Have you ever come across some words that just simply confused you? Let’s take a look at some of the words that even a native speaker might find it difficult to get them right.
The famous British journalist Harold Evans has written down a vocabulary list outlining 30 words that are confusing, and many people have treated them as synonym. Why not take a look at the words and see if you know the differences? You can use this as quiz to test your friends too!
- affect / effect
affect: The bad weather affects my mood.
effect: The president effected several changes in the company.
- alibi / excuse
alibi: The police broke her alibi by proving she knew how to shoot a pistol.
excuse: I can’t buy his excuse.
- alternatives / choices
alternatives: New ways to treat arthritis may provide an alternative to painkillers.
choices: Our choices come down to staying here or leaving here.
- anticipate / expect
anticipate: What Jeff did was to anticipate my next question.
expect: I expect that the weather will be nice.
- flagrant / blatant
flagrant: The judge called the decision “a flagrant violation of international law.”
blatant: Outsiders will continue to suffer the most blatant discrimination.
- chronic / acute / severe
chronic: For those with chronic depression, she said, “keep at it.”
acute: Acute dysentery wracked and sapped life from his body.
- compose / comprise
compose: England, Scotland and Wales compose the island of Great Britain.
comprise: After the 2014 referendum on independence for Scotland, the UK still comprised England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
- continual / continuous
continual: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war,” Madison concluded.
continuous: Continuous farming impoverishes the soil.
- crescendo / climax
crescendo: She spoke in a crescendo: “You are a bad girl! You are a wicked girl! You are evil!”
climax: The fifth scene was the climax of the play.
- decimate / destroy
decimate: Famine decimated the population.
destroy: The soldiers destroyed the village.
- dilemma / problem
dilemma: Many women are faced with the dilemma of choosing between work and family commitments.
problem: The problem of street crime is getting worse every year.
- disinterested / uninterested
disinterested: A lawyer should provide disinterested advice.
uninterested: He was uninterested in politics.
- entomb / trap
entomb: The city was entombed in volcanic lava.
trap: The train was trapped underground by a fire.
- flotsam / jetsam
flotsam: The water was full of flotsam and refuse.
jetsam: The smallest bits of jetsam, like the most transient incidents in a life, can be the most evocative.
- forego / forgo
forego: So she did his bidding and gave him the cup, which no sooner had he drunk than his head forewent his feet.
forgo: Sometimes this priority shift means you have to forgo one goal in exchange for another.
- gourmet / gourmand
gourmet: Food critics have to be gourmets in order to write about food in an informed way.
gourmand: He’s the kind of gourmand who swallows food without even pausing to taste.
- inchoate / incoherent
inchoate: She had a child’s inchoate awareness of language.
incoherent: The talk she gave was incoherent and badly prepared.
- incumbent(noun.) / incumbent (adj.)
incumbent(noun.) : The incumbent president faces problems which began many years before he took office.
incumbent (adj.): She felt it was incumbent on herself to act immediately.
- inflammable / flammable
inflammable: Petrol is a highly inflammable liquid.
flammable: This solvent is flammable.
- insidious / invidious
insidious: Cancer is an insidious disease.
invidious: The boss made invidious distinctions between employees.
- judicial / judicious
judicial: a judicial enquiry
judicious: We should make judicious use of the resources available to us.
- less / fewer
less: We must try to spend less money.
fewer: Fewer people smoke these days than used to.
- litigate / dodge
litigate: The case is still being litigated.
dodge: He dodged the bullet.
- luxuriant / luxurious
luxuriant: Tall, luxuriant plants grew along the river bank.
luxurious: They have a very luxurious house.
- prescribe / proscribe
prescribe: The doctor prescribed his patient who was down with fever.
proscribe: The sale of narcotics is proscribed by law.
- refugee / migrant
refugee: Refugees were pouring across the frontier.
migrant: The government divides asylum seekers into economic migrants and genuine refugees.
- replica / reproduction
replica: Replica is the more valuable, for it is supposed to be more beautiful.
reproduction: This is a reproduction of a popular religious painting.
- sceptic / denier
sceptic: The sceptic may argue that there are no grounds for such optimism.
denier: He is a denier of harsh realities.
- transpire / happen
transpire: Later, it transpired she had failed the examination.
happen: ‘It just happened.’ she said, after failing her exam.
- viable / feasible
viable: Cash alone will not make Eastern Europe’s banks viable.
feasible: She questioned whether it was feasible to stimulate investment in these regions.
31 (bonus). viral / viral
viral: I can’t believe that video of our puppy lounging on a pool float went viral!
viral: Some viral proteins do good.