It may rain!


Are you confused about weather this sentence is correct or not?

The English language is packed with words that sound alike and are spelled similarly. Just one letter can change the entire meaning of a word, and turn a sensible sentence into a nonsensical one.

We’ve picked out a list of some frequently confused words that (native and non-native) speakers of English just can’t stop getting muddled up.


Whether and weather

Whether is a conjunction word that introduces a choice between two or more options.

For example: ‘I can’t decide whether to learn this list of confusing words or not.’

On the other hand, we use the noun weather when it’s sunny, rainy, windy, snowing.

For example: ‘The weather is terrible today. It hasn’t stopped raining all afternoon’

Accept and except

To accept something means to receive something willingly. This can be anything from a gift, to a job offer, to another person’s point of view.

For example: ‘The famous actress stepped forward to accept the award.’

‘I accept what you’re saying and will take your opinion into account when I make my decision.’

Whereas except is most commonly used as a preposition, where it means ‘apart from’ or ‘excluding’ something.

For example: Oscar Wilde famously said: ‘I can resist everything except temptation.’

Affect and effect

These two words are the cause of grammatically induced headaches the world over. Generally speaking, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

For example:

– ‘Staying up at night playing video games affects my performance at work.’

– ‘Playing video games until the early hours had a negative effect on my work the next day.’

A bowl of rice.

Practice and practise / Advice and advise

People often get confused about when to spell these words with a ‘c’ or a ‘s’. An easy way to remember is that the nouns use the ‘c’, and the verbs the ‘s’.

At school I was taught to remember the example ‘rice’ and ‘rise’: rice is the carbohydrate that you eat, and rise is what you do when you get out of bed in the morning.

For example:

– ‘You need more practice’ (Noun) and ‘I need to practise piano if I want to be really good’ (Verb)

– ‘Take my advice – stay in school’ (Noun), ‘I advise you to work harder’ (Verb)

Compliment and complement

To compliment someone or something is to express admiration for them / it. When you give someone a compliment you are praising something that you like about them.

For example:

– ‘My new boyfriend compliments me all the time.

– ‘I love the red icing you’ve done on those cupcakes!’ is a compliment.




The word complement is related to ‘complete’. If one object complements another it means that they look better together than they do separately.

For example: We can say that ‘A good red wine complements red meat perfectly’ or that ‘A flattering dress will complement a woman’s figure’

Dessert and desert

Dessert /dɪˈzɜːt/ is a delicious sweet dish you eat after your main meal.

For example: ‘Last night we had dinner in a French restaurant. My dessert was exquisite; the best crème brûlée I’ve ever eaten.’

Sand in wadi ripples Sudan

Desert or dessert?


To make things complicated, desert is both a noun and a verb with different meanings.

A desert /’dɛzərt/ is a hot, dry, wasteland with very little life. The verb to desert /dɪˈzɜrt/ means ‘to abandon’ or to ‘to leave’ a place / someone.

For example: He deserted me in the middle of the Saharan desert. (A tricky one!)

Are there any English words that you always get confused? Share them here and your advice on how to stop making these mistakes.

Photo credit: California Bakery via photopin cc

Give me more!

How good are you with your Latin abbreviations? Try How to Master Latin Abbreviations in Five Minutes

And while we’re on strange parts of the English language, try Why Some English Nouns Just Won’t Be Counted

Portmanteau words
There are a few new ones in this post that you won’t have heard of. Englitor? Exervousness? Kitching room? Fun read!