Commonly Confused English Words--Are You Bored or Boring?

Commonly Confused English Words–Are You Bored or Boring?


English has many words with similar spellings and similar pronunciations, but with different meanings. It is easy for someone learning English to confuse some of them. Today I talk about 15 commonly confused English words. I give you definitions, parts of speech, and example sentences. At the end there is a download to give you practice in understanding the meanings of these commonly confused words.

Below are 15 commonly confused words in English. These are words that you may use often, but you may wonder if you are using them correctly. Many native English speakers also have difficulty using some of these words correctly, so you are not alone.

  1. accept, except

    Accept  is a verb. It means to agree to something or to be admitted into something such as a university.

When you install a new program on your computer, you have to accept the terms and conditions.

I hope the university accepts me.

Except  is a preposition. It means but.

Everyone except my sister was invited to the party.

2. advise, advice

Advise  is a verb meaning to give someone a suggestion or a recommendation. The letter “s” has a “z” sound.

My parents advised me to get a good education.

Advice  is a noun. It is a suggestion or a recommendation.

My advice to you is to get a good education.

3. affect, effect

These words are very confusing, even to native English speakers. The sound almost exactly the same, but their meaning are different.

Affect  is a verb. It means to influence someone or something.

The El Niño weather pattern affects how much snow we have in the winter.

Effect  is a noun. It means the result of something.

The cough medicine had a strong effect on Ana. It made her so sleepy that she could not drive.

4. be, have

These verbs are usually easy for native English speakers, but people learning English often have trouble with them.

Be  , in English, is used to talk about your age or how you feel.

I am  28 years old. We never say ” I have 28 years.”

I am cold and hungry.

Have  is used to talk about something you own or have control over.

I have 3 children.

My cousin has  a new car.

5. beside, besides

Beside  means next to. It is a preposition.

When you set the table, place the fork beside the plate.

Besides  means also or in addition to.It is also a preposition.

Besides my rent and my utilities, I have to pay on a loan for my car.

6. bored, boring

These words are both adjectives. They are very commonly confused by English language learners.

Bored  is a feeling you have when there is nothing interesting or fun to do.

Ahmed was bored last week because there was nothing good on TV and all his friends were busy.

Boring  describes something such as a class or a movie. You can describe a person as boring if he or she is never enjoyable to be around, but you don’t want to describe yourself as boring!

My economics class is boring because the professor never has any expression in his voice.

7. customer, client

Both these words are nouns. A customer  uses a business, but has no long term relationship with the workers there.

When you shop in the supermarket, you are a customer. This is because the workers may change, but it doesn’t matter.

A client  is someone who has a long term more personal relationship with a business or a professional such as a doctor, dentist, or accountant.

Mr. Smith is a lawyer with many clients.

8. expect, wait

Expect  is a verb. It means that you think something specific will happen.

I expect it to be warm next week.

Wait  is also a verb. We use this when we decide not to do something until something else happens.

I don’t like waiting in line, but if I leave, I’ll lose my place.

9. fun, funny

Fun  can be either and adjective or a noun. As an adjective, it describes something that is enjoyable. As a noun, it means an experience that is enjoyable.

I went to fun party last night, and I had fun there.

Funny  is an adjective. We use it to describe something that makes us laugh.

The movie I saw last night was so funny that I couldn’t stop laughing.

10. its, it’s

Its  is a possessive adjective. It means “belonging to it.”

The dog wagged its tail.

It’s  is a contraction of the pronoun it and the verb is. It means it is.

It’s cold outside today!

11.  lend, loan, borrow

Lend  is a verb. I means  someone gives something such as money for a short time, and they expect to get it back.

Can you lend me $10 for lunch? I left my wallet at home.

Loan  can be a verb or a noun. As a verb, it means the same as lend. As a noun, it is the money that someone lent you.

Can you loan me your car? Mine is broken.

The bank gave me a loan so I could buy my car.

Borrow  is a verb. It means that you take something such as money from someone else, but you must give it back.

I borrowed money from the bank when I bought my house.

12. listen, hear

Both of these are verbs. Listen   means that you are intentionally doing something.

He enjoys listening to music.

Hear  means that sounds came to your ears, but you didn’t no do anything o put them there.

When I was driving home I heard a siren.

13. miss, lose

Both of these are verbs. Miss  for events, opportunities, or public transportation.

I was late and I missed my bus.

I missed the chance to get a better job because I did poorly during the interview.

We use lose  for objects that we own.

I can’t see anything because I lost my glasses.

14. point, period, dot

These are all nouns. Point  is a math term. We use it with decimals.

Pi is defined as three point one four (3.14).

Period  is a writing term. It is the dot that does at the end of a sentence.

Always put a period at the end of a sentence.

Dot  is an internet term.

My brother’s e-mail address is joe@email dot com ([email protected]).

15. take, bring

Both of these are verbs. Many native English speaker make mistakes using these verbs.

Take  means to transport or carry something from where you are to somewhere else.

I need to take some dinner to a sick friend.

Bring  means that someone transports or carries something from somewhere else to you.

When I was sick, someone brought  me dinner.

You now know some of the most common easily confused words in English. If you learn these words well, you will know some things that even native English speakers don’t know, and you will make fewer errors in your spoken English. The download will give you some additional practice.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idioms of the Day

  1. To put your foot in your mouth  . This means to say something inappropriate. She put her foot in her mouth when she said she didn’t like her boss, and then saw that her boss was in the room.
  2. To get up on the wrong side of the bed  . This means to be in a very bad mood for no apparent reason. My boss must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, because he yelled at everyone all day.

Now it’s your turn! I packaged all of this vocabulary into some flashcards for you to study. Test yourself on this commonly confused English words with the flashcards below:

Do you want to learn about other confused words in English? Check this post!

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