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10 Most Commonly Confused Words Explained

May 04, 2017 Essay writing tips
10 Most Commonly Confused Words Explained

As students, no matter how smart we are, we can always make small yet embarrassing grammatical mistakes in our writing. Sometimes, we might even make them on purpose, because a bunch of words in the English language are written almost identically, yet have a totally different meaning.

From personal experience, I can tell you that the words “Where” and “Were” used to be my personal pains when I wrote essays all the way through middle school. Luckily, at one point I sat down and found an article that was a few pages long, and talked about the 15 most common grammar mistakes that ruin one's essay. I decided to return the favor and write one as well. This article is intended to help some students save their essay from grammatical embarrassment!

Your & You're

When writing an essay, most middle school and high school students do not even notice the grammatical errors they make when using the words “Your” and “You’re”. Let me break down the differences between these words for you.

"Your" is something that is yours, that you own.

For example:

  • Your dog is huge!
  • Your car is faster than mine.
  • Your writing is fantastic!

"You’re" stands for you or someone actually being something. It is also a contraction for “you are”.

For example:

  • You’re amazing at basketball.
  • You’re a talented chef.
  • You’re banned from this game.

They’re, Their & There

Another few words that sound pretty much identical but are written differently and hold different definitions are “they’re”, “their” and “there”.

"They’re" is a contraction for They are.

For Example:

  • They’re already at the movie theaters!
  • They’re done eating.

"Their" is something that shows ownership by a person or thing (Noun).

For Example:

  • Their car got towed.
  • Their house was hit by a tornado.
  • Their store sells computers.

"There" refers to a location or a certain area that the writer is talking about.

For Example:

  • I'm gonna go over there while you wash the car.
  • Isn't Egypt in Africa? Isn’t it always hot there?

Where & Were

"Where" stands for a certain location, and the number of times people mix it up with “were” is absurd!

For Example:

  • Where is the mall?
  • Where is the fire exit of this supermarket?

"Were" on the other hand is second person singular past, plural past, and past subjunctive of be.

For Example:

  • Were you the one who ate the last cookie?!
  • Were we supposed to be there at 10?

Then & Than

My dinner was better then yours.

In the sentence up top, “then” should be used instead of “than”, because “than” is a conjunction which is mainly used to make comparisons.

“Then” on the other hand, is an adverb which is used to situate actions in time.

For Example: We went to the gym, and then to the party.

Into & In to

"Into" indicates movement from one position to the next.

For Example:

  • I just moved into my new apartment.
  • I ran into an old friend of mine.

"In to" is used in most cases because the individual words “to” and “in” are frequently used in other parts of a sentence.

For example, “to” is often used with the infinitive verbs (e.g. "to fly”). Or “in” can be used as part of a verb (e.g. “call me in when you are done”)

Lose & Loose

"Lose" is a verb that means fail to keep or maintain something. Don’t mix it up with loose!

For example:

  • I lose my socks on a daily basis.
  • I lose a lot of things throughout the year.

"Loose" is an adjective that means “not tight” or “not closely constrained”.

For Example:

  • My new shirt is very loose on me.
  • My new watch is loose on my wrist.

Assure, Insure and Ensure

"Assure" is a synonym that means to promise or say something with confidence.

For Example:

  • I can assure you that the job was done exactly on time.
  • I assure you that I tell the truth.

"Ensure" means to make something certain.

For Example:

  • Ensure that all of your quizzes are handed in on time.
  • He took daily vitamins to ensure that he would remain healthy.

"Insure" means to protect against some sort of risk by regularly paying an insurance company.

For Example:

  • I insure my car because the law demands it.
  • I have no insurance.

Between & Among

"Between" refers to two things that are clearly separated.

For Example:

  • Walk between 47th and 48th street, it is a shortcut to StarBucks.
  • The KFC is somewhere between the Garden State Mall and George Washington Bridge.

"Among" refers to more than 2 things that are being compared.

For Example:

  • She was chosen from among many students.
  • He believes there is a spy among us.

Incomplete Comparisons

This is a problem that almost every single middle and high school student faces.

For example: My car is bigger, faster and stronger.

Bigger, faster and stronger then what? Bigger than a tank? Faster than a horse? When you try to compare something, always make sure to clarify what that “something else” is. Otherwise, your reader might just get confused.

Peek, Peak, Pique

"Peek" - when you take a quick look at something.

For Example:

  • I got a sneak peek of the new star wars!
  • No peeking in hide and seek!

"Peak" - a sharp point.

For Example:

  • The mountain peak was covered with snow.
  • Mt. Everest is the highest peak in the world.

"Pique" - to provoke or instigate your curiosity or aggravate it (Depends on context).

For Example:

  • After a moment of pique, the captain calmed his team down.
  • To pique their interest.

These are a few of the biggest mistakes students make throughout their studies, and I sincerely hope that after reading through this little post of mine, you have learned the difference. Thank you for your time ladies and gents!

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