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 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 meaningto recline or rest on a surface’. Its three forms are ”lielaylain”.

Lay is an irregular verb meaning ‘to put or place an object somewhere. Its principal parts are “laylaidlaid”.

Lie is also a regular verb meaning to tell something which is not true’. “Lieliedlied“.

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:


Instead, it's better to write the word “use.

Here's a definition of the word “utilize.

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.

They, Their, They're

To, Too, Two

Raise vs. Rise

Say, Tell, Speak, Talk