Learning English vocabulary is not as easy as it may seem. Different English words often have the same spelling, the same sound, or have the same spelling and sound but with completely different meanings! Other English words sound and are spelled differently, but have similar meanings, which can be confusing. Words like tear, brake/break and desert/dessert are just a few examples.

Commonly confused English words – Things to remember:

Different spelling, same pronunciation:

A homophone is a word that has the same sound as another word but is spelled differently and has a different meaning. When learning new English words, be sure to pay attention to how the word is spelled. See if you know the differences between these common English homophones*:

  • to/too/two
  • it’s/its
  • there/they’re/their
  • your/you’re

Multiple meanings:

Some common English words have multiple meanings, which can be confusing for learners who may only be aware of one of the meanings. Here are some examples:

  • run: to move quickly, to manage, to cause a liquid to flow
  • take: to choose, to need a certain amount of time to do something, to accept, to use a form of transportation
  • break: to rupture, to rest, to interrupt or end, to give change (money)

Small differences in spelling:

Some words are so similar that it is easy to confuse them, even if they have completely different meanings. Here are some examples:

  • quiet/quite
  • desert/dessert
  • breath/breathe
  • beside/besides
  • lose/loose
  • clothes/cloths
  • fun/funny

Different pronunciation, same spelling:

Certain English words have the same spelling but different pronunciations. Here are some examples:

  • lead: to go in front of OR a metal
  • wind: to follow a course that is not straight OR a gust of air
  • close: opposite of far OR to shut
  • to/too/two: expressing motion in the direction of/also/the number after one
  • it’s/its: it is/indicates possession
  • there/they’re/their: indicates a place/they are/indicates possession
  • your/you’re: indicates possession/you are

Quiz

 

1. Choose the best word to describe the picture:

a. wait

b. weight

 

 

2. Choose the best word to describe the picture:

a. threw

b. through

 

 

3. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. stares

b. stairs

 

 

 

4. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. brake

b. break

 

 

5. Choose the best word to describe the picture:

a. sail

b. sale

c. sell

 

6. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. desert

b. dessert

 

 

7. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. heal

b. heel

 

 

 

8. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. one

b. won

 

 

9. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. flour

b. flower

 

 

 

10. Choose the best word to describe the  picture:

a. hole

b. whole

 

 

 

Answers

 

1. Choose the best word to describe the picture:

a. wait

b. weight

 

 

2. Choose the best word to describe the picture:

a. threw

b. through

 

 

3. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. stares

b. stairs

 

 

 

4. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. brake

b. break

 

 

5. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. sail

b. sale

c. sell

 

6. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. desert

b. dessert

 

 

7. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. heal

b. heel

 

 

 

8. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. one

b. won

 

 

9. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. flour

b. flower

 

 

 

10. Choose the best word to describe the    picture:

a. hole

b. whole