Common English Errors: Confused Words, Bs

English has many words that sound similar, and are even spelled similarly, but have quite different meanings. In this article we look at some such words, starting with B, and explain the differences between them.

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Many of the words below have multiple meanings, and subtle shades of meaning. I've not included absolutely every definition, but have concentrated on the main uses of each word.


BAND — a noun meaning "a thin loop of material", "a stripe of colour" or "a group of people, especially musicians". The ducks and I went to the park and listened to the band playing. My wedding ring is a simple gold band. The beach ball was decorated with green and blue bands.

BANNED — a verb meaning "officially prohibited". They played so badly, the band should have been banned!


BARE — an adjective meaning "undressed, uncovered, without disguise". Not surprisingly, Dylan was completely bare when he got out of the shower. Saying that he was a good dancer was a bare-faced lie.

BEAR — this word has many meanings. It is a noun, describing a large mammal. It is also a verb, meaning "to carry, to have a visible mark, or to be called by", "support", "endure", "give birth to", "produce fruit", and "turn and proceed in a particular direction." The apricot tree didn't bear any fruit this year. I couldn't bear to see Troy suffer from a lack of jelly snakes. Bear north and you will come to the lolly shop.


BASES — a plural noun (base being the singular) meaning "the lowest parts of something" or "the place where someone works or stays", and several other similar meanings. Confusingly, it is also the plural spelling of basis (but this is a rarely used word). The bases of the columns were made from marble. The duck army had many bases across the country.

BASIS — a noun meaning "the underlying foundation of an idea or process". Knowing how to add and multiply numbers is the basis of having good mathematical skills.


BATED — an adjective, meaning "in high suspense or anxiously". We waited for the performing geckoes with bated breath.

BAITED — a verb meaning "having bait added to entice a fish or other animal", or "torment or taunt". Once the hooks were baited with worms, Michael could finally start fishing. The squirrels were very cruel, baiting and teasing the lost puppy like that.

BEAT — this word has many meanings. As a verb it can mean "strike repeatedly", "defeat in a competition", "overcome a problem", or even "stir food with a whisk". As a noun it can mean "a musical accent", "a pulsation of the heart", or "a policeman's patrol area". As an adjective it means "totally exhausted". Don't beat your children, it isn't nice. Isobel beat me in the chess competition. I beat the eggs and milk together. After running up the mountain, I'm totally beat!

BEET — a noun describing a bright red root vegetable. Beets are the main ingredient in the Russian soup, borscht.


BLEW — the past tense of the verb blow. It refers to "move creating an air current", "expel air through the mouth", "displace violently as in an explosion", or "spend carelessly". The breeze blew lightly, ruffling our feathers. I blew my weekly allowance at the lolly shop. The ducks blew up the squirrels' base.

BLUE — an adjective describing the primary colour that is the same as the colour of the sky. It can also mean "sad or depressed". I always wore my blue dress on days when I was feeling blue.

BLEU a type of cheese, with veins of edible mould in it. Bleu cheese is polarising. You either love it or hate it!

BORN — the past participle of bear (giving birth to). It means "existing as a result of birth" or "brought into existence". The kittens were born on Christmas Day, so we called them Dancer, Prancer, and Donner.

BORNE — the past participle of bear (carry, support, endure). It is also an adjective meaning "carried or transported by". The suffering I went through from the lack of pavlova could not be borne any longer. I had to have some! The paper boats were borne down the river.


BOUGHT —past tense of the verb buy, meaning "purchased". Troy went to the shop and bought his regular daily allotment of jelly snakes.

BROUGHT — past tense of the verb bring, meaning "carried, escorted, conveyed" etc. I brought my knitting on the bus. Jenny brought Tom along to the restaurant.

These two — bought and brought — in particular are frequently confused, but as you can see they have quite different meanings! If you can remember that bring => brought, with that R in there, it might help.


BREAD — a noun, meaning that basic baked food made from yeast and flour. Home-baked bread is one of the most delicious things in the world!

BREDpast tense and past participle of the verb breed. It means "cause an animal to have offspring" or "raise animals". One thing you could say for Arabella, despite everything else, she certainly bred cute chihuahuas!


BREAK — a verb meaning "cause to separate into pieces" or "become inoperative", amongst many other similar definitions. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to break your favourite duck mug! Please don't break my fingers!

BRAKE — a noun, brakes are "devices for slowing down a car", or "something that slows progress". Hit the brakes! Can't you see the squirrel on the road?!


BREATH — a noun, a breath is an "inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs". If you're hyperventilating, taking some slow deep breaths with help you feel better.

BREATHE — a verb describing "the action of breathing". Breathe in deeply, that's the way.


BUY — a verb meaning to "purchase an item with money". Why did you buy that revolting shirt? I can't believe you paid actual money for it ...

BYE — an informal exclamation meaning "goodbye". We're off to visit the ducks now, bye!

BY — a preposition identifying who has done some action, or many other similar meanings. The book was written by Josie. The incredible mess was made by the kids. Your essay has to be done by tomorrow, or else!


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Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 07:57
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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