This section gives you lots of advice, helping you to avoid making some of the most common mistakes of usage. Do you worry about the correct use of hopefully, for example, or wonder what the difference is between affect and effect or flaunt and flout? Are you uncertain about whether to say can or may or whether you should say "a historic event" or "an historic event"?

And if you’ve ever been puzzled about cactuses versus cacti, go to Plurals of foreign words.

Apart from learning how to avoid mistakes, you’ll also find useful sections on how to build a piece of writing and how to raise your awareness of words or terms which may cause offense to other people.

Explore the links below to find clear and straightforward guidance on these topics and many more. You can find more help with the correct use of English in Grammar tips.

'A historic event' or 'an historic event?'

Adverse or averse?

Affect or effect?

All right or alright?

Allude or elude?

Alternate or alternative?

American and British terms

Among or amongst?

Amoral or immoral?

Appraise or apprise?

Assume or presume?

Bare or bear?

Between you and me

Bored by, of, or with?

Breech or breach?

Bring or take?

Can or may?

Cannot or can not?

Censure or censor?

Cereal or serial?

Cite, site, or sight?

Climactic or climatic?

Coarse or course?

Commonly confused words

'Compare with' or 'compare to'?

Complement or compliment?

Continual or continuous?

'Could of' or 'could have'?

Denote or connote?


Different from, than, or to?

Diffuse or defuse?

Discreet or discrete?

Disinterested or uninterested?

Elicit or illicit?

Enquire or inquire?

Ensure or insure?

Especially or specially?

Farther or further?

Flair or flare?

Flaunt or flout?

Formal language

Grizzly or grisly?

'He or she' versus 'they'

Historic or historical?

Hoard or horde?


I or me?

i.e. or e.g.?

Imply or infer?

Informal language


Its or it's?

Laid or lain?

Learnt or learned?

Less or fewer?



Literary language

Loose or lose?

May or might?

Neither and nor?

Old-fashioned language

Onto or on to?

Phenomenon or phenomena?

Pour or pore?

Principal or principle?

Shall or will?


Standard English


That or which?

Themselves or themself?

These or those?

To or too?

Tortuous or torturous?

Who or whom?


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Grammar and usage