Homophones and Confused Word Pairs: Writing Skills Success Study Guide (page 2)
Practice exercises for this concept can be found at Homophones and Confused Word Pairs: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercises.
I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble and others got me out.
—Katherine Dunn, American novelist (1945— )
Threw or through? To, two, or too? Brake or break? This lesson and the next review a host of words that are often confused with other words, and show you when to use them.
This lesson covers some of the most commonly confused word pairs you are likely to use in your writing. If you learn to distinguish these words, you can avoid errors in your writing. These words are divided into three separate sections with practice exercises at the end of each section. The italicized words following some of the entries are synonyms, words that can be substituted in a sentence for the easily confused words.
- Lead as a verb means guide, direct. As a noun, it means front position. It rhymes with seed.
- Led is a verb, the past tense of lead, meaning guided, directed. It rhymes with red.
- Lead is a noun that is the name of a metal. It rhymes with red.
- Geronimo led (guided) the small band to safety.
- We hope the next elected officials will lead (guide) us to economic recovery.
- A pound of styrofoam weighs as much as a pound of lead (the metal).
- Jake took the lead (front position) as the group headed out of town.
- Quite is an adverb meaning completely, very, entirely. It rhymes with fight.
- Quit is a verb meaning stop, cease or stopped, ceased. It rhymes with sit.
- Quiet as an adjective means calm, silent, noiseless. As a verb, it means soothe, calm. As a noun, it means tranquility, peacefulness. It almost rhymes with riot.
- The firm was quite (very) surprised when its most productive investment specialist quit (stopped) work and opted for the quiet (calm) life of a monk.
- Right is an adjective meaning correct, proper, opposite of left.
- Write is a verb meaning record, inscribe.
- Rite is a noun meaning ceremony, ritual.
- I will write (record) the exact procedures so you will be able to perform the rite (ceremony) in the right (proper) way.
- Sent is a verb, the past tense of send. It means dispatched, transmitted.
- Cent is a noun meaning one penny, a coin worth .01 of a dollar.
- Scent is a noun meaning odor, smell.
- For a mere cent (penny), I bought an envelope perfumed with the scent (odor) of jasmine, which I sent (dispatched) to my grandmother.
- Sight as a noun means ability to see. As a verb, it means see, spot.
- Site is a noun meaning location, position.
- Cite is a verb meaning quote, make reference to.
- At 95, my grandmother's sight (ability to see) was acute enough to sight (spot) even the smallest error in a crocheted doily.
- This is the proposed site (location) for the new building.
- You must cite (make reference to) the source of your information.
- To is a preposition or part of an infinitive. Use it only to introduce a prepositional phrase, which usually answers the question where, or before a verb. Use to for introducing a prepositional phrase:? to the store, to the top, to my home, to our garden, to his laboratory, to his castle, to our advantage, to an open door, to a song, to the science room, etc. Use to as an infinitive (to followed by a verb, sometimes separated by adverbs): to run, to jump, to want badly, to seek, to propose, to write, to explode, to sorely need, to badly botch, to carefully examine, etc.
- Too is an adverb meaning also, very.
- Two is an adjective, the name of a number, as in one, two, three.
- The couple went to (preposition) the deli to (infinitive) pick up two (the number) dinners because both of them were too (very) tired to (infinitive) cook.
- Where is an adverb referring to place, location.
- Wear as a verb means put on, tire. As a noun, it means deterioration.
- Were is a verb, the plural past tense of be.
- The slacks were (form of be) too tight.
- The tires showed excessive wear (deterioration).
- They will wear (tire) out these shoes if they wear (put on) them too much.
- Where (location) are the clothes you were (form of be) planning to wear (put on) tomorrow?
- Brake as a verb means slow, stop. As a noun, it means hindrance, drag.
- Break as a verb means separate, shatter, adjourn. As a noun, it means separation, crack, pause, opportunity.
- During our break(pause), we spotted a break (crack) in the pipeline.
- Brake (slow) gently when driving on glare ice by applying slight pressure to the brake (drag).
- Passed is a verb, the past tense of pass, meaning transferred, went ahead or by, elapsed, finished.
- Past as a noun means history. As an adjective, it means former. As an adverb, it means by or beyond.
- The first runner passed (transferred) the baton to the second just as she passed (went by) the stands. Three seconds passed (elapsed) before the next runner came by.
- Harriet passed (finished) her bar exam on the first try.
- I must have been a dolphin in a past (former) life. Avoid digging up the past (history) if you can. Nathan walks past (by) the library every day.
- Peace is a noun meaning tranquility.
- Piece as a noun means division, creation. As a verb, it means patch, repair.
- If you can piece (patch) together the pieces (bits) of this story, perhaps we can have some peace(tranquility) around here.
- Plain as an adjective means ordinary, clear, simple. As a noun, it refers to flat country, also sometimes written as plains.
- Plane is a noun meaning airship or flat surface. It is occasionally used as a verb or adjective meaning level.
- They wore plain (ordinary) clothes.
- It was plain (clear) to see.
- The meal we ate on the plains (flat country) was quite plain(simple).
- It was plain (clear) to us that the enemy did not see our plane (airship) sitting on the open plain (flat country).
- Scene is a noun meaning view, site, commotion.
- Seen is a verb, the past participle of see, meaning observed, noticed.
- We caused quite a scene (commotion) at the scene (site) of the accident. It was the worst we had ever seen (observed).
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