Commonly Confused Words

Below is a chart of a few commonly confused or misused words. The definitions are taken from The Ashford Guide for Academic and Career Success. Please note that this is not a complete list. You should refer to The Ashford Guide for more examples.

  • Word
  • Definition
  • Example
  • accept


  • To receive something offered

    To exclude something or to leave it out

  • Pat accepted the scholarship to Duke.

    The scholarship covered everything except a meal plan.
  • advice

  • A noun that refers to a recommendation regarding a decision or a course of action

    A verb that refers to the act of giving advice
  • Greg took his doctor’s advice about lowering his cholesterol.

    He advised Greg to eat oatmeal every day.
  • affect

  • A verb that means to influence

    A noun that means result
  • Caffeine affects people in different ways.

    One effect of caffeine is hyperactivity.
  • all right

  • To be satisfied with or that everything is satisfactory

    A misspelling of “all right”
  • Jason was worried about leaving his son at the daycare for the first time, so he called every hour to make sure everything was all right.
  • all ready


  • To be prepared, that everyone or everything is prepared

    This means before now, by this time, or previously
  • My parents were all ready to eat dinner when I stopped by for surprise visit.

    Unfortunately, I had already eaten too much at a potluck before I arrived.
  • a lot

  • Refers to many or several of something

    A misspelling of “a lot”
  • There were a lot of complaints about the rent increase and recently added policies.
  • among


  • Use when referring to three or more items or people

    Use when referring to two items or people

  • Jen divided the project among the editorial, creative, and marketing departments.

    Final decisions, however, would be made between herself and the director.
  • cite


  • A verb that means to acknowledge, quote, or commend.

    Both a noun that refers to a view or the ability to see and a verb that means to see

    A noun that refers to a place or location
  • To avoid accidental plagiarism, always cite the sources you use in every paper.

    A lunar eclipse on a clear night is an incredible sight to behold.

    Be careful around that construction site.
  • fewer


  • Use to refer to items that can be counted

    Use to refer to items that cannot be counted or that are referred to as a whole
  • Frozen yogurt has fewer calories than ice cream.

    Also, without toppings, frozen yogurt has less saturated fat than ice cream.
  • its

  • The possessive form of the pronoun it

    The contraction for “it is”
  • This laptop battery loses its charge quickly.

    time to buy a new battery.
  • me


  • Use when it is the object of a sentence (An object receives the action or verb)

    A reflexive pronoun (Used only when you have already talked about that person in the sentence)
  • My parents delegated me as the coordinator of all family events.

    As the coordinator, I have to plan the annual family reunion either by myself or with very little assistance.
  • than


  • Use when comparing

    Use when referring to time or to mean “next” and “in that case”
  • Julia is taller and more slender than he.

    Run background checks on the top applicants. Then we can set up interviews.
  • that



  • Use to introduce information that identifies what is being talked about

    Use to introduce extra information in a sentence

    Use who or whom instead of that or which when referring to people
  • The lemon cake that you brought into the office last week was delicious.

    The lemon cake, which is an old family recipe, is quite easy to make.

    My grandfather is the one who discovered the recipe in an old shoebox.
  • their



  • The possessive form of the pronoun they

    The contraction for “they are”

    Indicates a position/place or acts as a placeholder at the beginning of a sentence

  • Their application for a loan is approved.

    They’re paying the college tuition in full.

    A copy of the contract is over there.

    OR There is a copy of the contract on the desk.
  • to


  • Use to mean toward or as part of an infinitive verb (“to” + verb)

    Use to mean excessively or also

  • Javier is moving to Boston to attend law school.

    His younger brother Oscar wants to move to the east coast too.
  • who


  • Use as a subject pronoun

    Use as an object pronoun

  • I know a woman who can cater the party for a reasonable price.

    This woman, whom I have known for ten years, is a terrific chef.
  • your

  • The possessive form of the pronoun “you”

    The contraction for “you are”
  • Your older sister is very funny and smart.

    It’s obvious that you’re related to her.