Commonly Confused Words: We’re not sure where were you planning wear that!

There is no end to confusion regarding this troublesome set and the English language has only itself to blame. Indeed, between wear, we’re, were, and where we have no less than three example of all the things that make English pronunciation so confusing. You are in luck, however – with us at your side we can help you make sense of this madness in no time!

Wear vs Where
Don’t let their distinct spellings mislead you – despite their differences both of these words rhyme with bear. That aside, however, these two have little in common. Wear, for example, is a verb related to clothing or use – “nurses wear uniforms,” for example – while where can be either an adverb used to start a question or a conjunction used to add geographic detail to a noun clause. For example, we might as “Where do you buy bread?” or say “A bakery is a place where you buy bread.” As one is related to clothing (wear) and the other to location (where) it should be pretty easy to tell them apart!

We’re vs Were
Unlike wear and where, this troublesome twosome does not sound at alike – we’re rhymes with here while were rhymes with, despite its appearance, fur – but their similar spellings do make them hard to tell apart on paper. This is especially true in the error-prone realm of texting. Just remember, though, that were is the past tense of are (“we were tried after the grammar lesson”) while we’re is not one word but two: we are (“we’re tired of studying grammar”).

Whine vs Wine
The extra h does not change the pronunciation of the five-letter whine – it is pronounced the exact same way as its four-letter soundalike – but it certainly changes the meaning! That is because while whine can be either a verb, meaning to complain, or the kind of sound produced by complainers, wine is only one thing: a delicious drink. Thus while you might whine about a lack of wine you should never confuse the two!

Be sure to visit our commonly confused words main page to find additional practice!


Commonly Confused Words: Lose Weight, Not Your Way!

bathroom scaleAs we have discussed before, the vagaries of English pronunciation mean that a large number of English words sound the same but look complete different. There are many famous culprits – the “there” (with their and they’re) at the beginning of this sentence is just one example – but few words have as many homophones as weigh and its related parts of speech. With luck, though, this quick explanation should help take the weight of worry off your mind:

Way vs Weigh

Despite the fact that one has three letters and the other five, both of these words rhyme with “pay” – although apart from this common ground they have little else in common. Way, for example, is a noun which is similar in meaning to “manner or style” and can also be used to indicated direction (“one way”). Weigh, by contrast, is a verb – weight, below, is the noun – that is used to measure the total amount of pounds or kilograms something has. Thus we could say that “one way to weigh fruit is to use a scale.”

Wade vs Weighed

Again, although these two verbs both sound the same – both rhyme with shade– they are otherwise quite distinct. Wade, for example, is the action of moving slowly, as if through water, while weighed is simply the past tense of the verb weigh we discussed above.  To keep things straight, just consider the context: while water can be weighed, only people wade through water!

Wait vs Weight

Having discussed the first two soundalikes already, the second member of this set should look pretty familiar. While weight, as noted above, is a noun used to refer to the amount that results from weighing, wait can be both a noun and a verb. As a verb it means to “delay or stall” while as a noun it refers to the period of time of that delay. Thus we might say “I need to wait before I check my weight” or “Because the line was so long, the wait to check my weight took a while.”

Don’t forget to check our main page for more examples of commonly confused words!


Commonly Confused Words: The Six Ws

witchIn English we use the expression “the five w’s” when we want to make sure we have asked – or addressed – all of the questions at hand. Corresponding to the first initials of the language’s most common question words – who, what, where, when, and why – this interrogative set also serves as a useful reference point for another set of “w” words that raise no end of questions for many English speakers. While we have six, not five, we hope our discussion will help make things easier for you just the same!

Weak vs Week (Weakly vs Weekly)

Both of these soundalikes rhyme with “cheek” but, this aside, they could not be more different. Weak, for example, is an adjective which means the opposite of strong (powerless), while week is simply a noun referring to a group of seven days. Interestingly enough, though, adding an –ly to both of these words further changes them: weakly, meaning “feebly” is a adverb used to modify verbs and weekly becomes an adjective used to describe something that occurs ever seven days. Thus, while “you might still be weak after only a week at the gym, if you go weekly before long you will do few things weakly.”

Weather vs Whether

It is no wonder that these two are so often confused: given that they sound so similar (both rhyme with feather) it can be difficult even for native speakers to use them correctly. The trick is simple, though: only weather, with an a, is the correct spelling for the noun that is related to rain, snow, and other conditions outside. Whether, by contrast, is simply an adverb used in conjunction with possibilities and cannot stand alone in the same way as weather. Consider this sentence as both an example and a good memory trick: “The weather is so uncertain that I can’t tell whether if it will rain or not.”

Which vs Witch

The independence of words can help you distinguish between these two as well. Though both words rhyme with ditch, only witch can really stand alone in a sentence. As a noun meaning “meaning sorceress or enchantress” it has a lot more power in a sentence than which, a word that can be used to begin a question or add detail to another part of a sentence. Thus we might ask “Which witch cast the spell which turned you into a frog?”

Head over to our commonly confused words main page for more examples!


Commonly Confused Words: Pronoun Confusion

questionsA keen eye for detail will come to your aid as you try to navigate the confusing world that is English pronouns. Although even many natural speakers confuse these words, too, well-educated ones don’t and you shouldn’t either. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

Who’s vs Whose
Despite the fact that these two sound almost identical – a native speaker would be hard-pressed to tell them apart – they are used in fundamentally different ways. That’s because who’s is the contraction of “who is” while whose is a possessive word used in much the same way as “which” (except for people instead things). That means we could say “Whose car is that in the driveway” or “Who’s in charge here?” but never vice-versa.

Who vs Whom
Although these two look similar, the extra “m” on whom makes a big difference. That’s because who is used as a subject pronoun and whom is used as an object pronoun. While that might seem confusing at first, it really is simple once you get the hang of it. After all, as a subject pronoun who can replace other pronouns like “I, he, and they” while whom would replace object pronouns like “me, him, and them.” Continue reading “Commonly Confused Words: Pronoun Confusion”


Where Were You Planning To Wear That?

Stack female hats 475548561As we have seen in our parts of our commonly confused word blog series, sometime words are confused because they sound alike (i.e., homophones) and sometimes they are confused simply because of carelessness. As the following examples shows, both reasons are to blame in the case of Where, Wear, Were, and We’re.

Where

Where is an adverb that is used to refer to a location. Here is an example of how to use it correctly:

Example: Where are you going?

Note: As an adverb of location, where is similar to the word “there.” This goes a long where to explaining why the two words are spelled the same.

Wear

Though wear is a homophone of where (both rhyme with “air” and “hair”), wear is a verb meaning to put on or tire out. For example:

Example: I like to wear hats to fancy dinner parties. Continue reading “Where Were You Planning To Wear That?”


I, too, want to understand it as well as you two!: Two vs Too vs To

Vintage paper tickets 177559076Little things can sometimes cause big problems and this is equally true in English as in life in general. As this installment of our commonly confused words blog series demonstrates, one small change between three homophones may not change their spelling but definitely changes how they are used!

Two vs Too vs To:

Two

In order to clearly come to terms with these sound-alikes it is probably best to start with the simplest: two. Two is the number after one and before three, no more and no less. Thus we would use it as follows:

Example:  I want two tickets for the concert, please.

Note: You can remember that two is used only to refer to the number by thinking of all of the words in English which refer to doubles and begin with tw: twin, twice, etc. Continue reading “I, too, want to understand it as well as you two!: Two vs Too vs To”


Mind your Ps (and Qs!) – Words That Sound The Same

Colorful font letter P460841711While some English expressions – like “it’s raining cats and dogs” – seem a bit random (why, after all, do we use pets to describe a heavy downpour?) the origins of other seem almost obvious. It is almost as though the creators of “mind your p’s and q’s” had English language students in mind when they selected those two letters. After all, given that this expression means “to be extra careful,” it is especially good advice when you consider how many commonly confused words start with just these two letters. Consider p, which has two examples of homophones of words that sound the same but are written with three completely spellings!

Peek vs. Peak vs. Pique

Although all three versions of this homophone rhyme with “sneak,” the similarities end there. The double e peek, for example, is a verb while the other two are both noun. As such their meanings differ wildly. While peeking is similar in meaning to spy, a peak is simply the highest point of an object (be it a profit or mountain). Meanwhile, the five-letter pique is a horse of a different color entirely: it is the word used to describe a frustrated outburst. This can be confusing even for native speakers so try to keep things straight with the following example sentence: “The exhausted climber had a pique when he peeked the faraway peak.” Continue reading “Mind your Ps (and Qs!) – Words That Sound The Same”


A Little “M-phasis” is all that’s you need!

'yes, no, maybe - hesitation concept'100843120In English, it’s important to pay close attention to the details. Indeed, small details have big implications for the language. Consider the following example as both proof and a reason to be extra careful when using the language:

Maybe vs May Be

These two look-alikes not only sound the same they are, in fact, the same – apart from a very important space, that is. Still, a space can make a big difference! The no-space maybe is an “adverb” that means “perhaps” while the two-word may be is actually two verbs and is equivalent in meaning to “might be.”* While both can be used to express uncertainty, they are used differently as the following example illustrates: “I’m not sure but it may be that a maybe is worse than an outright no!” Continue reading “A Little “M-phasis” is all that’s you need!”


“M”ore Sound-Alikes!

Colorful font letter M460842035Though it may not always seem so, the English language favors short words over long ones. This is a mixed blessing for language learners. While short words are easier to remember and easier acquire than long ones – consider German, a language famous for lengthy nouns, an example of the contrary – this it also makes homophones – words that sound alike, like read and red – quite common. The letter M alone has two examples where no less than three words sound the exact same! Fortunately it is easy enough to keep them apart with just a bit of practice.

Meat vs Meet vs Mete

Despite the fact that these three words sound exactly the same – all rhyme with neat or sheet – they mean entirely different things. They are even different parts of speech! Meat with an a, for example, is a noun which refers to “flesh” (as in steak) while the other two are both verbs. The more common meet is used when you “encounter someone for the first time” while the less common mete means “to measure or distribute.” While context usually keeps the noun from the verbs, the fact that the spelling of the second verb “distributes” one e on either side of the “t” can help you keep them apart.

Metal vs Medal vs Mettle

While an expert ear can tell that these three nouns are pronounced slightly differently, for all intents and purposes they sound almost identical. Sound and meaning are different, however! A metal, for example, is a hard substance such as iron or steel while a medal is a flat disk made of metal given as a reward. Meanwhile, the longer mettle is roughly equivalent to “courage”. This can all be a bit confusing so try this helpful phase to keep things clear: Heroes often receive metal medals for their mettle! It might sound like a tongue-twister but it is also a clear way to see how each form is used!

Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.


Everyday mistakes happen every day!

presenter guy 90367946Sometimes it is not even a spelling difference that causes a word to change meaning. Take, by way of example, the confusion created by “everyday” and its look-alike cousin “every day.” The difference between every day and everyday is not so much what is there but rather what is not there: the space! Such seeming insignificance conceals an important difference that is all too often made by both native and non-native students.  As it is, it is hard to know who is bothered more by this pair: the students making the mistake or the English teachers who have to correct it!

Fortunately, we are pleased to report that, despite its reputation for being one of the most confusing parts of English grammar, this is something you can clear up on your own in no time. After all, one word or two, though they are pronounced the same way (although with a small pause between the two words in every day), they do mean quite different things and every appear in different parts of the sentence!

What Does Everyday Mean?

Everyday (one word) is an adjective that means “routine, common, ordinary.” As an adjective, it appears before the noun it describes (in much the same way as the adjective “fast” comes before the noun “man” in the sentence “the fast man was hard to catch.”)

What Does Every Day Mean?

Every day (two words), meanwhile, is a combination of the adjective “every” and the noun “day“ and as a result has the same meaning as “each day.” Thus it usually appears at the end of a sentence to add emphasis. For example, “we study English every day” tells us not only who studies (we) but how often (every [each] day).

Every Day versus Everyday

Finally, to keep it straight, consider our example sentence: “it is an everyday occurrence that it occurs every day.” You can translate this as “it is a common occurrence that occurs each day” and if you do you will be well on your way to using them correctly (especially if you practice every day)!

Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.