20 Commonly Confused Words



I recently came across this great article by Heather Bien of Apartment Therapy, where she lists the 20 most confusing words and explains the differences between the two.

Sometimes it just feels like the grammar police are out to trip you up. But luckily this list of 20 commonly confused words is one to keep bookmarked, ready to refer to next time you’re second guessing yourself on a WFH email

– Heather Bien in Apartment Therapy

Below is the Heather’s list of 20 confusing works, in-verbatim, and the difference between the two:

  • Disinterested and Uninterested: “If you are disinterested, you have zero feelings about something. You are neutral. Meanwhile, uninterested means you are actively not interested in something. You are not impartial — you don’t want to be involved.
  • Stationary and Stationery: “Stationary with an “a” means something that is stuck in place. Stationery with an “e” is the paper you use to send an invitation or write a letter.
  • Principal and Principle: “A principal is the head of a school or organization. Meanwhile, a principle is a belief that you hold to be true.
  • Penultimate and Ultimate: “If the ultimate is good, penultimate must be better, right? Not so fast. Penultimate actually means the second from the last.
  • Regardless and Irregardless. “Regardless simply means “despite everything.” Which is exactly how people use irregardless, too.
  • Collaborate and Corroborate. “Collaborate means that you’re working with another person or group on something, like a group project. Corroborate means you’re providing information that helps prove something, like a witness providing testimony to prove a defendant’s story.
  • Affect and Effect. “It’s the difference in affect, which is a verb that means to influence, vs. effect, which is a noun that refers to results.
  • Than and Then. “When you’re comparing two items, you would use than, but if you’re indicating something happened after another event, you use then.
  • Allusion and Illusion. “Allusion and illusion are similar sounding nouns, but allusion is when you indirectly refer to something without actually saying the words, and illusion is something that looks one way, but it’s actually something else.
  • Imply and Infer. “If you’re the one sharing the information, you’re implying. If you’re the one receiving information and drawing conclusions, you’re inferring.
  • Advice and Advise. “You give someone advice on what to do, which is a noun, and you advise someone on what to do, which is a verb. It’s a subtle distinction and one letter makes all the difference.
  • Hoard and Horde. “A hoard is when you have a lot of something, like a hoard of food. You can also use it as a verb, like when you hoard your favorite seasonal candy. Meanwhile, a horde is a large group of people, like a horde of Swifites waiting outside the Kansas City game.
  • Famous and Infamous. “Infamous means someone who has a terrible reputation. You do not want to be infamous. 
  • Capitol and Capital. “Capital is the broader definition. It refers to a capital city, a letter, or raising money. Meanwhile, capitol is more specifically the building where the government is — which is often in a capital city!
  • Historic and Historical. “Historic refers to something that is important or noteworthy. The historic signing of a document, for example. Historical describes something that has to do with history. For example, you could put a historical wallpaper in your historic house.
  • Farther and Further. “Farther is specific to measurable, physical distance. Further is the idea of distance from a given time, event, or space.
  • Eminent and Imminent. “Eminent means something is famous or respected, while imminent means something is about to happen in the near future.
  • Altogether and All Together. “Altogether is an adverb, while all together is a descriptive phrase, although both generally refer to something in its entirety. Think of altogether as a way to indicate that the overall feeling of something was altogether happy. Meanwhile, you would tell a group to get all together before taking a photo.
  • Among and Between. “You’re frolicking among the flowers. Meanwhile between is a more specific relationship. There is a book between the bookends.
  • Emigrate and Immigrate. “Emigrate is to move away. Meanwhile, if your best French friend moves to New York, they’re immigrating to New York, because immigrating is moving into a place.

Wow, these collections contain interesting but confusing words that require careful attention while being used.