Often Misused Words
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 “
I advised him to go to the doctor.
I gave him some advice.
I gave 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.
Still confused? Try this:
Weather vs. Whether
“Weather” is what meteorologists always predict 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.