Grammar-QuizzesMore PracticesWriting AidsCommonly Confused

Commonly Confused Words

Summary of Practices



Quick Link: Accept v. Except | Affect v. Effect | Already v. Yet | Another–The Other | Ashamed v. Embarrassed | As it were–If you will | Awhile v. A while | Because–Though | During–In | Each other/One another | Farther–Further | Fewer v. Less | For v. Since | Get to v. Go to | If–In Case | If only–Only If | If–Unless | If / When | If–Whether | Indeed–Even | Lie–Lay | Like–As | Little v. Few | Loose v. Lose | Make v. Do | Much v. Many | Much v. More | Rise v. Raise | Say v. Tell | Sit v. Set | So that–So…that | Some v. Any | There–Their–They're | Used / (Be) Used To | When/While


Commonly Confused Words Diagnostic: identify specific points that need review

Hurricane Sandy

Quiz 1: beginning – intermediate

Quiz 2: intermediate – advanced

Accept vs. Except: Is the action one of approving or rejecting?

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

40% off discount

They accepted my 40% off coupon when I bought my TV.  (They agreed to take it.)

They excepted televisions on the back of the 40% off coupon. (TVs weren't included in the coupon offer.)

Affect vs. Effect: express an influence vs. an outcome

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Thin Cover Girls

Seeing thin models affects a young girl's self image.

An emotional effect may be self-hate or anorexia (not eating) (result)

Already v. Yet: indicate completed or delayed timing of an action

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Waiting for the bus

The bus has already been here.

We have already waited for half an hour.

The bus hasn't come yet.

I haven't waited a long time yet. 

I have yet to receive our order.  (before infinitive)

We have yet begun to fight. (without a negative)

Another vs. The Other: refer to one more vs. the rest

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

milk and cookies

She ate one.  (a cookie)

Then she ate another (one more)

Then she ate the others (the rest)

Ashamed vs. Embarrassed: express opinion on a moral vs. social error

Intermediate–Advanced ESL


She was ashamed of herself for lying.
She was embarrassed by the lie.

~He shamed himself.   (awkward)
He brought shame on his family.
He embarrassed himself.

His lying was shameful.
His lying was embarrassing
He was embarrassed by it.

As it were vs. If you will: use expressions that invite listeners to follow a particular line of thought

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Starry Night

Van Gogh's night skies were filled with stars that swirled and danced, as it were, across the canvas. ("so to speak")

Imagine, if you will, a night sky filled with tiny little brush strokes.  ("Follow my thoughts.")

Van Gogh was a talented painter, but he didn't have much of an ear, no pun intended, for music. 

Awhile v. A while: express a period of time vs. something that occurs briefly

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Taxis stuck in traffic

We've been stuck here in traffic for a while. (a period of time)

We've been stuck here in traffic awhile. (briefly, for a short period of time)


Because vs. Though: express an expected (logical) vs. a contrary outcome

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Snow travel

He wore his winter pants because it was snowing.
Schools were closed because of the cold temperature.
It was snowing.  For this reason, the schools were closed.

He was biking in his shorts though it was snowing.
The schools were open in spite of the cold temperature.
It was snowing.  Nevertheless, the schools were open.

During / In: indicate a period of time vs. a calendar time

Beginning–Intermediate ESL


We are on vacation during July.
*We went to the beach several times in our stay.

They are on vacation in July.
*They stayed there during July, not during May.

*The work has lasted during this year. (pres. perf.)
The work has lasted throughout the year.

Each other vs. One another: express a reciprocal relationship

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

self dressed

Sophie and Jim get angry at each other. 

Sophie and Jim get angry at one another.

They think each other is selfish. (sub-clausal)

*Each other is selfish.

We pass gossip to one another.

They don't care about each others' feelings.

Farther vs. Further: express comparative distance or "additional" amount

Intermediate.–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Further down the street

The shop is farther down the street.  physical distance
The shop is further down the street.  physical distance

What you say couldn't be further from the truth!  (a lie)   fig. 

Do you need any further assistance?  ("more") 
We'll help them further their cause (advance) verb 

Fewer vs. Less:  express a decreasing amount of something

Beginning–Intermediate ESL


*Do you want less lines and wrinkles on your face?
fewer lines than before / less wrinkling than before

We use fewer toxic chemicals. (number)
We use less toxic chemicals. (percentage, composition)

Less is more  (noun)



For / Since: express duration with a quantity of time vs. a specific time

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Thin Cover Girls

We have been coming to this beach for fifteen years.

We have been coming to this beach since July, 1995.

Get to vs. Go to: express opportunity vs. intent

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Party time

Today, I get to go to a birthday party next door.  (lucky situation)

I am going to go¹ to my neighbor's birthday party.  (intent)

If vs. In Case: express a condition vs a precautionary action

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


Keep some extra batteries and bottled water In case there is an earthquake.

Get away from falling objects if there is an earthquake.

If only vs. Only If: express a regretful wish vs. a particular condition for something to happen

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


If only  I had more time!

Only if  you dry your dishes with a towel, will they be spotless! (word order change)

If vs. Unless: express a specific condition for a particular outcome

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


If you cook your turkey like this, you will have a tender turkey. (if this condition is met)

Only if
you cook your turkey like this, will you have a delicious dinner. (under this condition - emphasizes this specific condition) .

you cook your turkey like this, you will have a tough turkey.(if this condition is not met)

Cook your turkey like this. Otherwise, you will have a tough turkey.(if using other methods)

If vs. When: express a singular condition vs. a recurring action

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

cloth shopping bag

If I go shopping today, I'll take a cloth bag.

If I see what I need, I'll buy it.

If we went shopping, the store would give us a bag. 

Whenever we go shopping, we walk.

If vs. Whether:  express a condition vs. an alternative option

Intermediate-Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

cell reception on a mountain top

I don't know if my mobile phone will work here. (yes?)

I don't know whether my mobile phone will work here or not. (polar: yes or no)

I don't know whether my mobile phone will work here or there. (X or Y)

Indeed vs. Even : emphasize unexpected or extraordinary details

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Gingerbread House

His work is indeed more amazing than before.

His work is even more amazing than before.

His work is in fact more amazing than before.

Lie vs. Lay: express agent vs. experiencer of the action

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Lay the baby down

The baby is lying down.

The mother is laying the baby down for a nap.

Like vs. As: express description or manner

Intermediate–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Teen Speak

My brother is like me.  (Prep. + N)

My brother thinks as I do. (Prep. + Cls)

He's smart like a fox.

He is as smart as a fox. 

Little vs. Few: specify insufficient or minor quantity for count and noncount nouns

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Glass half empty 

I have little water in my glass.
I have a little water in my glass.

I have few friends.
I have a few friends.

Loose vs. Lose: express whether something "not tight or attached" or "gone"

Beginning–Intermediate ESL, Native Speakers

loose tooth

Sophie's tooth is loose (not securely fastened)
Sophie will lose her tooth in a day or so.  (become unattached)

Sophie is loosening her tooth with her finger. (making it less tight)

Make vs. Do: Is the action "creating" or "performing"? 

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

make a cake

She is making a cake.  (is creating, preparing)
He is doing the dishes.  (is washing)

He is making travel plans.  (is arranging)
He is doing the accounts.  (performing the accounting job)

Do me a favor?

Much vs. Many: indicate quantity for count and noncount nouns

Beginning – Intermediate ESL


Not many good snacks are in the refrigerator.
Not much junk food is in the refrigerator.

Are there many good snacks in the refrigerator?
Is there much junk food in the refrigerator?

There are many good snacks in the refrigerator. (ok)
There is much food in the refrigerator. (awkward)

Much vs. More: increasing the amount of something

Beginning–Intermediate ESL


People have much more knowledge about eating right.
Many more people are eating healthier diets.

People eat too much fat, sugar and salt.
People eat too many chips, cookies and candy bars.

He is much too old for her. 
She is far too young for him.  

Rise vs. Raise: express agent vs. experiencer of the action

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers


The sun rises at 6:00 a.m. 

We raise the flag up the pole at 6:00 a.m.

The rise of the middle class was easy to predict.

My grandparents raised me. (fostered)

Did you get a raise?

Say vs. Tell:  quote something vs. report something

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Guide speaking

She said, "Hello, I am the your guide".  (quoted speech)
She told us that she was our guide.  (indirect speech)

She said "Follow me."  (request / command)
She told us to follow her.  (request / command)

Sit vs. Set:  express agent vs. experiencer of the action

Beginning–Intermediate ESL, Native Speakers

set the pup dowm

My dog is sitting outside.   (no object)

I am setting her down gently.  (requires an object)

So that vs. So…that: express purpose vs. effect

Intermediate– Advanced ESL, Native Speaker

Meteor Shower

We stayed up all night so that we could watch a meteor storm.

We stayed up late, so we were able to see the meteor storm as it passed.

Some vs. Any: refer to an indefinite quantity or number

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

tea and cookies

I'd like some tea.
I didn't get any tea.

Would you like some / any tea?

I doubt that there are any cookies here.
Not one of the shops has any tea.
I don't think that any cookies are left.

—What kind of tea is it? 
—I don't know… some tea he bought last week.

There vs. Their vs. They're: indicating location, existence or possession

Beginning–Advanced ESL, Native Speakers

Neighborhood Food Truck Events

Each week there is an event. location

Chefs prepare gourmet food-to-go. Their menus vary.

There's a new way to order lunch.

Used to vs. (Be) Used to: express former habit vs. becoming accustomed

Beginning–Intermediate ESL

Camping in a tent

We used to go camping every spring.  (We would go camping every spring).

We are used to going camping every spring.  (We do it often.)


When vs. While: Relate same-time (synchronous) activities

Intermediate ESL, Native Speaker

Talking on phone and looking at newborn

When you called, he picked up his phone. (interruption)

While he was talking on the phone, the baby slept. (same-time)


When I call, the doctor comes. (about same time)

When the doctor comes in, I ask questions.  (immediately after)

Verbal Idioms: express activities with verb-prep combinations ("phrasal verbs")

Beginning–Advanced ESL

wolf lets out a howl

Look up. 

Look up the word in the dictionary.

The airplane took off.

He took his coat off.

He took off his coat.