Common English Errors: Confused Words, As

As I'm sure you know, in English there are 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 A, and explain the differences between them.

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ACCEPT — a verb meaning "receive, take, get". I was happy to accept their apology, along with the kilo of jelly snakes.

EXCEPT — a preposition, meaning "not including, other than". I love jelly snakes, except the black ones. They are disgusting.


ADVERSE — an adjective, meaning "harmful, unfavourable, hostile". The adverse weather conditions made our camping trip a misery.

AVERSE — also an adjective, this word is from the same root word as adverse, but means "having a strong dislike of, or hostile toward something". It relates more to a person's reactions, and is often written as "averse to". Alice was averse to cars, trains, and bicycles. Coupled with her aversion to flying, it meant she never really went anywhere.


AISLE — a noun meaning "a passage between seats or shelves". The ducks marched purposefully down the aisle.

ISLE — a noun meaning "island", and generally a small one. The British Isles are beautiful.


ALOUD — an adverb meaning "out loud, audibly". Oops, did I just say that aloud?

ALLOWED — a verb meaning "legal, permitted, authorise". Can you believe it? We were allowed to make mud pies in our classroom.

ALTAR — a noun meaning "a flat-topped table used in religious rituals". The spring flowers made the altar look especially gorgeous.

ALTER — a verb meaning "change, make an adjustment to, revise". Fred had to alter his hairstyle to be allowed back into the office. Alteration is the noun form of this word. There were major alterations made to the script.


AMORAL — an adjective meaning "lacking a moral sense, unprincipled" (in this word the prefix "a-" indicates "not, without"). Lucy's behaviour towards her poor suffering customers was quite simply amoral.

IMMORAL — an adjective meaning "lacking standards of morality, bad, wicked, evil". It was an immoral and shocking act of torture.

Amoral is a more neutral or impartial word than immoral. An amoral person has no sense of right or wrong. An immoral person would actual do things that go against society's moral codes.


APPRAISE — a verb meaning "assess the quality or value of, judge, rate". The squirrels appraised the acorns, and were satisfied. You can remember appraise by noticing the word "praise" is part of it (and is related to it in meaning).

APPRISE — a verb meaning "inform, tell, advise". Bruce thought he should apprise us of the real situation.


ASSENT — a noun meaning "agreement, acceptance, approval". George nodded his assent to the plan.

ASCENT — a noun meaning "a walk up a mountain or hill, an upward slope or path, rising". The ducks struggled with the steep ascent, but got there in the end.


AURAL — an adjective meaning "of or relating to the ear or hearing". It's related to the word auditory too. A duck's aural anatomy is not very obvious, it doesn't look like they have ears.

ORAL — an adjective meaning "by word of mouth, vocal, of or relating to the mouth, spoken". I had an awful oral exam, whispering my wildly incorrect answers to my bewildered teachers.

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Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 07:47
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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