There are some words and phrases that people use frequently in their conversations, but they are doing it wrong. This list consists of 70 of the most common ones.
Apart from the grammar experts among us, the rest often make mistakes when it comes to our language, spelling, and punctuation.
Yet, this does not mean that proper language usage should not be something we should aspire to. Mastery of grammar, spelling and punctuation is a class signifier.
Even if you detest those guys that keep correcting other people’s grammatical errors and typos and treat them as sins or moral offenses, there is nothing wrong in trying to improve your language skills and do better if you can.
The following list involves words and phrases that are often used in conversation, but you might have never seen them written down, and you end up using them wrong:
Words used incorrectly in a context where the intended meaning is the exact opposite.
Discreet vs. discrete
Meaning: Discreet means careful, and discrete refers to being distinct, separate, or individual.
Shone vs. shown
Meaning: Shown is the past-tense form of “to show”, shone is the past-tense form of the verb “to shine”.
Compliment vs. Complement
Meaning: Compliment refers to an addition, while a compliment is a flattering remark.
Emigrate vs. immigrate
Meaning: One immigrates to a place, and emigrates from a place.
Inflammable vs. flammable
Meaning: Inflammable actually means that the item is combustible, easily set on fire.
Entitled vs. titled
Meaning: Entitled refers to someone who thinks they deserve special treatment over others.
Infamous vs. famous
Meaning: Infamous means notorious, while famous means that someone is popular for their work.
Insure vs. ensure
Meaning: When you insure something, you pay money to protect it from damage, or loss. When you ensure someone, you guarantee that everything will be okay.
Affect vs. effect
Meaning: Affect is the verb, while effect is the noun.
Poisonous vs. venomous
Meaning: Poison is used for a toxic substance that you ingest, while venom comes from the bites of creatures and animals, like snakes.
Bemused vs. amused
Meaning: Bemused means “confused”, and amused means you find something funny or entertaining.
Principle vs. principal
Meaning: Principle is a rule, while the principal is the leader of a school.
Sit vs. set
Meaning: We sit, while objects are set.
Lay vs. lie
Meaning: People lie down, and ducks lay their eggs.
Between vs. among
Meaning: You choose between two options, and choose among more than two.
Infer vs. imply
Meaning: To imply is to suggest something, but to infer is to read between the lines and understand the true meaning behind the words.
Capitol vs. capital
Meaning: Capitol is a building, and capital is used for the city where the government sits, upper-case letters, and investment funds.
Fewer vs. Less
Meaning: Less is for general statements, while fewer is used for countable items.
Viable vs. Feasible
Meaning: Feasible is a possible action, while viable is something that will last.
Fleshing out vs. Flushing out
Meaning: Fleshing out is adding more to something that is already there, while the latter is searching for something hard to find or see.
Prescribe vs. Proscribe
Meaning: Proscribe is to outlaw someone or something, prescribe is to recommend something.
Bring vs. take
Meaning: Bring is used when you are coming home, take is used when you are going away.
Further vs. farther
Meaning: Farther is used for an actual physical distance, while further is most commonly used as a figurative.
Continuous vs. continual
Meaning: Continual means ongoing with occasional stops and starts, and continuous is something ongoing that never ends.
Illicit vs. elicit
Meaning: Illicit means illegal, and elicit is when you coax something out of someone.
Home vs. hone
Meaning: You home in on something, for instance, a target, and you hone a skill.
Pored vs. Poured
Meaning: The first one refers to intently studying, and poured refers to what you do with liquids.
Perquisite vs. Prerequisite
Meaning: A perquisite is an allowance or privilege and prerequisite is something you need before you start doing something else.
Chronic vs. Severe
Meaning: Chronic means reoccurring, severe means really bad.
Everyday vs. Every day
Meaning: Everyday refers to a routine. Every day is an adjective + a noun.
Nauseous vs. Nauseated
Meaning: Nauseous means to cause nausea. Nauseated means to feel ill.
Perpetrate vs. Perpetuate
Meaning: Perpetuate is to continue something, perpetrate is to commit something.
Assent vs. Ascent
Meaning: Assent means “to agree”, and ascent it a climb or a liftoff.
Appraise vs. Apprise
Meaning: Apprise is to inform or teach, appraise is to assess the value of something.
Sensual vs. Sensuous
Meaning: They both refer to the senses, but sensual is highly sexual.
Reluctant vs. Reticent
Meaning: Reticent is unwilling to speak, reluctant is unwilling to do everything else.
Regretful vs. Regrettable
Meaning: Regrettable refers to poor, unfortunate, or bad, while regretful means to have regrets.
Canvas vs. Canvass
Meaning: Canvass is when politicians solicit votes, while canvas is a durable material.
Disinterested vs. Uninterested
Meaning: To be disinterested refers to having no bias. To be uninterested is to have no interest in something.
Disburse vs. Disperse
Meaning: Both mean distributing things, but disburse is related to funds and money while disperse refers to scattering things, not money.
Disassemble vs. Dissemble
Meaning: Dissemble means lying, disassemble means to take apart.
Defuse vs. Diffuse
Meaning: Diffuse means to disperse something over a large area, defuse is to remove the fuse from a bomb so that it doesn’t explode.
Illusion vs. Allusion
Meaning: Allusion is referring to something, illusion means a misleading image.
Eminent vs. Imminent
Meaning: If something is imminent it is about to happen, When something is eminent, it is important.
Judicial vs. Judicious
Meaning: Judicious is wise, judicial refers to the court of law.
Refurbishing vs. Redecorating
Meaning: Refurbishing is the rebuilding or redoing something, and redecorating is updating the look of an existing object.
Remodeling vs. Restoring
Meaning: Remodeling is updating the structural qualities of a place, and restoring is returning a place to its original look.
Emoticon vs. Emoji
Meaning: Emojis are the cartoon stickers used to express emotions, emoticons are the old-school colon + close bracket-type responses.
Libel vs. Slander
Meaning: Slander is oral and Libel is written.
They’re vs. There
Meaning: They’re is a contraction for “they are”, and there is an adverb.
Their vs. They’re
Meaning: Their means ownership.
Your vs. You’re
Meaning: You’re is a contraction for “you are”. Your refers to ownership.
Patent vs. Copyright
Meaning: Copyright is for expressions of ideas, while patents are for original inventions.
Alibi vs. Excuse
Meaning: An alibi is proof that you were not at the scene of an event. An excuse is a reason that explains your behavior.
It’s vs. Its
Meaning: It’s is a contraction for “it is”, its refers to ownership.
People make these grammatical mistakes so frequently, that even grammarians have accepted them.
Meaning: Despite that, without regard or consideration for.
Wrong: Butt naked
Right: Buck naked
Meaning: Completely without clothes.
Mondegreens- misheard versions of sayings, phrases, and words.
Wrong: For all intensive purposes
Right: For all intents and purposes
Meaning: For all practical purposes.
Eggcorns- The phonetics of a word or a phrase has been reshaped, while its meaning is still the same. When said out loud, they sound exactly the same.
Meaning: Certainly, without any doubt.
Wrong: Should of
Right: Should have
Wrong: Day in age
Right: Day and age
Meaning: currently, at the present time.
Wrong: Safety-deposit box
Right: Safe-deposit box
Meaning: A locked box people use to store valuables.
Wrong: A doggy dog world
Right: A dog eat dog world
Meaning: A competitive situation, when people would go to great lengths to succeed, even if they have to harm others.
Misheard Latin Phrases
The biggest issue with Latin phrases and words is that we pronounce them with an English accent.
Right: Et cetera
Meaning: “And more” , “and so on”, or “and others”.
Wrong: At nauseum
Right: Ad nauseum
Meaning: “To sickness”, explained at unnecessary length.
Wrong: All in all
Right: All and all
Meaning: When we take everything into consideration.
Wrong: All for not
Right All for naught
Meaning: It was pointless.
Wrong: A whole nother
Right: A whole other
Meaning: Something else entirely.
Meaning: According to the opinion of most/many people.