A tutorial outlining some common misused words in English.
My earlier article about the use of you’re and your garnered a very large number of views. It just goes to show that many people aren’t sure about the differences - or when to use them. Of course, we all make mistakes, but I'm sure it irks you to see writers using these and other homonyms incorrectly. (A homonym is a word that’s spelled or pronounced in the same way as another word, but has a different meaning).
The article (you’re and your) linked above has those two words covered, but let’s look at a few of the other most common misused words in English. Note: these are just short explanations – meant to give you a basic understanding. As you know, there are exceptions in the English language and there’s a lot more to say about the words discussed below.
Common misused words in English
|do you know what's wrong with this picture?|
To and Too
To is a preposition. A preposition usually comes before a noun to show us the relationship it has to some other word in the sentence.
Use: She’s going to school.
Too means ‘as well as’ or ‘also’ or ‘very’.
Use: Steve is getting way too big for his boots.
Except and Accept
Many people say ‘except’ when they mean 'accept', so it’s no wonder they write the incorrect word down too. These are totally different words and cannot be used interchangeably.
Except means ‘not including’. It’s (mostly) a preposition that shows the relationship between the noun and other words in the sentence.
Use: I want them all except the blue ones.
Accept is a verb. It’s the simpler of the two to use and understand. It’s similar in meaning to ‘want to receive’.
Use: She will accept your help if only you would offer.
Their and There
Most people can use these homonyms properly in speech. However, when it comes to writing them down they’re baffled by the correct spelling and get a bit turned around.
Their is a possessive adjective which shows that something belongs to 'them'.
Use: Their home is beautiful (not there home is beautiful).
There signifies existence or the position/place of a particular thing. It’s like 'where' with a T (remember this).
The keys are right over there.
Note: They’re is merely a contraction of they and are. It puts two words together and should not be used in place of either of the above words.
Its and it’s
This one is a huge problem in the UK. I see signs in public showcasing the incorrect usage of these words. A teacher once marked my daughter’s work wrong because she had correctly used the contraction it’s (we taught her).
Its is a pronoun. You can use it if you’re referring to an animal whose gender you do not know. For example:
The cat licked its injured paw. 'Its' is put in place of ‘her’ or ‘his’ This pronoun should never be apostrophised.
It’s on the other hand is a contraction of the words it and is.
Use: It’s going to be a hot day today (it is going to be a hot day today).
Always re-read your sentence to see if you’re using it is or the pronoun. This will massively cut down mistakes.
Here are some really helpful articles I created about the art of written English. Again, they’re not in-depth. I designed them to be basic, short, to-the-point, but as helpful as possible. They’re free and easy to access. If you liked Common Misused Words in English please share it on your social networking sites.
BTW, if you still don't know what's wrong with the picture above, send me a message and I'll tell you.
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Anne's a published author, freelance writer and experienced editor. She's just signed her second publishing contract this year with 2 separate publishing houses. You can see her available books in the side panel on the right.