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Use These Commonly Confused Words Correctly

Sai Kardile Mar 17, 2020
English language is a domicile to a legion of confused words. They are deceiving and elude our mental grasp. But fret not, we promise assistance in disentangling you from the maelstrom of commonly confused words.
"Your grammar is a reflection of your image. Good or bad, you have made an impression. And like all impressions, you are in total control."
― Jeffrey Gitomer
Mr. Dumbledore once remarked, "Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it." By this he just didn't mean the spells and charms that wizards slung at each other but something of great depth that concerns the realm of English grammar.
In other words, it means that it is time for you to start remedying for the many bloopers that you committed, which caused serious injury to grammar-abiding mortals.
English grammar can be likened to a wispy Edwardian wraith, dear ones, it's elegant, sophisticated, and yet it provokes trepidation. It is very natural to feel intimidated by it, but fear is a debility and one must prevail over it. Yeah. Good prep talk.
Now let's get down to understanding these commonly confused words and save ourselves from embarrassment. Here are some commonly confused words with their meaning from the Free Dictionary along with their correct usage.

Affect vs. Effect

Affect means to have an influence on or effect a change in; to act on the emotions of; touch or move.

★ Susan's sudden expulsion affected all her friends.

★ It is really astounding to know how technology affects our life.
Effect is a noun which means something that is brought about by a cause or agent; a result.

★ His resignation will have little effect on the committee.

★ A monstrous tsunami will have a terrible effect on the marine life.

Accept vs. Expect

Accept means to receive (something offered), especially with gladness or approval.

★ They accepted her boyfriend at the end.

★ Jean accepted her defeat with dignity.
Except means to leave out or exclude.

★ Jacob invited everyone to his yacht party except Tina.

★ The entire house was cold, except for the dining room because of the fireplace.

Uninterested vs. Disinterested

Uninterested means having or showing no feeling of interest; indifferent.

★ Jenna was very frigid and uninterested.

★ She seemed uninterested in the project so we decided to do it ourselves.
Disinterested means free from bias or partiality; objective.

★ Judges are expected to make disinterested decisions.

★ We called in on my mother who is known to give disinterested advice.


While both uninterested and disinterested can be used to mean 'not interested, apathetic', the latter is more commonly used to mean 'impartial' or someone who is not affected by personal feelings, concerns, opinions, etc.

Lay vs. Lie

Lay means to cause to lie down.

★ Samantha ordered the nanny to lay Kris in the crib.

★ I lay my clothes on the table by the bedroom window.
Lie means to be or place oneself at rest in a flat, horizontal, or recumbent position; recline.

★ Rupert likes to lie on the linoleum and watch TV.

★ The doctor told me to lie down on the bed.


Lay vs. lie makes one classic case of word confusion. While both lie and lay are present tense words, they are however, very different in their usage. Lie is an intransitive verb, which means it cannot have an object, whereas lay is a transitive verb which means it has to have an object.
So in the example, Samantha ordered the nanny to lay Kris in the crib, the subject Samantha set the baby (object) in the crib. While in the second example, Rupert likes to lie on the linoleum and watch TV, Rupert, the subject is setting himself down, hence there is no object.

Elicit vs. Illicit

Elicit means to draw or bring out or forth; evoke.

★ His jokes elicited no laughs.

★ Jane tried hard to elicit information from Sally.
Illicit is an adjective which means not allowed or approved by common custom, rule, or standard.

★ Ashley had an illicit affair with her neighbor.

★ He was incarcerated for possessing illicit drugs.

Loose vs. Lose

Loose has many meanings but as an adjective it means not fastened, restrained, or contained.

★ A leaf came loose and flew in the air.

Loose as verb means to set free or release, as from confinement, restraint, or obligation.

★ Erick loosed the birds from the cage.
Lose means to fail to keep or maintain; to suffer the loss or deprivation of; to fail to get or make use of, etc.

★ Ginny keeps losing her temper over trivial things.

★ Jane lost her grandmother to Alzheimer's.

There vs. Their

This is a source of bamboozling for a lot of English speakers, since, both, there and their sound similar. In other words, they are homophones.
There means at or in that place.

★ There is no way I'm going to involve myself into this.

★ Your books are kept over there.
Their is a possessive adjective which means something that belongs to them.

★ Nicolas wanted to drive their car.

★ It was their responsibility to take care of the house.

Desert vs. Dessert

Desert is a large area of land where there is very little water or rain, no trees, and very few plants.

★ Animals living in the desert are adapted to live in extreme climatic conditions.
Desert as a verb means to abandon.

★ He was deserted by his friends because of his whimsical nature.

Dessert means sweet food served at the end of a meal.

★ The host had made five different types of cheesecakes for dessert.

Principal vs. Principle

Principal as an adjective means first or highest in rank or importance.

★ Alexis was their principal source of information pertaining to the case.
Principal as a noun means the head of a school or other educational institution; the chief instrumentalist in a section of the orchestra or the leading performer in a play.

★ Mrs. Schindler is the new principal of Arizona local school.
Principle means a standard or rule of personal conduct; a fundamental or general truth or law.

★ A man with no moral principles cannot be trusted.

Flout vs. Flaunt

Flout means to ignore or disregard (a rule or convention, for example) in an open or defiant way.

★ Mason was jailed for flouting traffic rules.

★ She is an enfant terrible who is known for flouting convention.
Flaunt means to show off in order to attract attention to oneself.

★ Miranda was seen flaunting her expensive cocktail dress in the party.

★ He likes flaunting his British accent.