8 English Words That Are Easily Confused

The English language is full of words that are written or sound the same, which can make it very difficult for students of the language to know which one to use. These words are called homophones or homonyms; homophones are words that sound the same (like great or grate), and homonyms are words that are written the same (like band a music group, or band a strip/loop of material). Some homonyms may be spelled the same, but they are actually pronounced differently, such as reading the activity or Reading the place.

Some of these terms are so similar that even native English speakers commonly confuse them – these are the words that typically give our students the most problems.

Your or You’re

‘Your’ is possessive – it means that an item belongs to you, for example your apple, your desk, and your phone. ‘You’re’ is a contraction of you are, so is used to describe you, for example you’re happy, you’re intelligent, and you’re learning English.

They’re, There, or Their

All of these words are pronounced exactly the same. ‘They’re’ is a contraction of they are and works in the exact same way as you’re, for example they’re happy, they’re intelligent, and they’re learning English. ‘There’ describes where something is, for example, I just got there, my apple is there, and there are no pencils. ‘Their’ is possessive and explains that something belongs to them – this works in the same way as your, for example their apples, their desk, and their phones.

To, Too or Two

The word ‘to’ has a number of applications, which is why it causes so much confusion for many English students – it can be a preposition which expresses direction or condition, it can be an infinitive marker, and it can be an adverb. Examples of ‘to’ as a preposition include walking to the shops and the weather changing from sunshine to rain. Examples of ‘to as an infinitive marker are a little simpler, to boldly go where no man has been before is the most famous use of it. Finally, ‘to’ can be used as an adverb in sentences such as a drop of whisky brought him to.

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