Often Misused Words

Explain to

After explain we use to when we talk about a person to whom something needs to be explained (explain to somebody). If we talk about the thing that needs to be explained, we do not use to (explain something).

I explained my problem to her.
Can you explain to me how to reproduce your issue?

Call Me on the Phone 

Use call me on the phone or phone me instead of  call me by the phone.

Some and Any 

We use some in positive sentences with plural or uncountable nouns. 
We use any in negative sentences and questions with plural or uncountable nouns. 
However, we use some when we're offering something or asking for something. 

I have some problems. I need some time. 
I don't have any candy. I didn't get any information. 
Do you have any money? 
Would you like some coffee? 

Accept vs. Except 

Accept is a verb meaning to agree, to say yes to something. Except is usually a preposition meaning excluding. 

I will accept all the packages except that one. I would like to accept your invitation. 
Please except that item from the list. 

Although, Though, Despite, In Spite Of 

These words have the same meaning. In informal speech though is more common.
After (al)though we need to use a phrase, not just a noun. 
If you want to use a noun, use the phrase in spite of or despite. 

(Al)though I don't like him, I agree that he's a good manager. 
Despite the rain, I had a great time. 

As well, Either, Too, Neither 

As well and too are used for positive sentences. Neither and either — for negative ones.

You like this stuff, I like it as well. I like it, too.
We do not spam people as we do not like to be spammed either. 
You don't like this stuff. Neither do I. I don't like it, either. 

Affect vs. Effect 

Affect is usually a verb meaning to influence. Effect is usually a noun meaning a result. Effect can also be a verb meaning to bring about. 

The drug did not affect the disease, and it had several adverse side effects. 
Only the president can effect such a dramatic change. 

Adapt vs. Adopt

Adapt means to adjust, make suitable, remodel. Adopt means to accept, receive as one's own. 

The children were able to adapt to their new surroundings quickly. This couple is planning to adopt a child. 
The company plans to adopt the new guidelines. 

Advice vs. Advise

Advice is a noun and to advise is a verb. Advice is uncountable, we cannot say advices

I advised him to go to the doctor. 
I gave him some advice. I have him a few pieces of advice. 

Complement vs. Compliment 

Complement means to complete or supplement something. Compliment means to praise or express courtesy. 

The new data sheet will complement the other pieces of collateral. 
He took the time to compliment her on her work. He paid her a compliment. 

Criteria vs. Criterion 

The word criteria is the plural form of the word criterion

The only criterion he set was that they complete the work on time. 

Lie vs. Lay 

Lie is an irregular verb meaning to recline or rest on a surface. Its three forms are lie, lay, lain
Lay is an irregular verb meaning to put or place an object somewhere. Its principal parts are lay, laid, laid
Lie is also a regular verb meaning to tell something which is not true. Lie-lied-lied. 

Chickens lay eggs. This chicken has laid two eggs this week. 
I lie down when I am tired. I lay down on the bed. 
He lied to me when he told me about his past. 

Assure, Ensure, Insure

Assure means to convince, to guarantee, to tell someone that something is certain. 
Insure means to guard against loss, it's the verb form of the noun insurance
Ensure means to make sure. 

I assure you of my good intentions. Tony assured me that the project was going to be completed on time. 
Please insure this package. I want to insure my life. 
Ensure that you lock your car. (Make sure that...) 

Precede vs. Proceed

Proceed means to go on, continue.
Precede means to go before something. 
She could not proceed with printing the document until the printer was fixed. 
The speech by the CEO was going to precede the employee awards presentation. 

Than vs. Then 

Than is used in comparisons. 
Then is an adverb which means “after that”. 
That pizza is more than I can eat. 
Tom laughed, and then we recognized him. 


Instead, It's better to write the word use
Here's a definition of the word utilize.  

Weather vs. Whether 

Weather is what the meteorologist always predicts wrong. 
Whether is used when making a choice or to connect two independent sentences. 

He asked me whether the weather would be nice the following day. 

Which, That, Who 

Which is used to describe a thing. Do not use it for people. 

I saw a bus which was full of people. 

Who is used for people. 

He's the man who helped me last week. 

That can be used and for people and for things. It is less formal. 

I saw a bus that was full of people. 
He's the man that helped me last week. 

If the defining clause is not essential and can be dropped from the sentence, we separate it by commas on either side. In this case, we cannot use that. If the clause is separated by commas, use who for people and which for things. 

The typewriter that/which is on my desk is the best of all my typewriters. 
Her thesis, which proposed an alternate tool, will be finished in September. 
Her father, who was a scientist, was a really wise man. 

They, Their, They're 

To, Too, Two 

Raise vs. Rise

Rise means to go up.  It is irregular. The three forms are rise—rose—risen

The sun is rising. (By itself, no one is helping.) 

Raise means to lift something up. We need an object for this verb. It is a regular verb. 

I raised my hand. (My hand is the object of the action) 

Say, Tell, Speak, Talk 

There are some phrases which we just need to remember. Here are some of them.