children take precedence over my work.” Precedents refers to things done or said that can be used as a model or example as in, “The precedents for young musicians having a hit single has been set.”

82. What differentiates these professionals: “psychologist/psychiatrist/psychotherapist”? There are significant differences among these professionals. They tend to deal with different types of problems. Psychology is the study of people and how they think, act, react and interact. Psychologists deal with the way the mind works and they may specialize in mental health or educational psychology or occupational psychology. They are not medical doctors, and many of them do not work with people. Psychiatry is the study of mental disorders and their diagnosis, management and prevention. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who see patients and may have a special area of expertise or research. Psychotherapy is a talking therapy conducted with individuals, groups, couples and families. Psychotherapists help people handle stress, troublesome habits, and emotional and relationship problems. They may be another health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist who has had further specialist training in psychotherapy.

83. “Purposely/purposefully”? Purposely describes something done deliberately. If a young child pushes another child’s wooden block tower down, he might do this purposely because he wants to build something with the blocks or he might be jealous of the tall tower. Purposefully describes the action or demeanor of a person who is determined. For example, if you wanted to run a 5-K race, you would purposefully practice and be more conscious of healthy eating.

84. These words are often confused: “quite/quiet/quit”. Quite is an adverb that means completely, totally, and absoulutely like, “The lady is quite attractive with her new haircut” or “That job is quite attractive to me with the travel and weekend perks”. Quiet means a state of calmness like the library was quiet or the lake was quiet at dawn. Quit is a verb that means stop. If you quit smoking, you don’t smoke anymore. If you quit your job, you don’t work there anymore. You have stopped smoking and you have stopped working.

85. Similar sounding words: “raise/raze/rise”. Raise and raze are pronounced the same with a long “a” sound. Rise has a long “i” sound. They are all verbs. Raise usually means to lift, heighten or to promote as in raising your hand or a flag. Or you are awarded a raise in salary. (However in England the term rise is used for a salary increase). Raze means to destroy or demolish as in the house was razed to make room for the new highway. Rise means to get up or increase. For example, there was a rise in the price of fruits and vegetables because of the cooler weather.
86. How are these words different: “rational/rationale”? The adjective rational means having the ability to reason; the noun rationale refers to the explanation or reason. The words have different endings and are pronounced differently. Examples include, “The debater’s argument was quite rational when he stated the rationale for the problem.”

87. Two commonly used and misused words: “real/really”. Real is an adjective that means true or factual and describes nouns and pronouns like, “The golden coin was made out of real gold.” Really is an adverb that means actually, indeed or in reality. It modifies verbs, adjectives and other adverbs, as in the sentence, “The temperatures this winter are really cold”.

88. “Resent/recent”? The verb resent can be pronounced two different ways to mean two different things. The accent is on the second syllable for both pronunciations, but if the “s” sounds like a “z”, resent means to feel annoyed at like in the sentence, “The worker resented making minimum wage for all of the hard work that he did.” If the “s” sounds like an “s” the word resent means to send back as in the case of someone who resent an email. The other word, recent, is an adverb that means not long ago. For example, you could say that you recently spoke to your friend or your resume has been updated recently. That is if you spoke to your friend and updated your resume in the past few weeks.

89. I’ve heard both… what do I use:  “in regard to/in regards to”? The correct phrase is “in regard to” as in the sentence, “This response is in regard to the position I saw posted on your website”.  It means concerning, regarding, with or in. Many people say “in regards to” but this is not correct English.

90. Which word is which: “regime/regimen”? A regime is more often used as a form of government or administration, or a government in power. For example, “The new regime seemed to be supported by the majority of the working class.”  A regimen is most often used to show a regulated system like a regimen for fitness or a diet.  For example, you could say that he practices yoga in the morning before work as part of his daily regimen.

91. “Regretful/regrettable”? If someone is regretful, then this means that they are full of regret and they are sorry. If something is regrettable, it means that the incident or situation is causing regret. If you lose your job because you were late for work many times, you might say, “I feel regretful that I did not take my job seriously enough to be on time in the mornings” and “Losing my job because I was often late for work is a regrettable situation.”

92. “Rollover/roll over”?  Rollover is a noun or an adjective:  “The rollover of the truck was caused by a reckless driving.”  The two-word roll over is a phrasal verb:  “They can roll over their rollover funds when necessary.”

93. How to use the words “sale/sell”?  Sale is a noun and sell is a verb.  Sale refers to a monetary exchange for products.  For example, “The sale of the old building was finalized when the counter offer was accepted by the buyer.” Sell means to transfer a product or service in exchange for money.  For example, “You can sell groceries at a grocery store”.

94. How do you use “different/difference”?  The words different and difference have the same meaning.  Difference is the noun form of differentDifferent is an adjective and refers to the quality or quantity of not being the same. For example, “There can be a difference in ages between the two friends because they are different ages.”

95. What about the words “seasonal/seasonable”?  Seasonal, an adjective, implies happening during a particular time or events during a certain time:  “Hiring seasonal workers during the holiday season needs to be discussed.”  The adjective seasonable means normal, appropriate, or typical to the season:  “In North America, seeing the migrating birds in late fall is seasonable.”

96. When do you use the words “unseasonable/unseasonal”?  Unseasonable means not normal for the season as in “The recent weather with the 60’s in temperature is unseasonable in North America.”; and Unseasonal refers to not typical for labeling something that changes with the season as saying, “No holiday sales in December is unseasonal.”  Please note that the word unseasonal is not a standard form, while seasonal is.  When the word unseasonal is used, it usually is meant as unseasonable.

97. When to use “see/saw”?  See is the present tense and its past tense form is saw. You see a performance and you saw the performance.

98. These are two different words: “since/sense”:  Since and sense sound similar but they have completely different meanings.   Since means from then till now; and sense is a collective term for five natural powers (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing). For example, “Since last year, you have earned over $35,000 dollars in bonuses. You have sensed success!”

99. When do you use “shrunk/shrank”?  Shrunk is the past participle form of “shrink” while shrank is the simple past tense form.  So, you would say, “I shrank the clothes” or “I have shrunk the clothes”.  You would not say, “I shrunk the clothes.”

100. When do you use “last/latest”? This is a very common mistake. Many native speakers use these words incorrectly. Last means final; and latest means the most recent. So the latest book I read was about the president, but it is not my last book to read.

101. Three different words: “suit/suite/sweet”. Suit (pronounced “sewt”) is a noun that means many different things: a costume, a set of garments, a claim in court, or a set of playing cards of the same marking:  Diamonds, Spades, Clovers and Hearts. The noun suite (pronounced “sweet”) means a musical composition, a staff of attendants, a set of things like furniture from the same manufacturer or from the same unit (all living room furniture that is grouped together), or several rooms connecting at a hotel, apartment or dorm that share a bathroom.  The adjective sweet means pleasing to the taste and other senses. A candy bar is often sweet. Today the word sweet is used as a slang word for cool or awesome, or something that meets your approval.

102. What’s the difference: “suspect/suspicious”? The word suspect can be a noun to mean someone who is suspected of something. It is a verb to mean to imagine, think, or to have mistrust. It can also be an adjective. Here are some examples: “The burglar was suspect of the crime.” “I suspect that the dog ate the meat off of the table.” “The suspect policy needs to be reviewed by the staff to see if it is the best for the company.” Suspicious is an adjective that means having or showing mistrust. An example sentence would be: “The little boy looked suspicious of taking the cookies when I saw cookie crumbs on his mouth and his bulging pockets.”

103. When do you use “systematic/systemic”? Systematic refers to things that are arranged or dealt with according to some system or organized method. For example, “Jay systematically sorts his letters into piles: those that need immediate attention and those that can wait.” If you need a synonym for “consistent”, then systematic is the word for you. Systemic is a more rare scientific and technical term that refers to parts of a body or system. For example, “A systemic disease affects many parts of the body.” So if you are talking about something happening to a system or inside a system, then the correct word is “systemic”.

104. These words are often confused: “taut/taunt”? The word taut means tight. And the word taunt means to tease. So, you can pull something taut. And if someone teases someone, this is called taunting.

105. When to use “high/tall”? The simple way to remember this is that tall expresses height and it is also used to compare items to each other. For example, “The apartment complex is tall” or “My boss is tall.’ The word high is used to express elevation. So if you said that the building is high, you mean it is raised from the ground. Maybe it is on a hill or there are steps leading up to it. If you said that your boss was high, that would mean he is in a good mood.

106. What is the difference between “though/thought”? These are two different words that are pronounced differently, spelled differently and mean different things. Though means however as in this sentence: “He got up early though he was still tired.” Thought is the process of using your mind to consider something carefully. Thought is the past tense of thinking. For example, “The teacher thought I did a great job in explaining the project.”

107. When do you use “went/gone”? Went is the past tense of to go. It does not take a helping verb. For example, “My friends went to the movies.” Gone is the past participle of to go. It is used with a helping verb:  has, have, had, is, am, are, was, were or be. Both words mean the same thing. For example, “My friends have gone to the movies.”

108. Are these words the same: “we’re/were”? We’re a contraction for we are. And the word were is the plural form of the verb are. It is a past tense verb as the action already happened. If you talk about something in the present or in the future, use we’re. But remember you need to substitute the words we are in the sentence in order to use the contraction we’re. To talk about something in the past use the verb were.

109. “Worse/worser?” In many dictionaries, the word worser is listed as “archaic”. This means that the word is seldom used today and it is no longer part of standard English. So you can plan to use the word worse instead. It means below expectations or below standard and having negative qualities. For example, “The damage from the flood is worse today than yesterday” or “Even though I retook the test, my score was worse than before.”

110. How about 15 years old or 15 year old? This depends on what you want to say. For example, “My daughter is 15 years old and she went shopping with a 15 year old.” This would tell you the age of your daughter and that she went shopping with someone who just happened to be the same age.

111. When do you use “your/you’re”? The word your is used to show ownership like your car or your school. Whereas, the contraction you’re is used for the words you are as in the sentence, “You’re invited to my party this Saturday night.” Both words are pronounced the same way.

112. Double negatives Do you catch yourself saying double negatives like “She cannot go no where?” A double negative is using two negative words or phrases in the same sentence. This sentence should be rephrased to read, “She cannot go anywhere.”

113. When to use “between/among”? The word between is used when you have two items or people in your sentence, while the word among is used for more than two items or people. These sentences show you the correct way to use these words: “Mother placed the flowers between the candles on the table” (this would mean there are only 2 candles); and “Mr. Jones reviewed the new law case among other cases” (this would mean that Mr. Jones talked about the new case, as well as more than 2 other cases).

114.  “Arrived at/arrived to/arrived in”? You must pay particular attention to what it is that you want to say and then match the preposition “at, to, or in” with the verb arrived. For example, you would say that you “…arrived at such and such time.” You would say, “You arrived at an audition or at the school.” And you would say, “You arrived in a certain place like New York.”

115. What is the difference between “gender/sex”? Many people use these words interchangeably, but they do have different meanings. Sex refers to male or female and their biological and physiological characteristics. Gender refers to masculine or feminine and behaviors, roles, expectations and activities in society.

116. “Beautiful or handsome”? Beautiful is an adjective that means aesthetically appealing. It is generally used to describe the female beauty of softness, meekness and grace. Many things are beautiful: the sunrise, the weather, children, a friendship, a Power Point presentation, etc. Handsome is usually a form of beauty that is associated with a good-looking male of any age. However, it can also be used to describe something that is large like a handsome wage (meaning a good wage or lots of money).

117. “Since/because”? Since and because are both conjunctions. Since generally refers to time like “I have not cleaned my house since Saturday.” In this case, if you substituted the word because for since, the sentence would not make sense: “I have not cleaned by house because Saturday.” On the other hand, the word because would be used in sentences to explain a cause or reason of but not dealing with time:  “The children played at the park with their babysitter because their mother was gone shopping.”

118. “This morning/today morning”? You would never use the expression today morning. Instead, say the word today at the beginning of your sentence or this morning. For example, “Today the sunrise was beautiful” or “This morning the sunrise was beautiful.”

119. “Scan/skim”? Many people use these words interchangeably, but they really mean two different things. Both are verbs. Scanning is to search for something (a word, phrase, diagram or other piece of information) within a book or other written material, possibly in an index or table of contents. Skimming is used to gather quickly as much information as you can from browsing the content, chapter titles, summaries, etc. You scan to find a specific detail; you skim to get an overview.

120.  When to use “off/of”? These are two different words with different spellings and meanings. Off is the opposite of on. Of is a preposition used to mean the distance or direction from, the source, the cause, or the contents. So you turn off the television and you read a table of contents.

121. How to use “gotten/got”? Got is the past tense form of get. Both got and gotten are past participles for the word get. You would say, “We get tired from running each day”, “We have gotten tired from running each day”. In informal conversations, many speakers use the word have got or got to mean “have” or “must”. You should avoid this in your writing. Use have or must instead.

122. What is correct: “till/’til/until”? When you are talking about a period of time that lapses before something happens, the words till and until can be used. For example, “We ran till we were out of breath” or “We ran until we were out of breath.” Til’ is an accepted form of until.

123. What is the difference between “gray” and “grey”? Gray is the more common spelling in American English and grey is the preferred spelling in British English.

124. “Mute or moot?” Moot is an adjective that generally means it is not important or relevant anymore. Mute means a person without the power of speech or to soften the sound of speech. These are two different words with different spellings, pronunciations and meanings.

125. Is it “burned or burnt”? Both of these words are acceptable for the past-tense forms of the verb “burn”. However, burned is the more common form in the United States, and burnt is the more common form in Britain. If you live in the United States, burnt is used as an adjective like the burnt steak.

126. “Drag, dragged, drug”? “Dragged” is the past tense verb of “drag” when you mean to pull something.  However, some people use the word “drug” as the past tense of “drag”. It is noted that this is a dialect common to people who live in southern United States. The standard meaning of “drug” is pharmaceuticals so grammar experts suggest using dragged for the past tense of drag.

27. Are these words used the same: “persuade/convince”? Persuade means to move by an argument to that opinion or course of action usually through appeals to the emotions, moral sense or the will. So you persuade someone who does not want to go to the movies to go after all. Maybe you tell them that you will pay for the movie or that you will buy them popcorn.  You might tell them that they deserve a break or that the movie is a really good one to see. Convince means to bring by demonstration or argument to a belief made to the intellect. You are convinced of a doctrine, belief or duty. You may be convinced that human beings deserve equal rights.

128. What do these words mean: “preventive/preventative’? Both words mean the same thing: to keep from happening. Preventive is the original adjective corresponding to the word to prevent. It is used more often in common speech. You could have a preventive check-up which is a yearly physical to check on your general health or preventative maintenance done on your car at so many miles so your car stays running in the best condition and lasts a long time.

129. When to use: “entitled/titled”? Major dictionaries and grammar guides state that the words entitled and titled are synonyms. They do feel that the word titled is often a better choice to use as it is a simpler term. You could say the book titled ___ is new novel I want to read.

130. What is the difference: “healthy/healthful”? Healthy describes someone who is fit, trim and not sick.  It describes someone or something that enjoys good health. For example, “Healthy forests are built to withstand severe natural disturbances.” Healthful means something that will create good health. So it’s correct English to have a healthy snack or a healthful one. But if you are referring to the person who is enjoying good health, then healthy is the better choice as in, “The physical trainer at the gym is very healthy.

131. When do you use “raised/reared”? Today these words are both used to mean to help bring up children as in raising your children or rearing your children. However, the word raised is only used with crops as in, “The farmer raised the corn crop on the 100 acre farm.” You would not say someone has “reared” crops.

132. What is “half-boiled/soft-boiled”? These two words mean the same thing. The opposite of a half-boiled or soft-boiled egg is a hard-boiled egg. Usually when you boil an egg to make it half-boiled/soft-boiled, you boil it for 3 minutes. To make a hard yolk, the egg is boiled longer. So the next time you eat breakfast out at a restaurant you can order your eggs how you like. What do you prefer:  half-/soft-boiled or hard-boiled?

133. “Saloon/salon”? These are two different words with different meanings. Saloon is spelled with “oo” like “moon”. Salon is spelled with one “o” like “on”. A saloon is usually used for a place that sells liquor like a barroom. A salon is a fashionable shop like a beauty salon.

134. What is correct:  “seven twenty o’clock or seven twenty”? The correct way to tell time is to say, “It’s seven twenty” or “It’s twenty (minutes) after seven.” You would never say, “It’s seven twenty o’clock.” You use the expression “o’clock” only with time on the hour like, “Seven o’clock”.

135. What do you say: “broken coat/torn coat”? Broken and torn are used in different ways. You might use these words for the same reason like saying your heart is broken or your heart is torn if your boyfriend or girlfriend breaks up with you, if someone dies, etc. But in most other cases, broken is used for things that are glass, metal, wood, etc. Clothing is never broken. If the clothing is torn, then the clothing is ripped. Consequently, glass and metal and wood cannot be torn.

136. “Make a fault/make a mistake”? Something can be your fault or someone else’s fault, but you can’t make a fault. You make a mistake. Fault means a weakness in character. Mistake means a wrong action or statement; an error.

137. “Would you mind helping me with this project?”  “Yes, certainly” or “no”. This is a common error. When someone asks you a question like, “Would you help me with this project?” then it is easy to say, “Yes, I will” or “No, I am sorry that I don’t have time.” But notice the question that was asked for #137 and the use of the word “mind”… This expression changes the meaning of the sentence so now if you answer, “Yes, certainly” that would mean that you are certain that you do not want to help. And if you reply with “no” that would mean that you do not mind helping with the project. The best thing you can do is to listen to see how the question is phrased, and then respond. Another suggestion is to answer with a different response rather than “yes” or “no”. Simply say, Sure, I would be glad to help out!” if you can. Otherwise, say, “I’m sorry that I can’t help you…”

138.  Is it “bright outside/light outside”? Although both expressions are grammatically correct, you probably would only say the first expression “bright outside” if it is generally around noon time and it is very sunny. Other than that, most people say that it is light outside to refer to early morning and the sun coming up or right before it is dark at night.

139. What’s the difference between “alone/lonely”? Alone is calm and being somewhere with nothing other than your own thoughts. Lonely is wanting someone or something else to be with you. You can be all alone at home and enjoying a good book, your favorite music, or a walk in the park, etc. But if you are lonely reading that book, listening to music or walking in the park, you really want someone else there to listen to you, share the experience, or be in your presence.

140. When are these words used: “around/round”? Around means in the area or vicinity like, “The friends enjoyed hanging around my house to talk.” Round means having a circular shape, or to express a number that is close to a certain unit and not the exact number. So “wheels are round” and “…the contractor gave me a quote in round numbers for the new house addition.”

141. “Assume or know”?  Assume means to take as granted although it is not approved; know means to have understanding or to be aware of the truth. Assumptions are not always true, but knowledge is the truth. If you assume you will get a good grade in that language class, then it means you think or believe you will get the A; however, you are not certain. If you know that you are going to get an A, then you have knowledge in some way that you are going to get that grade. Maybe you have a list of your graded assignments that average to an A or maybe the professor talked to you about your grade, or maybe you saw his/her grade book.

142. “Astrology/astronomy”? Many people are unsure of what these words mean and they often get them mixed up. Astrology interprets the influence that the Sun and Moon have while they are in a specialized zodiacal sign. Astrology is based on the concept of the 12 signs of the zodiac, measuring 30 degrees each along the astrological circle. Astronomy is the scientific interpretation of matter in space. The daily horoscope is written by someone who understands astrology while a scientist who discovers a new moon or planet may be an astronomer.

143. “Bored or boring”? You need to be careful with this one. If you say that you are bored with something like a lecture or book, or that you are just bored because you have nothing to do, then that means you are tired or uninterested. But if you say you are boring, that means you are dull. If someone asks you, how you are? And you can’t be positive about it, don’t say you are boring. You are bored.

144. What is the difference between “come over/overcome”? The verbal phrase come over can mean to move from one place to another as in “come over here”. It can also mean to seem to be a particular type of person as in “movie actors and actresses come over as being dramatic”. Overcome means something different. It can mean to conquer as “he overcame the obstacle and reached success in his business” or it can mean to reach a stage that engulfs you like “overcome with sadness”, “overcome with disbelief”, “overcome with gratitude”, etc.

145. What is the correct word: “bachelor’s degree, bachelors degree, or bachelor degree”? When a degree from a university or college is awarded to someone at the undergraduate level, this is called a bachelor’s degree. The same is true for an advanced degree. You would say “a master’s degree.” To help you remember the correct way to write this, think of the degree belonging to the person who is either a bachelor or a master.

146. Do these words mean the same thing: “curious and interesting”? If someone is curious, it means they are interested in learning about what is around them. For example, “The student was curious to find out how many people used his brother’s website.” If something is curious, it means it is unusual, odd or strange. So it might be curious that the 85-year-old lady still can walk on the balance beam and complete a gymnastics routine. If someone or something is interesting, it means that it gets your attention because it is unusual or strange, exciting, etc. You could find a book, trip, person, etc. interesting. Interesting does not always mean curious. However, usually something curious is interesting.

147. “Defrost or melt”? Defrost is a verb that means to cause to become free or to cause to become no longer frozen. For example, “You defrost the freezer when you unplug the refrigerator and clean it.” Melt is a verb to means to turn something that is in a solid form into something soft or a liquid. For example, “The snowman melted in the 40 degree temperatures.” Notice, that you don’t melt the freezer when you unplug the refrigerator and a snowman does not defrost.

148. “Could care less or couldn’t care less”? To say you could care less means that you have a little bit of caring left which is probably not what the person intended to mean. It is best to use the phrase “couldn’t care less” as in “The mailman couldn’t care less if his shift was shortened on Saturdays as he wanted to have more free time.”

149. The use of the word “none” as singular and plural: A mass noun uses the word “none” and it is followed by a singular verb as in, “None of the water was safe to drink”. Sometimes the word none has a sense of plurality and therefore it takes a plural verb as in, “The teacher talked to the students, and none of them were able to help out at the fundraiser.”

150. “Dress up/dressed”: You dress up for a party, an interview or something special. When you get dressed, this expression means you put on any type of clothing. So if you are dressed up, it means you are wearing fancy clothing and if you are dressed, it means you are ready for the day and you are not in your pajamas or bathrobe.

151. “Do/make”? Both of these are verbs, but you use them with different objects. You can do your hair and do your makeup. And you can do your best. You can make all sorts of things. This verb is often used with creative outlets like cooking, writing or artwork as in “making dinner”, making a story or play” or “making a picture or a sculpture”. You do sports but you don’t make them. But you make a home run in baseball or a goal in hockey. You make friends. Listen to the conversations around you and see if you can pick up some more ways these two verbs are used.

152. “Look at/watch”: The expression look at means to view something specific like if someone tells you to look at the sunset or a rainbow. If someone says to watch, it would mean to look over like in watching your children if you were gone to an appointment; or a watchman at night who stands guard to protect a company, etc. I can look at an essay to edit or look at the television guide and pick out a show to watch. But I would watch the show or a performance.

153. “Downside/underside”:  Downside is a noun that means the disadvantage of a situation. For example, the downside of living up north at the cottage is that it is very cold and isolated in the winter time. Underside is a noun that means the side of something nearest the ground. For example you could find a worm on the “underside” of a leaf. And the underside of your computer might have details about the type of computer you have, a serial number, etc.

154. “Don’t have to/mustn’t”: Mustn’t is the stronger of the two words to mean something is prohibited. Don’t have to is used to express responsibility or necessity. For example, “You don’t have to do the report by Tuesday means it does not have to be finished by Tuesday. You mustn’t be late for the appointment means you can’t and shouldn’t be late.

155. “Driving test/test drive”: When you take a driving test, you are driving a car with a licensing agent to see if you can pass the requirements to get a license. When you take a car for a test drive, you are probably driving the car for a trial basis at a dealership prior to purchasing that car. You might even test drive a few different kinds of vehicles so you can have a better idea of how they feel to drive before making a purchase.

156. “Extra/surplus”: These words might mean the same thing but they are used differently. If you have an extra jacket or an extra sandwich, it means you have more than one or maybe more than you need. If you have a surplus of goods, you have more than you need. You would not say that you have a surplus of a jacket or sandwich.

157. “Going out/outgoing”: Going out means to leave your house and physically “go out”. This would mean to a party, out to dinner, having a date, etc. If someone is outgoing, this means they like to talk to people and to be around them. Going out is a verb phrase and outgoing is an adjective.

158. “How do you do?/How are you?”: These two questions are different. The first is used to greet someone that you are introduced to. The second one asks how you personally are…  the answer to the first one would be “Nice to meet you, so and so…” The reply to the second one would be “Fine”, “So-so”, “Fair”, “Great…how about you?”

159. “Learn/teach”: To learn means to gain knowledge, understanding, skill or experience. To teach means to show how, to guide and to impart knowledge. Someone teaches you and you learn or you teach someone and they learn.

160. Is it correct to say “anyways” to someone? The correct word is “anyone” so you should not say, “Anyways, call me later”.  The correct response is to say “anyway, call me later”. And I don’t like exercising, but I do it anyway.

161. What’s the difference: “pass away/pass out/pass over”? Pass away means to die. Pass out means to faint. Pass over means to ignore. This is how you would use each phrase in a sentence: Your grandfather passes away and you attend the funeral. The marathon runner passed out in the heat. And you were passed over for a raise by your boss.

162. How do you use “of course/off course”? Of course means yes. Off course means to not follow an intended path, course or route. So you can answer “of course” if you want to do something. You are off course if an airplane does not follow the normal route or you are not on target of meeting your goal.

163. “People or persons”? People is almost always the better choice when you refer to more than one person. The dictionaries that include persons mention that this word is uncommon and archaic. It is going out of style. For example, “There are many people who take the subway to work.” Use the word people for the plural of person.

164. What about “him/her” and “he/she”? Oftentimes, it is difficult to use the correct gender for the people you are speaking about. This happens especially with native speakers who do not have this distinction in their own language. Try to pay particular attention to who someone or yourself is talking about, and put the correct pronoun at the forefront of your thoughts. This might help you to more easily retrieve the word you need to use.

165. What is the difference between “overtake/takeover”? Overtake means to pass as in a vehicle passing another vehicle on the highway. Takeover means to get control of a company by buying most of its shares. For example, the company that my neighbor works for was recently taken over. It was involved in a takeover this past month.

166. “Some time, sometime or sometimes”? Sometime means at some unspecified time like, “Let’s go biking again sometime.” Some time means quite a while. For example, “He spends some time sailing every day.” Sometimes means now and then; occasionally like, “Sometimes I like to ride my bicycle up the bluff.”

167. “Tenet and tenant”? A tenet is a belief that someone holds. A tenant is someone who holds an apartment or rents a house. Your tenet could be, “… to do unto others as you want them to do unto you.”  Perhaps you are a tenant and you pay rent to a landlord for a place to live.

168. Is “momento” a word? Momento is not a word. The correct word is memento which means a keepsake, a reminder of an event or a person. You would more than likely have a memento from your trip.

169. “Much thanks/many thanks”: The word “thanks” is plural so “many thanks” is the correct way to show your appreciation. In the English language, the word “many” is used with plural count nouns and “much” is used with mass nouns. Example, “I send you many thanks. I have much gratitude.”

170. What is the difference between “a while and awhile”?  A while is a time. For example, in “In a while I will take the dogs for a walk.” Notice the pause between the two words: “a” and “while”. Awhile is one word. It is an adverb that means “for a time”. For example, “Mother told the children to go and play awhile.”

171.  What is the difference between “precede/proceed”? Both words are verbs. To precede means to come before (usually in time). To proceed means to go forwards or to continue. For example, “There are previews of future shows that precede the main movie” and “The project needs to proceed so it is finished on time.”

172. “Principal/principle”:  Both words are pronounced the same. However they have different meanings. Principal is a noun meaning a person like the principal of a school. It is an adjective that means main or the highest rank or importance. For example, “My mother’s principal complaint is that the music is too loud from the neighboring apartment.”  Principal can also be an adverb as in the word principally which means for the most part. An example would be: My father was principally an oil painter.”  The word principle means a moral rule or belief that helps you know what is right or wrong. This may influence your actions. It can be a basic truth or theory. It may be a law or a fact of nature that explains how something works. Examples would be “You live by a guiding principle to be nice to your neighbors” and “There are principles of motion”.

173. What’s the difference between: “regard/regardless/regards”? Regard as a verb usually means to have an opinion about something or someone. For example, Oscar Wilde said, “I regard the theater as the greatest of all art forms.” Regard can also mean to look carefully at something or someone. For example, “The children regard the principal with great respect.” Regardless as an adverb means not being affected by something as in “I took the driving test regardless of my limited practice driving on the highway.” Regards is simply a greeting. For example, “Please give my regards to your parents” would mean to say “hello” to them.

174. “Remainder/reminder”: Both words are nouns. A remainder is what is left over like a remainder when you divide something and it does not come out equally. It is a remaining number, item, or group. A reminder is what is told to someone something so they are more apt to remember. There can be written, visual or aural reminders.

175. “Remember/remind”: Both words are verbs. Remember means to have memory of. For example, “My mother remembers growing up on a farm” or “Remember what the weather was like last week”. Remind means to tell someone something so they are more apt to remember.

176. Are these different words: “replay/reply”? Both words are verbs. Replay means to play again or to play over. You cold replay a game or you could replay a video game. Reply means to answer. You can reply to an invitation or you can reply to a question.

177. Is it “run over/overrun”?  Run over is to collide with, knock down by, or pass over like “The horses will run over the barricade.”  The word overrun is to defeat decisively and seize the positions of.  For example, “The front line of defense was overrun by the massive enemy attack.”

178. “Said/told”?  These two words have similar meanings, but they are used differently.  Said is the past tense and the past participle of say.  The difference between said and told is that words are said while told is associated with information being told.  Told must have an object.  For example, “I couldn’t hear what you said (does not need an object)” and “She told us everything about the plan (needs an object).”

179. “Say/talk”?  Say and talk have slightly different definitions.  Say is associated with an actual pronunciation of words or an expression in words.  For example, “We always have to say, ‘Good morning’ every morning” or “Say what you are thinking.”  Talk is when you say words to someone.  For example, “Let’s talk about the plan.”

180. “Scared/scary”?  The verb scared is a condition or a feeling of being afraid.  For example, “We were scared at the thunderous sound coming out of the woods.”  But, the word scary, an adjective, is the reason for the feeling of being afraid as in “The man with a mask was scary.”

181. What is the difference between “shortage/shortness”?  Shortage is a noun that means there is not enough of something like, “There is water shortage after 3 months of drought.”  Shortness is also a noun that describes the condition of being short as in “Did you have any shortness of breath when you were running fast?”

182. “Stuff/things”:  Stuff is used to call the material or substance that form(s) something.  Sometimes it is used as a collective term.  For example, “Bring your music stuff to school tomorrow.”  Things can be entities, ideas, or items.  For example, “He enjoys making things out of wood.”

183. “Stationary/stationery”:  These two words sound identical but have very different meanings.  Stationary spelled with “ary” means not moving or being still.  For example, “You have to wait in a stationary position for your turn.”  Stationery spelled with “ery” means office supplies such as pencils, envelopes, or paper. Maybe you have visited a stationery store.

184. “Take care/take care of”:  Take care is an expression you say to someone often at the end of conversation which really means “Take care of yourself.”  On the other hand, take care of is used when you look after someone or something as in “I am taking care of my neighbor’s dog”.

185. When to use the words “travel/trip/voyage/journey”?  The word travel means going from one location to another.  It can be a verb, a noun, or an adjective:  “I travel a lot to my work”, “It was a long travel going up north”, or “A travel agency is moving into the 2nd floor of this building.”  Trip is used for a short journey for a certain purpose:  “My family just took a 2-week trip to Montreal, Canada.”  The word voyage usually is used to describe a long journey by sea or in space:  “A spacecraft was built to take the four astronauts on a voyage to the Mars.”  Journey refers to the implied travelling distance between two places:  “The long journey to San Francisco will be finally over in just two hours.”

186. What is the difference between: “worn/warn”?  Worn is the past participle of wear and also an adjective that means to be damaged by using or wearing something over a long period.  For example, “I chose to wear worn clothes for the yard work yesterday.”  Warn is a verb that means to inform or notify someone in advance of a possible problem, complication, or negative situation.  For example, “I warn you not to tell them a lie.”

187.  “Shade/shadow”?  Shade is an area where sun is blocked thus creating partial darkness.  For example, “The farmer sat in the shade under the oak tree to take a break.”  The word shadow is a dark shape that appears on a surface when something is placed or moves between the surface and a source of light.  For example, “The shadows created in the woods at nightfall were spooky.”

188. “Customer/client”?  Both words are sometimes used interchangeably but the conventional definitions are different.  A customer buys products or services from a company, store or individual while a client engages necessary services of a professional.

189. Do you say “arrived to” or “arrived at”? The correct English is “arrived at”. For example, I arrived at the airport or I arrived at work (or any other place). You haven’t arrived to (any place).

190.  “Stranger/guest”? Stranger is a noun that means someone who is not known:  “Don’t be a stranger.”  Guest is also a noun that describes someone who receives the hospitality at another person’s home or table:  “She is our special guest tonight.” More than likely, you know the guest or if you don’t know them personally, you know of them.

191. “Ground/floor”?  Ground is the surface of the earth or position/viewpoint whereas floor is the surface of a room on which you stand.  For example:  “He sat on the ground for a picnic”, “We held our ground despite arguments presented by some shareholders”, or “The entire floor of the house needs to be repaired.”

192. “Grow/grow up”?  Grow, a verb, has several meanings:  To increase in size in “The trees are growing”, to expand as in “Our group is growing larger and larger”, or to cause to grow like “She grows tulips.”  Grow up is a phrasal verb that means to become an adult.  For example, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

193. “Pick/pick up”?  Pick is a verb with the meaning of choose, gather, or provoke:  “We picked the best runner”, “We went apple picking yesterday”, and “He picked a fight with them.”   It can also be a musical term:  “The musician just bought a pick for his guitar.”  The phrasal verb pick up means to take up something as in “I picked up a book from the library”, to collect like “We picked up lot of seashells at the beach”, or to clean up as saying, “Please pick up the room.”

194. “Borrow/lend”? The words borrow and lend have opposite meanings.  Borrow is to take something from someone with permission and intention of returning itLend, however, is to give something to someone with the expectation of getting it back.

195. “Past/passed”? Past has several meanings and it can be an adjective, an adverb, a noun, or a preposition:  “The teacher just walked past me”, “Let’s forget the past and focus on the future”, and “The past three weeks have been very hard for the injured players.”   Passed is the past tense and past participle of pass:  “I just passed the bar exam yesterday” and “He has passed the physical regiment test.”

196. “Discover/invent”?  The word discover means to find something previously unknown like, “We discovered the secret path to the top of the clock tower.”  And invent means to make something that never existed.  For example, “Thomas Edison invented many devices that had great impact on the modern world.”

197. “Take place/take part”?  Take place means to happen as in “The game will take place next week.”  Take part is an idiom that means to participate in like “We all must take part in tomorrow’s fundraising drive.”

198. “Win/earn”?  Win is frequently associated with success in carrying out a certain task or gaining awards for your efforts.  For example, “You work hard to win your next game.”  Earn refers to obtaining something from your action or efforts.  For example, “You should earn a college degree to find a higher paying job.”

199. When should I say “won/beat”?  Won (the past tense form of win) and beat both deal with individual games and sports.  But they are used in different ways.  Won is used to describe the achievement and can be used without an object like “We won.” But you can also win a prize, an award or competition. You beat an opponent to win. You do not beat a prize, award or competition.

200. When do you use “bring/take”?  The words bring and take are both verbs that refer to carrying something.  In most cases, bring implies action or movement toward the speaker like “Bring that book to me.”  But, take suggests action or movement away from the speaker like “Take these clothes to your sister.”

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Whew… that was a long list!  But I hope that a few of these “mistakes” will help you along the way with your English language learning. By practicing English, you will become a more confident student. Contact me any time using the comments section below and let me know how your English is progressing. Share a story with me. I’ll do what it takes to help you reach your goal of learning English.

About the author:

Marc Anderson is the co-founder and CEO of TalktoCanada. Since founding the company in 2006, he has grown it to over 25 staff with operations in 50 countries. Marc spends his time outside of TalktoCanada travelling, playing with his son and working on new business projects.

  • c,thomas noble

    thank u very much to ur support for spoken english learners.

  • Hari Krishna

    such a dictionary for the diction.

  • Micol

    Only 199 common mistakes… 62 and 164 are the same 🙂

    • Thank you for pointing this out. Please see #164 for a substitute common error.

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  • A great piece of writing indeed!

    Could you please let us know what’s the rule for double apostrophe case? Can we say, “Rahul’s dog’s tail is quite big.”?

    Regards,
    Team Smartkeeda

  • Annie Hasija

    Hi Marc thank-you for writing on this topic.#200 got a mistake:
    Look at the sentence “The words bring and take are both verbs that refer to carrying something”.
    It is wrong to use -ing with “to”.The grammar rule says, gerund and infinitive can never come together.
    The correct sentence would be “The words bring and take are both verbs that refer to carry something.”