Common confusing words in English

There are many confusing words in English that people tend to misuse since those words look and sound very similar to each other. In this article, we put together a list of some common confusing words as well as the guide to use them appropriately. Let’s have a look! 

common confusing words in English(Source:

Lie/ Lay

It is quite common to misuse “lie” and “lay”. The most noticeable difference between the two verbs is that the verb “lay” must have a following object.

  • Lie: to be in a flat position or on a flat surface. Ex: The book lies open on her desk.
  • Lay: to put something (or someone) in a particular position. Ex: She lays the baby down carefully.

Also, it is better to be careful with the verb tense:










Fewer/ Less

These two words get lots of people confused, especially in speaking. Here is an explanation of how to use each one correctly:

  • “Fewer” refers to countable items. Ex: Fewer than half of the students came to class yesterday.
  • “Less” refers to uncountable objects. Ex: Drinking less beer is good for your health.

Then/ than

These two look and sound very alike; however, their uses are far diverse.

  • Than” is used to compare things. Ex: Their house is a lot bigger than ours.
  • “Then” is used to talk about something following something else. Ex: We visited England, then France.

Who/ Whom

This is one of the most common mistakes in English, as most of English learners are confused about which one they should use to refer to people. It is better to keep this small tip in your mind as to avoid the problem.

  • “Who” is used when referring to a subject. Ex: He is the only student who failed the last exam.
  • “Whom” is used when referring to an object. Ex: The man whom I met yesterday is the most famous doctor in our town.

Affect/ Effect

It is an easy mistake to make given how similar these two words look and sound. In fact, they have completely different meanings.

  • Affect, usually used as a verb, means to influence something. Ex: The global warming has affected the weather in many areas.
  • Effect, usually used as a noun, means the result of something that being affected. Ex: Social networks has caused a strong effect on our generation

I.e./ e.g.

Many people make mistakes between these two abbreviations. Here is how to remember whether to use I.e. or e.g.

  • I.e. : in other words  (Latin words “id est”.)
  • E.g. : example (Latin words “exempli gratia”.)


Is this list helpful for you? If you have any other mistakes that you are confused, feel free to share with us. We’d love to help!




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