Commonly Confused words in English-Build Better Vocabulary

English language has a large corpus of words and it has been expanding. But there are many words that look similar or sound alike but have very different meaning. Sometimes it becomes really challenging to determine the correct usage of the specific word. Here is the list of commonly confused words that would help in understanding the meaning of each set of words. It also includes a few words that have same pronunciation but different meanings, origins or spelling. These words are called Homophones. Besides these words one can also learn about Homonyms and Homographs. Homonyms are the words that have same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins. For example bear (animal) and bear (to suffer). Homographs are the words that have same spelling but not necessarily same pronunciation and have different meanings. For example convict (criminal) and convict (to prove guilty in court). Taking help of a good dictionary would be a smart choice here as it will bring more clarity in the contexts in which these words are being used.



Accept and Except

Accept (verb) -(to receive something) She decided to accept the job offer.

Except (conj.) – (not including)He likes all sports except football.

Adobe and Abode

Adobe (noun) – (brick or dried clay used as building material) Many people live in adobe houses with thatched roofs.

Abode (noun) – (house or home) I welcome you all to my humble abode.

 Adverse and Averse

Adverse (adj.) – (unfavorable, harmful) New taxes will have an adverse effect on the economy.

Averse (adj.) – (strongly disliking; opposed) He has become averse to any kind of change.

Affect and Effect

Affect (verb) – (to change or make a difference) The change in policy is going to affect the investments.

Effect (noun) – (a result or change) Regular exercise can have a dramatic effect on your health.

Complement and Compliment (homophones)

Complement – (to add in order to improve; an addition that improves something)

The private economy has long been considered a complement to the State sector.

The team needs players who complement each other. (verb)

Compliment -( to praise somebody; an admiring remark) She received several compliments on her speech.

Teacher complimented him on his excellent English. (verb)

 Complacent and Complaisant

Complacent (adj.) – (self-satisfied) You can’t afford to be too complacent about financial stability.

Complaisant (adj.) – (willing to please others, obliging)Populist measures and complaisant media can be a tragic mix.

 Confident and Confidant

Confident (adj.) – (feeling sure about your own ability) The captain seemed relaxed and confident during the match.

Confidant (noun) – (trusted person who keeps secrets) Soon the senator became a close confidant of the President.

 Cue and Queue (homophones)

Cue (noun) – (a signal for action; a wooden rod) He had not yet been given the cue to go on the stage.

Queue (noun) – (a line of people or vehicles) So every morning people had to line up in a queue for their turn.

Fright, Freight and Fret

Fright (noun) – (feeling of fear) The speaker was shaking with stage fright.

Freight (noun) – (system of transporting of bulk goods) Many new passenger and freight trains were announced in the budget.

Fret (verb) – (worry about something) He couldn’t stop fretting about his upcoming presentation.

Decent, Descent and Dissent

Decent (adj.) – (fair and honest) Everyone said he was a decent and hard-working guy.

Descent (noun) – (action of coming down) The plane made its final descent to the airport.

Dissent (noun) – (having different opinions from accepted ones) The regime suppressed political dissent ruthlessly.

Discrete and Discreet (homophones)

Discrete (adj.) – (distinct, separate) The process can be seen as a sequence of discrete phases.

Discreet (adj.) – (careful, tactful) He has always been discreet about his personal life.

Drought and Draught

Drought (noun) – (long and dry period)Large areas of Africa are affected by drought.

Draught (noun) – (a current of cool air in a room) A cold draught of air came from the window.

Dual and Duel (homophones)

Dual (adj.) – (having two parts) She assumed dual responsibilities after change in management.

Duel (noun) – (a fight or contest between two people) The debate soon turned into a verbal duel between the two candidates.

Illusive and Elusive

Illusive (adj.) – (imaginary, illusionary) There is an illusive sense of security in the disturbed area.

Elusive (adj.) – (difficult to find) A solution to the problem of toxic waste has remained elusive.

Impossible and Implausible

Impossible (adj.) – (not possible) It is virtually impossible for the team to win Euro cup this year.

Implausible (adj.) – (not likely to be true, unconvincing) His explanation was highly implausible.

Impoverish and Improvise

Impoverish (verb) – (make somebody poor) The policy is likely to impoverish the marginalized families even further.

Improvise (verb) – (perform without much preparation) The dialogue was mostly improvised yet felt natural and unforced.

Imprudent and Impudent

Imprudent (adj.) – (not wise) It would be imprudent to invest all your money in real estate.

Impudent (adj.) – (rude, lacking respect) His remarks are blatantly impudent to say the least.

 Ingenious and Ingenuous

Ingenious (adj.) – (creative and clever) After initial setbacks, he came up with a truly ingenious invention.

Ingenuous (adj.) – (willing to trust and innocent) He seemed too ingenuous for a journalist.

Marital and Martial

Marital (adj.) – (related to marriage) The couple is going through some marital difficulties.

Martial (adj.) – (related to war or fighting) The performance is more than a simple demonstration of martial qualities

 Ponder and Pander

Ponder (verb) – (think carefully) He pondered over the problem before suggesting solutions.

Pander (verb) – (try to please somebody) He refused to pander to his parent’s wishes.

Severe and Sever

Severe (adj.) – (extremely bad or serious) The party suffered severe losses during the last general election.

Sever (verb) – (Cut into parts) Terrorists severed his limbs from his body.

Vocation and Avocation

Vocation (noun) – (occupation that is most suitable) For her teaching is not just a job, it’s a vocation.

Avocation (noun) – (a hobby) They are doctors, and interior designers by avocation.


 Allusion and Illusion

Allusion (noun) -(indirect reference) He makes allusions to classical poetry in his speeches.

Illusion (noun)  – (false idea or belief) He could no longer distinguish between illusion and reality.

Amicable and Amiable

Amicable (adj.) – (characterized by friendliness and absence of discord) The dispute ended when an amicable agreement was arrived at.

Amiable (adj.) -(agreeable, friendly)The teacher had a kind and amiable personality, to which students responded warmly.

Credibility and Credulity

Credibility (noun) – (trustworthiness or believability) The minister has lost his credibility after the scam came to light.

Credulity (noun) – (ability to believe something to be true) The plot of the movie stretches credulity to the limit.

 Deprecate and Depreciate

Deprecate (verb) – (disapprove or criticize) He deprecated this unruly behavior.

Depreciate (verb) – (become less valuable) Shares continued to depreciate on the stock market today.

Exalt and Exult

Exalt (verb) – (highly praise somebody) He was exalted as a genius and marketing marvel.

Exult (verb) – (show excitement or jubilation) People in the stadium were exulting at India’s victory.

Expedite and Expedient

Expedite (verb) – (speed up the process) The company has installed a new system to expedite deliveries to customers.

Expedient (adj.) – (practical or convenient although not fair) The rate cut would be politically expedient but not economically prudent.

 Forbidding and Foreboding

Forbidding (adj.) – (threatening, unfriendly) The house looked uncanny and forbidding.

Foreboding (noun)- (feeling that something bad will happen) He had a sense of foreboding about the election results.

Imminent, Eminent and Immanent

Imminent (adj.) – (likely to happen soon) The country is facing the imminent threat of invasion.

Eminent (adj.) – (famous and respected) The acclaimed filmmaker has adapted several works of eminent writers

Immanent (adj.)- (present everywhere) God is immanent in the world.

Incredible and Incredulous

Incredible (adj.) – (extremely good, amazing) The demand for the new product has been quite incredible.

Incredulous (adj.) – (not willing to believe, skeptical) There was a brief, incredulous silence after the speech.

 Insidious and Invidious

Insidious (adj.) – (spreading in gradual and harmful way) A leader focused on insidious effects of corruption in his campaign.

Invidious (adj.) – (unpleasant and unfair) The allegations have put him in an invidious position.  

Insipid and Incipient

Insipid (adj.) – (not interesting or exciting) After an hour of insipid conversation, she left.

Incipient (adj.) – (beginning) The development of stealth technology is at the incipient stage.

Persecution and Prosecution

Persecution (noun) – (treat somebody in unfair and cruel way) Throughout the history, people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Prosecution (noun) – (process of proving charges in a court) He is facing prosecution for tax evasion and corporate fraud.

Perverse, Preserve and Persevere  

Perverse (noun) – (deliberately unreasonable; stubborn) Her perverse decision not to cooperate with the opposition was commendable.

Preserve (noun) – (activity regarded as being reserved for a particular group) Hockey is no longer the preserve of the men.

Persevere (verb) – (Continue to try despite difficulties) She persevered with her guitar lessons.

Prescriptive and Proscriptive

Prescriptive (adj.) – (telling somebody what to do, rigid) The prescriptive methods of teaching have proved to be less effective.

Proscriptive (adj.) – (prohibitive) The investment climate will be affected by new proscriptive regulations.

 Pretentious and Portentous

Pretentious (adj.) – (trying to impress others) The director made some pretentious claims before release of the film.

Portentous (adj.) – (threatening, alarming) The economic outlook for the war-ravaged country is bleak and portentous.

Prodigy and Protégé

Prodigy (noun) – (young person with exceptional talent) From child prodigy to renowned consultant the journey has been remarkable.

Protégé (noun) – (pupil guided by mentor) Aristotle was a protégé of the great philosopher Plato.

Temerity and Timidity

Temerity (noun)- (overconfidence, audacity) No one had the temerity to question his judgment.

Timidity (noun)- (lack of confidence or courage) She believes everyone can overcome their timidity.

Venal and Venial

Venal (adj.)- (corrupt and dishonest) The sting operation exposed many venal and corrupt officers.

Venial (adj.) – (forgivable, pardonable) The culprit was shown mercy for his venial offenses.

Veracious and Voracious

Veracious (adj.) – (representing truth) The documentary gives a veracious account of his triumphs and tribulations.

Voracious (adj.) – (greedy for food or information) The boy has voracious appetite for chocolates and comic books.

For more learning, stay connected with our blogs @

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest


Leave a Reply

Explore More

communication coaching Delhi
Public Speaking Tips

Tips For Effective English For Public Speaking

As the world becomes more interconnected, the ability to communicate effectively in English has become increasingly important. It is especially true in professional settings, where

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Get updates and learn from the best

Start your journey of successful speaking like 39,700 others did….

Pep Talk India

School of Public Speaking

© Copyright 2023 Pep Talk india - All Rights Reserved

Book A Call

Book Your Free Counselling Call