20 Commonly Misused Words and Expressions You Should Know

A friend shared a story in which a guy typed, “Your adorable,” and the girl wrote back, “No, you’re adorable.” And romance wasn’t on her mind.

It’s wonderful to share a joke and everyone laughs. It’s not so funny when you’re typing a serious message, and someone laughs… at you.

To avoid these unfortunate situations, brush up on these commonly misused words and expressions. You never know when knowing the difference between these word pairs can make you seem as wise as an English professor.

How many of the following misused expressions do you already know?

1 Affect/Effect

Affect: Usually a verb; meaning to impact or change something
The rainy weather affected her mood.
Effect: Usually a noun; meaning the result of a change, such as an outcome
The cultural experience had a strong effect on the topics on her podcast.

2 Afterward, Afterword

Afterward: Adverb meaning later (more common in American English whereas afterwards is more common in British and Canadian English)
She told us afterward that dinner had been great.
Afterword: Noun meaning epilogue
The novel has an afterword written by the author.

3 All ready, Already

All ready: meaning completely prepared
The musicians were all ready for the concert to begin.
Already: meaning it happened before
She already had her coat on when the door opened.

4 Among, Between

Between: used for one-to-one relationships
That secret is between you and me.
Among: for undefined or collective relationships
They divided the snacks among the children.

5 Carat, Karat, Caret

Carat: the weight of a gemstone such as a diamond
Karat: The proportion of gold in an alloy
Caret: mark on a manuscript  ‸

6 Councillor, Counselor

Councillor: someone who sits on a council, such as a city council
Counselor: a person who gives advice, such as a marriage counselor, or a lawyer

7 Deserts, Desserts

Deserts: barren areas of landscape with little precipitation; punishment or what’s deserved (just deserts)
People who intentionally hurt others will get their just deserts.
Desserts: sweet course at the end of a meal, such as cake, ice cream, or cookies
The desserts were served after the main course.

8 Emigrate, Immigrate

Emigrate: to leave the country where one used to live to live in another one
Immigrate: to enter a country to live there
He used to live in England but now he lives in the USA. He emigrated from England and immigrated to the US.

9 Flammable, Inflammable

Flammable: it can catch fire or you can set it on fire (more commonly used).
Inflammable: can burst into flames without any ignition (decreased in use in modern English). It isn’t the opposite of flammable; the opposite of flammable is nonflammable

10 Flare, Flair

Flare: a glaring light
She placed emergency flares around the stopped vehicle.
Flair: outstanding talent or stylishness
He had a flair for cooking exotic foods.

11 Hangar, Hanger

Hangar: you can find these structures housing aircraft at an airport
Hanger: you can find these holding up clothes in closets or holding up pictures on your walls

12 Healthy, Healthful

Healthy: someone who is fit
She stays healthy by exercising and eating well.
Healthful: something that causes good health
A healthful diet includes fruits and vegetables.

13 Incredible, Incredulous

Incredible: unbelievable or astonishing
They went on an incredible trip through the woods.
Incredulous: disbelieving or skeptical
He was incredulous about their claims for compensation.

14 In regard to, In regards to

In regard to: the correct expression
In regards to: remove this from your vocabulary forever

15 Less, Fewer

Less: Use for mass amounts that you cannot count
There was less water in the pond two months later.
Fewer: use for things that you can count
Fewer people are going to the movies these days.

16 Nauseous, Nauseated

Nauseous: makes you feel sick (modern English – this meaning is being used to mean nauseated as well)
The smell can make you feel nauseous.
Nauseated: condition of feeling sick
She felt nauseated.

17 Therefore, Therefor

Therefore: adverb; meaning for that reason
She wanted to buy him a nice gift; therefore, she got the more expensive one.
Therefor: adverb; in return for
I took back the book and the store gave me my money back therefor.

18 Toward, Towards

Toward: use this if you prefer American English
Towards: Use this if you prefer British or Canadian English

19 Whoever, Whomever

Whoever: subject pronoun that works the same as he, she, and they
Whoever turned on the AC in this heat is my new best friend.
Whomever: object pronoun that works like him, her, and them
Give the cake to whomever you see in the room.

20 Your, You’re

Your: the possessive form of you
Your cat is adorable. (The cat belongs to you.)
You’re: the contraction of you are
You’re adorable and your cat is adorable too. (You are adorable. So is your cat)

Bottom Line

How did you do with these commonly confused expressions?

Now that you know how to use these expressions correctly, keep a sharp eye on them and you’ll sound wise in your written correspondence!

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