Confusing Words (Part 2)

Confusing words in English: lightning / lightening, loose / lose, passed / past, pore / pour, prescribe / proscribe, principle / principal, quiet / quite, then / than, thought / tough / through / though, there / they're / their, to / two / too, weather / whether, who's / whose, your / you're.

1. lightning / lightening

Lightning means the flashing caused by an electrical discharge in the atmosphere. Lightening means "state of becoming brighter," or "lessening the weight of something." Mixing in some white is one way of lightening the dark blue paint. The camel driver is lightening the load by removing the trunk.

INCORRECT: The hen house was struck by lightening last night.

CORRECT: The hen house was struck by lightning last night.

2. loose / lose

As an adjective, loose means "not tight." Lose is a verb with such meanings as "go astray from," "fail to keep up with," "suffer deprivation." For example: Athletes prefer loose clothing for exercise. He frequently loses his car keys. The s in loose has a soft sound. The s in lose has the sound of z.

INCORRECT: I'm afraid you'll loose your way in the dark.

CORRECT: I'm afraid you'll lose your way in the dark.

3. passed / past

Past is used as an adverb of place, or as a preposition. Passed is the past tense of the verb to pass. For example: The past few days have been hectic. The deadline has passed. He passed her the biscuits. The boys ran past the gate. As we stood in the doorway, the cat ran past.

INCORRECT: The car past the train.

CORRECT: The car passed the train.

4. pore / pour

Pore is a verb meaning "to look at attentively." Pour is a verb meaning "to cause to flow."

INCORRECT: The students were up until midnight, pouring over their books.

CORRECT: The students were up until midnight, poring over their books.

5. prescribe / proscribe

Prescribe in this context means "to give directions for." Proscribe means "to condemn or forbid as harmful." The use of any kind of drug is proscribed in the workplace.

INCORRECT: What did the doctor proscribe for your headache?

CORRECT: What did the doctor prescribe for your headache?

6. principle / principal

As a noun, principle means "a general truth." As a noun referring to a person, principal means "the person in authority." The cloying but useful mnemonic for this one is "The principal is your pal."

INCORRECT: The principle kept us after school.

CORRECT: The principal kept us after school.

7. quiet / quite

Quiet is an adjective meaning "marked by little or no activity." Quite is an adverb meaning "to a considerable extent." Example: The children are quite amiable today. Quiet can also be used as a noun. For example: We enjoyed the quiet by the lake. (The suffix "ness" should never be added to the abstract nouns quiet and calm.)

INCORRECT: We spent a quite evening reading.

CORRECT: We spent a quiet evening reading.

8. then / than

Then is an adverb that indicates time. It can go anywhere in a sentence. For example: The man paused by the door and then entered. Then the noise started. As conjunction or preposition, than will always be followed by a noun or a pronoun. I like Melville better than Hawthorne.

INCORRECT: I have more eggs then you.

CORRECT: I have more eggs than you.

9. thought / tough / through / though

The ough spelling in each of these words represents a different vowel sound: thought, ough = [aw]; tough, ough = [uh]; through: ough = [oo], and though: ough = [ō].

thought: "the action or process of thinking": He was lost in thought. As a verb, it is the past tense of think: I thought you had already gone.

tough: adjective, "not easily broken or taken apart": The hide of the rhinoceros is extremely tough. Figuratively one can speak of "a tough person" or "a tough job."

through: preposition expressing the relation of movement within something, from one end to the opposite end or side. The train passed through the tunnel. The needle went through the cloth.

though: conjunction, "although" or "in spite of the fact that." Though he had a broken leg, he managed to reach the fort. As an adverb, though can mean "nevertheless" She said she would not attend the wedding. She did, though.

10. there / they're / their

There is an adverb of place. It can stand anywhere in a sentence. They're is a contraction of "they are." Their is a possessive adjective. It must be followed by a noun. For example: I don't know why they're always late. Tell them to put their coats on the bed. I don't want to go there.

INCORRECT: They parked there car on the lawn.

CORRECT: They parked their car on the lawn.

11. to / two / too

To is a preposition that indicates direction. It is also a particle used with a verb infinitive. Too is an adverb used to indicate excess. Two is the spelling of the numeral 2. For example: Let's all go to the lobby. Remember to brush your teeth. They ate too much pizza. You may have two pieces.

INCORRECT: I'm to tired to go out again.

CORRECT: I'm too tired to go out again.

12. weather / whether

Weather is a noun that refers to the state of the atmosphere. (It can also be used, literally or figuratively, as a verb with the meaning "to stand up to and survive.") Whether is a function word with various uses. Examples: When will you know whether or not you can come? The weather should be mild this weekend. The passengers weathered the storm without too much sickness.

INCORRECT: He never knows weather to phone or just drop by.

CORRECT: He never knows whether to phone or just drop by.

13. who's / whose

Who's is the contracted form of "who is." Whose is the possessive adjective form of who. For example: Who's your daddy? Whose car are we going in?

INCORRECT: I don't know who's dog you're talking about.

CORRECT: I don't know whose dog you're talking about.

14. your / you're

You're is a contraction that represents the words "you are." Your is the second person plural possessive adjective. For example: You're my best friend. Is that your key on the ground?

INCORRECT: Give me you're advice.

CORRECT: Give me your advice.