Words often Confused
- Affect, Effect
- Choose, Chose
- Complement, Compliment
- It’s, Its
- Lead, Led
- Where, Were
- Whether, Weather
- To, Too, Two
- Their, There, They’re
- Than, Then
The following list contains the most common words often confused. Spell Check cannot distinguish between words that are spelled correctly but used incorrectly, so you must be able to distinguish between these words yourself. A dictionary (print, online, mobile app) is an important tool to support your word choice and clarity in writing.
Affect is a verb and means "to influence." A verb is a word that shows action, so think action-affect.
The freezing rain affected road conditions.
Effect is a noun and means "the result." If the word has "an" or "the" in front of it and makes sense, it is a noun and therefore should be effect.
The freezing rain had an effect on road conditions.
But it gets trickier.
Affect can also be a noun, commonly used in psychology, meaning "behaviour expressing emotional state."
Her affect was disturbing.
Effect can also be used as a verb, meaning "to bring about or accomplish."
The administration effected changes in the structure of the hospital.
The past tense of the verb choose is chose.
Today I choose to wear red; yesterday I chose to wear green.
A complement completes or goes together with something else.
The yellow in the curtains complements the couch.
Compliment means praise.
She gave him a compliment. or She complimented him.
It's is a contraction and always means "it is" or "it has."
It's clear that the tree struck by lightning foreshadows the fate of Rochester's and Jane's marriage.
Its is a possessive pronoun, showing that something is possessed by or belongs to it.
The committee gave its report. (The report belongs to it [the committee]).
When you are writing academic papers, you should not use contractions. So you never really need to write it's in university writing.
The past tense of the verb lead (rhymes with bead) is led.
I know how to lead us home because yesterday I led everyone home.
The confusion with this word pair stems from the fact that "lead" can also be pronounced "led" when referring to the metal.
I keep breaking the lead in my pencil.
Where refers to place.
"Where are you going?"
Were is a form of the verb "to be" in the past.
You were happy when you were a child, weren't you?
Where rhymes with air, and were rhymes with blur. There are some places where both where and were are pronounced to rhyme with air. That may account for some of the confusion.
Whether means "if".
I can't decide whether I should stay or go.
Weather refers to local manifestations of the climate.
The weather outside is frightful.
Most people can remember that the number 2, when written, is two.
To distinguish between the other two, remember that too means "also" or "as well."
I want to go too.
He too wants to go.
It can also mean "more than enough."
There are too many spelling errors in this essay for it to get an A.
Use to for all other meanings.
They're is a contraction meaning "they are." Avoid contractions in academic writing.
Their, like "its", is a possessive pronoun, that shows that something is possessed by or belongs to them.
Their house is for sale.
Use there for all other meanings.
Than compares two things. Think compAre - thAn.
Morale was lower than ever before.
Then refers to the time when something happens, and is often used to indicate consecutive actions.
Then he started home.
I got up late and then had breakfast.
Then also means "it follows that" or "therefore."
If you don't study, then you will not do well on your exams.