Words Causing Confusion

English has plenty of confusing words. Correct use of some of the most common among them are given below.

Compliment (noun) – expression of approval, admiration etc.

Complement (noun) – that which makes something complete

  • My compliments to your husband.
  • The party must consist of fifty people. Here are forty. We need ten more to reach our complement.

Medal (noun) – flat piece of metal given as an award or made to commemorate an event
Meddle (verb) – interfere with other’s things

  • He won the gold medal.
  • Do not meddle with other people’s affairs.

Affect (verb) – have an effect on
Effect (noun) – result
Effect (verb) – bring about, cause to happen

  • The climate affected his health.
  • He was deeply affected by the sad news.
  • Mongooses are not so much affected by cobra-bites as men are.
  • The effect of cobra-bite on a man is often deadly.
  • The new principal effected many changes in the college.

Prophesy (verb) – say what will happen in the future
Prophecy (noun) – power of telling what will happen in the future

  • I prophesy that it will rain tomorrow.
  • Did you hear my prophecy that it would rain tomorrow?

Stationary (adjective) – not moving or changing
Stationery (noun) – writing-materials

  • When an object isn’t moving, it is stationary.
  • Articles like writing paper, pencils and pens are called stationery.

Dependant (noun) – somebody who depends upon another for a home, food etc.
Dependent (adjective) – depending

  • I have many dependants.
  • Kids are usually dependent on their parents till they can earn enough to support themselves.

Licence (noun) – permission to do something
License (verb) – give permission to

  • You must get a driving licence.
  • This shop is licensed to sell tobacco.

Disease (noun) – illness of body, mind
Decease (noun) – death

  • Cholera is a terrible disease.
  • The deceased means the dead people.

Difference (noun)
Deference (noun) – respect

  • There is no difference between this and that.
  • He is very polite to his parents and treats them with great deference.

Assent (noun) – give one’s agreement to
Ascent (noun) – way up

  • He gave his assent to the proposal.
  • The temple is at the top of the hill and the ascent is very steep.

Illicit (adjective) – unlawful
Elicit (verb) – get an answer from somebody

  • Liquor made without a licence is illicit.
  • I asked him many questions to elicit what had really happened.

Eminent (adjective) – distinguished
Imminent (adjective) – likely to come or happen soon

  • People whose names are familiar to everyone are not necessarily eminent.
  • He is an eminent scholar.
  • The sky is heavily clouded, so rain seems imminent.

Illusion (noun) – false idea or belief
Allusion (noun) – hint

  • It is an illusion to think that the sun moves across the sky.
  • He did not make a single allusion to the examination results in his speech.
  • W B Yeats makes several allusions to Indian mythology in his poems.

President (noun) – head of a state or organization
Precedent (noun) – taken as an example of or as a rule for what comes later

  • He is the President of the United States.
  • I will let you do this now, but don’t take it as a precedent. I will not let you do this again.

Adverse (adjective) – hostile
Averse (adjective) – harbouring dislike to

  • The officer was not promoted because there was an adverse report against him.
  • He is not averse to violent methods.
  • Which cat is averse to fish?

Accelerate (verb) – increase the speed
Expedite (verb) – assist and hasten the progress of

  • He suddenly accelerated the car; it shot forward and soon disappeared from view.
  • All steps have been taken to expedite the formation of the new state.

Application (noun) – the process of applying, enforcement
Implication (noun) – meaning implied but not explicitly stated

  • The application of the tax measures will cause hardship to the middle class.
  • The implications of his statement are far-reaching.

Ancient (adjective) – very old
Antique (adjective) – old-fashioned

  • Some people harp on the ancient glory of Indian culture.
  • In the museum we have some remarkable relics of antique sculpture.

Apprehend (verb) – grasp, get a hold on the meaning of a thing
Comprehend (verb) – understand fully

  • I can apprehend the bare principles of the Theory of Relativity but I cannot comprehend the full implications of that theory.

Amiable (adjective) – lovable
Amicable (adjective) – friendly

  • His amiable qualities endear him to everybody.
  • We have arrived at an amicable settlement of the dispute.

Adapt (verb) – make something suitable to or for a purpose
Adopt (verb)

  • Success often depends on your ability to adapt yourself to changing circumstances.
  • The merchant who had no children of his own adopted John as his heir.

Avert (verb) – turn away, ward off
Invert (verb) – turn upside down

  • We must make every effort to avert a Third World War.
  • He inverted the bottle to show that there was not a drop left.

Advise (verb)
Advice (noun)

  • I advised him to study law.
  • His advice was helpful.

Affection (noun) – love
Affectation (noun) – pretence

  • He has great affection for his mother.
  • I hate affectation in speech and manner.

Canvas (noun)
Canvass (verb) – request votes

  • This tent is made of canvas.
  • The candidates have been vigorously canvassing the support of the voters.

Childlike (adjective) – like a child
Childish (adjective) – immature

  • He has a childlike simplicity about him.
  • His conduct is extremely immature.

Congenial (adjective) – suitable, agreeable
Congenital (adjective) – from birth

  • In congenial surroundings a child’s mind develops very well.
  • His blindness is congenital.

Capture (verb) – seize
Captivate (verb) – fascinate

  • He was captured by his enemies.
  • He was captivated by her beauty.

Compliment (noun) – expression of regard
Complement (adjective) – that which completes

  • Please, convey my compliments to your brother.
  • The ship has its full complement of sailors.

Confident (adjective) – sure
Confidential (adjective) – trusted, secret

  • I am confident of success this time.
  • I shall tell you something, but keep it confidential.

Comprehensive (adjective) – exhaustive
Comprehensible (adjective) – understandable

  • This book gives a comprehensive account of the whole of English grammar.
  • You must present your ideas in a lucid and comprehensible manner.

Confirm (verb) – ratify
Conform (adjective) – comply with

  • The decisions of the board were later confirmed by the minister.
  • This practice does not conform to the rules laid down by the committee.

Eligible (adjective) – qualified
legible (adjective) –readable

  • You are not eligible for the post.
  • Write legibly.

Facilitate (verb) – make easy
Felicitate (verb) – congratulate

  • Audio-visual aids will facilitate the teaching of science subjects.
  • We held a meeting to felicitate the winners.

Graceful (adjective) – full of grace
Gracious (adjective) – full of kindness

  • She looked graceful.
  • The princess was very gracious and readily agreed to preside over the women’s conference.

Industrial (adjective) – pertaining to industry
Industrious (adjective) – hard-working

  • India’s industrial development in recent years has been remarkable.
    Industrious students should be encouraged and rewarded.

Ingenuous (adjective) – frank, open
Ingenious (adjective) – clever

  • His ingenuous nature has made him popular.
  • He has made an ingenious device that can make sugar out of coal.
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Manjusha Nambiar

I am the founder and editor of http://www.perfectyourenglish.com, http://www.ielts-practice.org, and http://ncertguides.com

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