Confusing Words Study Guide

Updated on Sep 21, 2011

Confusing Words

This study guide focuses on two categories of words: those frequently confused and those frequently abused.

Learning new vocabulary is intense work. This lesson provides a break by concentrating on two common vocabulary problems.

  1. Confused words. The English language is full of confusing word pairs—they sound similar but mean different things. How can you avoid being confused? Find out here.
  2. Abused words. Because it has inherited words from dozens of other languages, English is probably the richest language in the world. So why do we keep on using the same old words over and over again? Here you'll find out which words you probably use way too often.

Words That Confuse

Following is a list of some word pairs that are frequently confused. Pay close attention to the sample sentences in which they're used. Seeing a word used properly can help you acquire it for your own vocabulary.

1. adopt. To accept as one's own.
adapt. To adjust to or become accustomed to; to modify.
       My family decided to adopt a puppy to be a companion to our old dog.
       The puppy adapted to our family very easily; she loved all the other animals.
2. all together. A group of things or persons gathered together.
altogether. Entirely, completely.
       Our pets, all together, resemble a very zany zoo.
       My mom is not altogether in agreement that we should now get an ostrich.
3. complement. Something that is added in, that contributes.
compliment. A remark that pleases or flatters someone.
       The new puppy complemented our collection of both old and young pets.
       The veterinarian complimented us on our amazing menagerie of pets.
4. continuous. Occurring without interruption.
continual. Happening repeatedly, over and over again.
       The pets provide continuous joy to all of us; they are so sweet and loving.
       Trips to the vet are a continual problem; one of the animals always needs care.
5. everyone. A pronoun that describes a group; everybody in the group.
every one. The specific individuals in a group.
       Everyone in the family shares in the care of the pets.
       Every one of us has a favorite pet.
6. maybe. Possibly, perhaps.
may be. A verb phrase suggesting something might or might not be.
       Maybe we have too many pets, but is that even possible?
       It may be that once the kids go to college, our parents will want even more pets.
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