Commonly Confused Words in English

February 13, 2020 | 5 Years Past Papers | 0 comments

English is a tricky language to learn. Confusing spellings and numerous exemptions to grammar rules are just some complaints that first-time English learners have. Not to mention words with different meanings that sound exactly the same!

On the other hand, English is easy to learn in a lot of ways. Unlike other languages, there is no gender. Aside from that, the grammar rules, while they may seem difficult, are quite easy to get a hold of with enough practice.

So, we are here to help make learning English easier for you. If you are trying to learn English for the first time, or trying to improve your English language skills for the final exam, you may be facing these common confusions.

Here are some of the most commonly confused words in English. After reading this article, you should be able to understand where and when to use each word. This will make spoken and written English much easier for you. Moreover, it will score you extra marks on the final exam!

Affect vs Effect

Mixing these words up is common amongst students on the final exam for English. Put simply, “affect” is a verb and means “to change or alter”. In contrast, “effect” is a noun and means “the result of an action”.

So, for example:

“Encouragement had a positive affect on her confidence” — Confidence was the result of encouragement

“The effect of the earthquake was destruction” — The earthquake caused destruction

“Affect” can also be used to describe influence, while “effect” is the influence. This can be tricky to understand, so the rule of thumb that first-time English learners can follow is that “affect” is an action that comes first, and leaves an “effect” on the situation.

Sentences with “affect”:
  1. Anger affects your ability to make logical decisions
  2. Studying will affect your result
  3. The rain affects the cotton crop harvest


Sentences with “effect”:
  1. The hunger strike had a bad effect on his health
  2. Pollution has a negative effect on the environment
  3. In effect of the meeting, the policies have been changed

To vs Too

These words are so similar that there is only a one-letter difference between them! However, they have very different meanings that English learners must understand. Put simply, “to” is a preposition that usually relates to a direction. On the other hand, “too” is an adverb that can mean “in addition”, “as well”, or “excess”.

So, for example:

“She walked to school” – She walked in the direction of school

“She ate too much sugar” – She ate sugar in excess

“To” is an extremely versatile word. It is often used to show the relationship between words, and it may also be used to show a range between two things. In fact, the word “to” shows up in many sentences for different purposes. “Too” is also an important word, but it is not as versatile. It can be used as a synonym for “as well”, and is commonly used to show exaggeration.

Sentences with “to”:
  1. She owned between 5 to 10 pairs of shoes
  2. The house belonged to her
  3. He had to go to the airport at 8:00AM
Sentences with “too”:
  1. He had a fever too
  2. There were too many rules to follow
  3. She too ate too many sweets


Than vs Then

Confusing these two words is common amongst first-time English learners. The major point of difference is that “than” is used when making comparisons. On the other hand, “then” is used when talking about something related to time.

So, for example:

“The orange was juicier than the apple” — Comparing the orange and apple

“The apple was not ripe then” — The apple was not ripe at that time

In most cases, “then” is considered an adverb when talking about time-related actions. It can also be used as a noun when used to mean “that time”. It may also be used as an adjective meaning “at that time”. In contrast, “than” is a conjunction.

Sentences with “than”:
  1. Your sweater is softer than mine
  2. He is taller than I am
  3. The pasta is tastier than the pizza
Sentences with “then”:
  1. It was not the right time to speak then
  2. If you wake up late, then you will miss breakfast
  3. My then classmate is now a lawyer

This list just brushes the top of commonly confused English words. Yet understanding the differences between these common words can make it much easier to learn the language. Moreover, it will boost your reading and writing ability for the final exam. So be sure to practice using these words in different sentences to boost your English language skills!

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