The Top 10 Frequently Confused Words

Updated: May 12, 2020

Have a look at these two sentences:

  • Smoking can have a lethal effect on one's health.

  • The cyclone will affect the lives of thousands of people.

In the first sentence, the word effect is a noun that means "a consequence or a result". However, in the second sentence affect is a verb that means "to influence".

These words have the same pronunciation, but there is a slight difference in their spelling, and they also have different meanings. Such words are called homophones.

You may often come across similar examples while reading and writing English. These words not only confound English learners but can also be confusing for native speakers!

Here is a useful list of similar words to help you speak and write confidently, without embarrassing mistakes:

1. Advise/Advice

Advise is a verb meaning "to counsel" whereas advice is a noun meaning "guidance".


  • The doctor has advised you to take bed rest.

  • You should follow the doctor's advice.

2.All together/Altogether

Only the space in between can change the entire meaning!

All together is a phrase that means "all at once" while altogether is an adverb that means "completely" or "in all".


  • I can not do so many things all together!

  • The machine has altogether(completely) stopped working.

  • We are seventeen altogether(in all).


Complement means "an accompaniment" and compliment means "a flattering remark".


  • These cookies are the perfect complement to coffee.

  • John complimented him on his remarkable performance.


Breath is a noun that means "the air taken into or expelled from the lungs".

Breathe is a verb which refers to "the act of inhalation and exhalation".

Breadth refers to the width of an object.


  • He took a deep breath and jumped into the water.

  • It is not possible for humans to breathe underwater.

  • The cloth measured 50 inches in breadth.

5. Stationary/Stationery

Stationary is an adjective that means "motionless" whereas stationery is a noun that refers to writing and other office materials.


  • A bus collided with a stationary vehicle.

  • The shop offers a wide range of stationery.

6. Disinterested/Uninterested

Disinterested means unbiased or impartial. That's what you want the media to be. Uninterested on the other hand means not interested or unconcerned.


  • He was a disinterested judge.

  • John was uninterested in studies.

7. Its/It's

Its is a possessive pronoun (determiner) meaning "belonging to it".

It's is a contraction of "it is".


  • Turn the chair on its side.

  • I like it's features.

8. Curb/Kerb

Curb means a check or restraint on something.

Kerb, in British English refers to the stone edge of a pavement.


  • We must take precautionary measures in order to curb air pollution.

  • The girl sat on the kerb, waiting for her father.

9. Envelop/ Envelope

Envelop means to cover or surround.

Envelope is a paper container used to enclose a letter or document.


  • Envelop the box in a black coat.

  • Put the letter in the envelope.

10. Meter/ Metre

A meter is a measuring device.

Metre (British English) is a unit of measurement.


  • He bought an electricity meter from the market.

  • The pool measured fifty metres in length.

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