With more than a few words that sound the same, look the same, or actually are the same – the word “set” along has more than a dozen definitions! – English can certainly be confusing at times. Fortunately, we are here to help you spot some differences between these English words that commonly get mistaken:
Descent / Dissent
These two are as difference as their spelling (and yes, pronunciation!) reveal. Though both are nouns, descent – which is a journey in a downward direction – is pronounced with an “eh” sound of egg in the first syllable. By contrast, dissent – which means disagreement – has the “ih” sound of did. To keep these two words apart, just remember this: “there was a lot of dissent about how we should start the descent down the mountain.”
What a delicious difference a letter can make! Though again both desert and dessert are nouns,* they mean wildly different things. For example, the “single s desert” is a dry, sandy place while the “double s dessert” is the sweat treat after a meal. To help you remember the difference, just think of the second s as the cherry on top of your sundae: it is the little extra that makes all the difference!
* Desert can also be a verb that means “to abandon” as in the following sentence: the traitor deserted his squadron in the middle of the battle.”
Device / Devise
These two words are cousins but don’t let that trip you up. A device (noun) is a tool or machine while to devise (verb) is to plan or create. Moreover, as the spelling of device suggests, it rhymes with “ice” while devise rhymes with “eyes” – a small but crucial difference. To help you remember, just try to “devise a device to make ice” and you will be well on your way!