Commonly confused words

Take a look at these two sentences—one of them contains a mistake:

I poured over book after book.
We pored over the catalogs.
Are you uncertain which one is right? There are a lot of words in English that look or sound alike but have very different meanings, such as pore and pour or flaunt and flout. It’s easy to get them confused and most electronic spellcheckers won’t be much help in this type of situation: they can tell you if a word has been spelled wrongly but they can’t generally identify the misuse of a correctly spelled word.
Here’s a quick-reference list of pairs of words that regularly cause people problems. The words follow the accepted American English spelling. Some of them do have alternative British spellings and you will find these at the main dictionary entry: click on any item in the list to see the full dictionary entry.
Word 1
Word 2
to agree to receive or do
not including
unfavourable, harmful
strongly disliking; opposed
recommendations about what to do
to recommend something
to change or make a difference to
a result; to bring about a result
a passage between rows of seats
an island
all in one place, all at once
completely; on the whole
moving or extending horizontally on
referring to something of great length
out loud
a sacred table in a church
to change
not concerned with right or wrong
not following accepted moral standards
to assess
to inform someone
agreement, approval
the action of rising or climbing up
relating to the ears or hearing
relating to the mouth; spoken
naked; to uncover
to carry; to put up with
in phrase 'with bated breath', i.e. in great suspense
with bait attached or inserted
a Middle Eastern market
a bunk in a ship, train, etc.
the emergence of a baby from the womb
having started life
a branch of a tree
to bend the head; the front of a ship
a device for stopping a vehicle; to stop a vehicle
to separate into pieces; a pause
to break through, or break a rule; a gap
the back part of a gun barrel
to raise a subject for discussion
a piece of jewellery
a type of strong cloth
to seek people’s votes
to criticize strongly
to ban parts of a book or film; a person who does this
a grass producing an edible grain; a breakfast food made from grains
happening in a series
a group of musical notes
a length of string; a cord-like body part
forming a climax
relating to climate
a direction; a school subject; part of a meal
smug and self-satisfied
willing to please
to add to so as to improve; an addition that improves something
to praise or express approval; an admiring remark
a group of people who manage or advise
advice; to advise
a signal for action; a wooden rod
a line of people or vehicles
a dried grape
happening now; a flow of water, air, or electricity
to make a situation less tense
to spread over a wide area
a waterless, empty area; to abandon someone
the sweet course of a meal
careful not to attract attention
separate and distinct
not interested
an even score at the end of a game
a sliding storage compartment
having two parts
a fight or contest between two people
to draw out a reply or reaction
not allowed by law or rules
to make certain that something will happen
to provide compensation if a person dies or property is damaged
to cover or surround
a paper container for a letter
physical activity; to do physical activity
to drive out an evil spirit
a young deer; light brown
a mythical being, part man, part goat
to display ostentatiously
to disregard a rule
to move clumsily; to have difficulty doing something
to fail
to refrain
an ancestor
an introduction to a book
onwards, ahead
to turn to ice
a decoration along a wall
gruesome, revolting
a type of bear
a store
a large crowd of people
to suggest indirectly
to draw a conclusion
reluctant, unwilling
to hate
to unfasten; to set free
to be deprived of; to be unable to find
a measuring device
a metric unit; rhythm in verse
to be a powerful factor against
to make less severe
the roof of the mouth
a board for mixing colours
a foot-operated lever
to sell goods
a long, slender piece of wood
voting in an election
to flow or cause to flow
a tiny opening; to study something closely
to authorize use of medicine; to order authoritatively
to officially forbid something
most important; the head of a school
a fundamental rule or belief
the ability to see
a location
not moving
writing materials
to arouse interest
to make more attractive
full of twists; complex
full of pain or suffering
a ring-shaped arrangement of flowers etc.
to surround or encircle
yoke a wooden crosspiece for harnessing a pair of oxen yolk the yellow center of an egg


See also
Themselves or themself?

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Grammar and usage