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Homophones and Confused Word Pairs: Writing Skills Success Study Guide (page 2)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Sight/Site/Cite

  • 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.
  • Examples:
      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/Too/Two

  • 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.
  • Example:
      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/Wear/Were

  • 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.
  • Examples:
      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?

Easy Misses

Brake/Break

  • 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.
  • Examples:
      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/Past

  • 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.
  • Examples:
      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/Piece

  • Peace is a noun meaning tranquility.
  • Piece as a noun means division, creation. As a verb, it means patch, repair.
  • Example:
      If you can piece (patch) together the pieces (bits) of this story, perhaps we can have some peace(tranquility) around here.

Plain/Plane

  • 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.
  • Examples:
      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/Seen

  • Scene is a noun meaning view, site, commotion.
  • Seen is a verb, the past participle of see, meaning observed, noticed.
  • Example:
      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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