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Correct Word Usage Help (page 3)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 13, 2011

Words That Sound Almost Alike but Have Different Meanings

Many words fall into this category. Errors sometimes occur as a result of incorrect spelling, but often they result from not saying or hearing the words correctly. The following is a list of common words that sound almost alike but mean different things.

  • accept (acknowledge), except (agree to)
  • I accept your apology.

    Everyone except Martha was invited.

  • adapt (adjust to something), adopt (legally raise another's child)
  • I can adapt to almost any climate.

    We're searching for families to adopt hard-to-place children.

  • advice (recommendation about an action or decision), advise (offer advice)
  • I appreciate constructive advice.

    I don't advise others unless they ask me to.

  • affect (influence something or somebody), effect (result)
  • An antibiotic will not affect that disease.

    However, it may have an adverse effect.

  • all ready (completely ready), already (happened before now)
  • Call me when you are all ready to leave.

    My friend Tim has already left.

  • all right (Alright is not an acceptable word.)
  • Is it all right to add all the ingredients at once?

  • all together (all in the same place), altogether (totally, entirely)
  • We'll be all together for Thanksgiving.

    This course is altogether too difficult.

  • allusion (indirect reference), illusion (mistaken idea)
  • Only a few people were aware of my allusion to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

    You have the illusion that I like rap music; I don't.

  • climactic (the point of greatest intensity in a series of events), climatic (refers to meteorological conditions)
  • The climactic period in the dinosaurs' reign was reached just before severe

    climatic conditions brought on the ice age.

  • continually (regularly or frequently), continuously (uninterrupted)
  • I am continually late for work.

    Any loud music that is played continuously is annoying.

  • emigrate (Emigrate begins with the letter E, as does exit. When you emigrate, you exit a country.), immigrate (Immigrate begins with the letter I, as does in. When you immigrate, you go into a country.)
  • Sylvia emigrated from the United States

    Vivian immigrated to France from her native Canada.

  • Loose (not firmly attached, slack), lose (misplace)
  • The tree branches were left loose in the street.

    If I lose my new watch, I'll be so sad.

  • moral (message of right and wrong), morale (confidence, spirits)
  • Children love stories that have a moral.

    Shopping often lifts my morale.

  • personal (private, own), personnel (human resources department; staff)
  • Please don't open my personal correspondence.

    We're trying to build our personnel department to a staff of six.

  • quiet (silence, calm), quite (entirely)
  • My work demands quiet.

    I'm not quite ready.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at: Correct Word Usage Practice

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