Most Commonly Misused Words

The following list of misused words was compiled by selecting words which appear most frequently on other lists of commonly misused words. Most misused words are words that sound alike but are spelled differently (called homophones—from Greek; homo meaning same; phone meaning sound).

A misused word is called a malapropism (definition - ridiculous use of words, especially through confusion caused by resemblance in sound. The word comes from the character Mrs. Malaprop in Richard B. Sheridan's play The Rivals.).

accept/exceptaccept means to take or receive with approval, to understand; except means to leave out, to exclude.
affect/effectaffect means to act upon or to produce an effect. It is a verb. effect means a result or consequence of an action. It is a noun.
already/all readyalready means by this time (We had already finished the story.); all ready means all are ready (We are all ready to go now.).

capital/capitolcapital means a city or town that is the seat of government of a state or nation, also wealth; capitol is a building.
complement/complimentcomplement means something that completes another; compliment means something said in praise.

desert/dessertdesert means to leave behind or a dry, barren region of land; dessert is the sweet served at the end of a meal.

farther/further — while both words refer to distance, farther should be used with physical distances (I ran farther each day as I trained for the marathon.); further should be paired with metaphorical distances (When I delved further into the research, I found discrepancies.).

its/it’sits is the possessive form of it meaning something belongs to it; it’s is the contraction of it is.

lead/ledlead (pronounce in the same way as led) means a metal; led is the past tense of the word lead (spelled the same way as the metal) meaning to command or provide direction.
lose/looselose means to be unable to find or to fail to win; loose means not firmly fastened; not tight; or inexact

plain/planeplain means simple or unadorned; plane means an airplane, a tool, or a flat surface.
principal/principleprincipal means the main or important; principle means a statement of a rule of conduct or in science or mathematics.

shear/sheershear means to cut or clip; sheer means straight up and down without a break.
sight/sitesight means something that is seen; site means a location of a planned structure.
stationary/stationerystationary means to be fixed in one place; stationery is paper used in correspondence.

tail/taletail means the end of the body of an animal; tale means a story.
team/teemteam means a group on one side; teem means to become filled to overflowing.
then/thanthen refers to a subsequent event; it places events in order of occurrence; than is a comparison (12 is more than 6).
there/their/they’rethere means a location away from you; their means belonging to them; they’re is the contraction of they are.
threw/throughthrew means to have thrown an object;through means to go in one side and out the other
to/too/twoto is a preposition and can be used with a verb (to make a cake) or a noun or pronoun (The dog came to him when he called it.); too means more than enough (I ate too much ice cream.); two is the number 2.

vain/vane/veinvain means conceited; vane means a weathervane or weathercock which indicates the direction of the wind; vein means a blood vessel.
vial/vilevial means a small vessel for liquids; vile means morally despicable.

wait/weightwait means a period of waiting; weight means the amount that an object registers on a scale.
waist/wastewaist means the middle section of a body; waste means to squander material or the leftover portion of a material used.
weak/weekweak means lacking strength; week means a period of seven days.
who’s/whosewho’s is a contraction of who is; whose is the possessive of who.
wonder/wanderwonder is a feeling of surprise and admiration; wander means to ramble around without a fixed destination; to drift from place to place
would have/would of — pronunciation might lead you astray here but would of is never correct.

your/you’reyour means belonging to you; you’re is the contraction of you are.

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