Confusing words in English with examples +video

What are the most common confusing words in English ? How to memorize them and use them correctly in our conversations? Stay with us in this article to learn about the commonly confusing words in English that many beginner and even intermediate students use  incorrectly in their sentences.

Pay attention to these sentences and try to fill in the gaps:

  • He was feeling …..
  1. A) lonely     B) lonesome     C) alone
  • He wanted to go out …..
  1. A) alternatively     B) alternately
  • He decided to call his friends and go out …..
  1. A) all together     B) altogether     C) all to gather

They seem quite confusing, right? As we mentioned,  one of the challenges of English language learners is the existence of similar words in English that make them use them incorrectly in their speaking and writing. In this lesson, we are going to talk about 5 sets of confusing English words. So, Stay with us!

confusing words in English

1.   English confusing words: alone / lonely / lonesome / loner / lone

What are the differences between these words? First, let’s look at this sentence:

  • I feel ….. and I need to talk to someone.

Do you know which word would fit into this gap? That’s correct!😎

Lonely or lonesome. But why?🤔

Alone means without other people around you, being physically alone.

For example:

  • I wanna be alone right now, go out of my room.

We can emphasize the word “alone” using “all” (all alone). For example:

  • After his wife died, he was all alone! (he was really alone)

Both “lonely” and the informal version (lonesome) have the same meaning. Which is to feel alone and sad because of being alone.


alone and lonely difference



So this is talking about a feeling. You may not be physically alone and there might be other people around you but you may feel lonely.

  • I feel lonely / lonesome since my friend has moved away. (I’m feeling sad because my friend is not around)

“Lone” means the only one in a place or situation.


For example:

  • He was the lone survivor of the crash!

Instead of “lone” you can use “solitary” which has the same meaning.

  • He was the solitary survivor of the crash.

Somebody who likes to do things on their own and who prefers to be alone all the time is a loner. Instead of “loner” you can use “lone wolf” as well.

  • I was always a loner / lone wolf in high school.

Now you know the differences between the first set of confusing words in English in this set. Let’s move on to the other set.


2.   also / too / as well

These words all have the same meaning and are another set of confusing words in English that you should remember. But how can you complete this sentence using these words?

  • I can sing, and I can …. Play the guitar.

To complete this sentence, you should use “also” and although the two other words have the same meanings, they cannot be used here. But why?🤔

“Also” is used with the verb and it often goes in the mid-position.


For example:

  • He not only plays well, but he also sings beautifully.

“Sing” is the verb and “also” is before the verb.

“he” is the subject and “also” is in the mid-position between the subject and the verb.


However, we should use “as well” and “too” at the end of the sentence.


  • I can sing and I can play the guitar, too.
  • I can sing and I can play the guitar, as well.

Another difference is that we can use “also” at the beginning of a sentence, but not “too” and “as well”.


For example:

  • Milan is beautiful. Also, it has amazing food. (we can’t use “too” or “as well” in here)
  • Milan is beautiful. It has amazing food too / as well.

Memorizing these words needs to practice them every day. Use every method that can help you improve your English level. Join


Learn more: words to describe personality

3. Confusing words in English: alternately / alternatively

The film is ….. depressing and amusing.

You should use “alternately” to complete this sentence. Let’s find out why.

Alternately means first one, then another.


For example:

  • I’m alternately happy and depressed. (first I’m happy then I’m depressed)

Alternatively is used to talk about another suggestion / possibility.


For example:

  • We can go to a Chinese restaurant, alternatively, we can stay at home and cook.

As you can see, there are two options in this sentence:

  1. to go to a Chinese restaurant.
  2. to stay at home and cook.

So, remember this set of confusing words in English and use them correctly.

4. altogether / all together

Another set of confusing words in English is altogether/all together. Look at this sentence and try to complete it.

  • That will be $52 ……., please.

In order to complete this sentence, you should use “altogether”. But why?🤔

“altogether” means completely, by considering everything.


  • Robots will cut humans out of the picture altogether. (they will erase us completely)
  • I’m not altogether sure about what I want.

We also use altogether when we want to talk about prices.

  • That’s $5.50 altogether.

“all together” means everyone or everything.

we are all together

For example:

  • They started singing all together! (everyone started singing)
  • We went to the restaurant all together.


Learn more: A complete list of the food vocabulary in English


5.   effect vs affect

Let’s talk about pronunciation first. The American pronunciation for both words is /əˈfekt/. However, the British pronunciation for the first word is /IfEkt/, and for the second word is /əˈfekt/. Now let’s look at their meanings.

  • Do you have a headache? Why don’t you take painkillers?
  • Oh, no! Painkillers don’t ……. me!

Which word in your opinion is appropriate for here?

“affect” is a verb and it means to influence and to have an impact on something. for example:

  • Both buildings were badly affected by the fire. (the fire had a very bad influence on the buildings.)
  • It is a disease that affects mainly older people. (it has its impact on the elderly)

However, “effect” is a noun and it means the result of an influence.

  • I took a pill for my headache, but it didn’t have any effect.
  • The fire had a disastrous effect on the environment.


We usually use “affect” like this to affect something.

We usually use “effect” like this   to have an effect on something.



Learn more: Get familiar with some boring words in English and their alternatives



6.   Accept vs except

First of all, let’s focus on the pronunciation. Both of these words are pronounced in the same way! (/əkˈsept/)

  • What happened between you and Jack?
  • He invited me to his birthday party. But I didn’t …… his invitation.

How should we fill in the blank? Let’s dive into the meaning section to find out.

Accept” has two meanings:

1) to agree to take something from someone. For example:

  • Do you have cash? Because they don’t accept credit cards.

2) to say yes to an offer or an invitation.

  • They offered me a job, but I didn’t accept it! (I refused to say yes)
  • I tried to invite them to my birthday party, but they didn’t accept my invitation!

“Except” means but not. For instance:

  • The museum is open every day except Mondays!
  • Everyone was there except for Emma. (everyone was at the party, but not Emma)


Learn more: How do we use health and illness vocabulary in our conversations?


7.   Sight / site / cite

All of these words are pronounced the same way! (/saɪt/).

  • Where are my keys? I can’t find them!
  • Right there! On the table. Have you lost your ……?

“Sight” means the ability to see. For example:

  • If your sight is poor, you should wear glasses. (if your ability to see is weak, you should wear glasses.)

“Cite” means to speak/ to write words taken from somebody else. For example:

  • In her article, she cited some interesting findings by a well-known author. (she wrote down the words of another author in her article and at the end of the paragraph he mentioned the name of the author.)

“Site” means the location or place of something.

  • They haven’t chosen the site for the new building yet. (They don’t know in which location they are going to construct the building.)


Learn more: The most common formal and informal words in English


8.   Advice vs advise

We pronounce “advise” like this →  /ədˈvaɪz/

We pronounce “advice” like this /ədˈvaɪs/

  • It is a very tough decision to make!
  • I think you should ask for your father’s …….

“Advice” is a noun and it means somebody’s opinion that can help you. We use this word in this structure:

  • to give advice to someone. As an example:
  • Steven gave me some good advice!

Pay close attention that “advice” is an uncountable noun. (if we want to refer to 1, we say a piece of advice. Otherwise, we should you “advice”)

  • To ask for advice

It means to try to get some advice from other people.

  • I think you should ask for his advice.

“advise” is a verb and it means to give somebody advice.

  • I think I would advise him to leave the company.
  • The doctor advised me to get plenty of rest.


Learn more: The most common business English vocabulary


9. Eminent / imminent / immanent

“Eminent” is pronounced like this  /ˈemɪnənt/

“Imminent” and “immanent” are pronounced the same way /ˈɪmɪnənt/

  • Hey! What are you reading?
  • It’s a book by George Orwell. He is a very ….. writer!

“Eminent” means famous and well-known. For example:

  • She is an eminent artist.
  • He was an eminent historian.

“Imminent” means likely to happen soon, there is the possibility of it happening any moment now.

  • The news said that an earthquake was imminent. (it’s likely to happen.)

“Immanent” means inherent, intrinsic, something that you naturally have.

  • I think kindness and generosity are immanent qualities. (I think they are in our nature.)


Let’s watch this video

10. much / many

“much” and “many” both refer to a large amount of or large number of something. however, we use “many” for countable nouns. For example:

  • Jessica doesn’t have many friends.
  • I don’t have many clothes.
  • How many people work in your company?

What are countable nouns? They are nouns that we can count like apples! We can count apples (1 apple, 2 apples …).

much” is used for uncountable nouns(like money). For example:

  • I don’t have much money.
  • I don’t have much time.
  • How much sugar do you take in your coffee?

You might have already known this tip, but here is a very important point:

We usually use “much” and “many” in negative sentences or questions. For example:

  • I don’t have much time.
  • She doesn’t have many books.
  • How many children do you have?
  • How much does it cost?

But when the sentence is positive, we use “a lot of”, “lots of” and “plenty of”. For example:

  • I have a lot of friends.
  • That is plenty of sugar in your coffee.
  • He has lots of cars and houses.

Remember that it’s not wrong to use “much” and “many” in positive sentences.

11. a few / few

This one is very confusing for most learners and many people think that they are actually the same which is not right.

“few” has a negative meaning and it shows a shortage of something. For instance:

  • Few people could speak English, so it was really difficult for me. (the number of people who could speak English was so low that it bothered me.)

“a few” has a positive meaning. For example:

  • A few people could speak English and they helped me a lot! (it has a positive meaning because they helped me.)

Let’s have a look at another example:

  • Jack has few friends. (I feel sad for him.)
  • Jack has a few friends and they will support him. (positive meaning)

12. a little / little

We usually use “few” and “a few” for countable nouns like people and if we want to talk about uncountable nouns, we should use “a little” or “little”.

“Little” has a negative meaning and means hardly any, not much. for example:

  • He has little time to finish the project. I don’t think he can make it! (he has hardly any time left and I think he will fail)

On the other hand, “a little” has a positive meaning. It means not much but enough. For example:

  • We still have a little time left. Do you wanna watch some TV?

13. each / every

These two words are among the most confusing words for English students. They both refer to something that is singular. “each” refers to individual items in one group. However, “every” refers to a group of items as a whole. Look at this example:

  • Every artist is sensitive! (we are considering artists as one group)
  • Each artist sees things differently! (we are talking about individual members of a group)

Now, have a look at this example and try to guess which of them is right:

  • Jessica wore earrings on each ear!
  • Jessica wore earrings on every ear!

The first sentence is right! Because the second sentence means that Jessica had about 8 billion earrings and put each of them on every ear in the world.

Tip: in general, when we are talking about a quantity of 2, we don’t say “every”. We say “each”. But for more than 2, we can use “every” for example:

  • Jessica wore rings on each/every finger. (since she has more than 2 fingers, both of them are correct!)

Pro tip:

Sometimes, to emphasize more, we can use them together and say “each and every”. For example:

  • We went through each and every word in the text!
  • They collected each and every plastic bottle from the beach!

14. farther / further

Both of these words talk about distance and they mean more distant. However, we use “farther” for the physical distance between two things or two places. For example:

  • How much farther is it to the airport? (how far away is the airport in terms of physical distance?)
  • It is foggy and I cannot see farther than 10 meters.

We use “further” for a figurative distance. For example:

  • I have had this book for about a year now! But I never got further than the first 5 pages.
  • We discussed the problem, but we didn’t get much further in solving it!



Let’s watch this video!



Confusing verbs in English

English with all its words and verbs, most of which are very similar! You know what’s even more confusing? Many English verbs are not only similar, but have the same meaning! What a confusing language! There are many confusing words in English that makes this language confusing for beginner and intermediate students. Let’s take a look at some of these verbs!

1. arise / rise (of confusing words in English)

  • Did any problems ….. after the argument?

You should use “arise” to complete this sentence and here is the reason why.

“Arise” means to happen or to occur.


  • If any problems arise, let me know and I will help.

“Rise” means to go up, to move up.


🔔  past form of rise rose

🔔 past form of arise arose


Have a look at this example:👇

  • The balloon rose up into the air. (it went up)
  • The sun rises at 4 am tomorrow.

The balloon rose up into the air

In this article you learned about some similar words that are confusing for many English language learners. English confusing verbs , adverbs and nouns are so challenging for many students. Remember the only way to use them correctly is to practice! You can join our online online general English course to learn about different challenges in English.

If you have challenges in learning English and want to get a good ielts score, the pocenglish IELTS online course is perfect for you!

2. “allow” and “permit “

OK. What should we do? Let’s learn the differences between allow and permit, right? That doesn’t seem difficult! Oh wait, surprise! here is another verb with the same meaning: “let”

So what are the differences?

They have the same meaning and they also have the same usage. However, there are some differences in terms of English vocabulary as well as English grammar.

Before clarifying these differences, it’s worth saying that there are two complete articles on this website that can help you level up your grammar and vocabulary skills. In One of these articles, we have talked about the ways and techniques to improve English vocabulary, and in the other, a lot of tips are introduced to help you learn English grammar like a piece of cake! We recommend you read these articles carefully and take notes. Don’t forget to practice the tips and techniques mentioned!

In terms of vocabulary, “permit” is more formal than “allow”. Therefore, if you are writing a formal text or speaking in a formal context, you may want to use “permit”.

As per grammar, if you want to use “allow” or “permit” in a sentence; you have to follow this structure.


allow / permit + object + infinitive


What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is “to + base form of the verb”.

Here are some examples for infinitives:

  • To go
  • To play
  • To see
  • To sit
  • To smoke
  • To stand up
  • To eat
  • To live

Now, let’s see how we can use allow and permit in a sentence:

  • We don’t allow/ permit people to smoke.
  • We don’t allow/permit people to stay here

Now, listen carefully: In the examples above, “we” is the subject and “people” is the object of the sentence. But sometimes, sentences don’t have an object. How should we use “allow” or “permit” if there is not object?

In that case, you should use this structure:

allow / permit + verb + ing


For example:

  • We don’t allow /permit smoking here.
  • I allow / permit using a dictionary in my class.

As you can see in the examples above, the subjects are “We” and “I”, but there are no objects. So, to sum up:

  • If the sentence has an object, use this structure: Allow/ Permit + Object + Infinitive
  • If the sentence doesn’t have an object, use this structure: Allow/ Permit + Verb + ing

What if there is no subject in the sentence?! In that case, you should use the passive form of allow or permit, which is quite common actually!

Allow and permit’s passive forms are also very common.

For instance:

  • People aren’t allowed to smoke here.
  • You aren’t permitted to board the plane without a valid passport.

OK, so those were the differences between “allow” and “permit”. How about “let”?

The differences between 3 confusing verbs,  “allow”,” permit” and “let”

If you want to be very friendly and informal; you can go with “let” instead of allow or permit.

“Permit” is the most formal among these three and “let” is the least formal.

         Degree of formality


If you want to use “let” in a sentence, you have to use this structure:


let + object + infinitive + without to



Take a look at these examples:

  • Let me buy you a drink.
  • Let him go.
  • Let Suzy think about it.

WARNING 1: A very common mistake is to use “let” with an infinitive. For example:

  • Let me to buy this!

You can only use “let” with bare infinitive (or infinitive without to):

  • Let me buy this!

WARNING 2: “let” CANNOT be used in the passive form, as opposed to “allow” and “permit”.


Another very important thing about the word “let” is that this verb does not come in the passive form.



Summary of the lesson

✅ Alone means without other people around you. To emphasize: all alone.

✅ Lonely and lonesome means to feel alone.

✅ Lone means the only one in a place or situation. Synonym: solitary

✅ A loner is somebody who likes to do things on their own. Synonym: lone wolf

✅ “Also” is used with the verb and it often goes in the mid-position.

✅ “As well” and “too” are used at the end of the sentence.

✅ We can use “also” at the beginning of a sentence, but not “too” and “as well”

✅ Alternately means first one, then another.

✅ Alternatively is used to talk about another suggestion / possibility.

✅ Altogether means completely.

✅ All together means everyone or everything.

✅ Arise means to happen or to occur. (past form: arose)

✅ Rise means to go up, to move up. (past form: rose)

✅ Effect (n) →  the result of an influence

✅ Affect (v) to influence something

✅Accept :    

To agree to take something from someone.

To agree to take something from someone.

✅ Except but not

✅ Sight the ability to see

✅ Cite to speak/to write words taken from somebody else.

✅ Site the location or place of something.

✅ Advice (n) somebody’s opinion that can help you.

✅ Advise (v) to give somebody advice.

✅ Eminent famous and well-known.

✅ Imminent likely to happen soon.

✅ Immanent →  inherent, intrinsic, something that you naturally have.

✅ We use “many” for countable nouns.

✅ We use “much” for uncountable nouns.

✅ “Many” and “much” →  negative or question forms.

✅ “A lot of”, “lots of” and “plenty of” →  positive forms.

✅ “Few”(negative) / “a few”(positive) countable nouns.

✅ “A little” (positive) / “little” (negative)  uncountable nouns

✅“Each” ‎individual items in one group.

✅ “Every” a group ‎of items as a whole.‎

✅ We use “farther” for physical distance.

✅ We use “further” for a figurative distance.



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