10 Commonly Misused Word Pairs In English

Have you ever misused words because they either look alike, sound alike or, worst of all, look and sound alike but have completely different meanings. Other words look and sound different but are similar in meaning, and it’s hard to determine which is the correct one in a given context. Hopefully the following list of pairs of commonly misused words will help you keep them straightened out.

1.Among and Between

It is often taught that “between” is used for 2 items and “among” for 3 or more.

But this is not completely accurate. The more accurate difference is this:

  • Between is used when naming distinct, individual items (can be 2, 3, or more)
    The negotiations between Brazil, Argentina, and Chile are going well
  • Among is used when the items are part of a group, or are not specifically named (MUST be 3 or more)
    The negotiations among the countries of South America are going well.

2. Lay and Lie

  • Lay means ‘to put something down carefully in a flat position’. It must have an object. It is a regular verb, but note the spelling of the past simple and -ed form: laid not layed
    Shall I lay the tray on the bed?
  • Lie is a verb which means ‘to be in or put yourself into a flat position’. It is an irregular verb and it doesn’t take an object. The -ing form is lying and the past simple is lay. The -ed form, lain, is very formal and is rarely used
    I love to lie on a beach and read
    The dog was lying by the gate waiting for me to come home
  • Lie can also mean ‘say something which is not true’. In this case, it is a regular verb
    I lied to my teacher about having done the homework


base formlay (put something down)lie (be horizontal)lie (say something that is not true)
past simplelaidlaylied
-ed formlaidlainlied
10 Commonly Misused Word Pairs In English

3. Embarrassed and Ashamed

  • Embarrassed means you feel uncomfortable because other people might think you are strange. For examples when:
    You discover you have spinach stuck in your teeth
    You call someone by the wrong name
    You are not dressed appropriately for a party.
  • Ashamed means you did something bad or wrong (often morally wrong) and now you regret it / feel guilty about it. For examples when:
    You yelled at your kids for no reason
    You got drunk and behaved badly at a party
    You lied to your boyfriend/girlfriend
10 Commonly Misused Word Pairs In English

4. Lend and Borrow

  • Lend means ‘give something to someone for a short time, expecting that you will get it back’.
    I never lend my CDs to anyone.
    lent Gary £30
  • Borrow is a regular verb meaning ‘get something from someone, intending to give it back after a short time’
    Could I borrow your pen for a minute, please?
    Laura used to borrow money from me all the time
10 Commonly Misused Word Pairs In English

5. House and Home

  • House is the building where the majority of people live. It normally has bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and a dining room.
    They’re building six new houses at the end of our road.
  • Home is a more personal and emotional word to refer to where someone lives. 
    It’s not very big but it’s my home.

The main difference between them is that house is concrete. House refers to a building in which someone lives.

In contrast, a home can refer either to a building or to any location that a person thinks of as the place where she lives and that belongs to her. A home can be a house or an apartment, but it could also be a tent, a boat, or an underground cave. 

A home can even be something abstract, a place in your mind. When you say, “Let’s go home,” you are probably not talking simply about going to the physical structure where you live. You are talking about being in the special place where you feel most comfortable and that belongs to you. 

6. Like and As

  • Like is used to mean ‘similar to’ or ‘the same as’. It can also be used to give some examples. .
    Talking to you is like talking to a 3 year old baby.
    There are many beautiful places in Delhi like Lotus Temple, Red Fort, Nehru Planetarium, India Gate, etc.
  • As is used in sentences to highlight the job, appearance or function. It can also be used to mean ‘in the same way.’
    As I told you, I would be moving to Delhi, this week.
    She has been working as a cinematographer.

7. Beside and Besides

  • Beside is a preposition. It means ‘at the side of’ or ‘next to’. It is rather formal.
    He would like to take a photograph of us. Would you come and sit beside me?
    There was a small table beside the bed, on which there was a book.
  • Besides is a preposition or a linking adverb. It means ‘in addition to’ or ‘also’.
    What other types of music do you like besides classical?
  • As a linking adverb, we usually put a comma before and after besides in writing.
    I don’t think going for a walk is a good idea. It’s quite cold, and, besides, it’s getting late and we don’t want to be out in the dark.

8. Listen and Hear

  • Hear is to physically experience the sense of sound. As long as one’s ear and brain are capable of processing sound waves, one can hear.
    Can you hear the birds singing in the garden?
  • Listen is to deliberately apply the ability to hear. One who listens is thinking about what is heard, what it means, how to respond, and whether to continue to listen/pay attention.
    “Why are you not listening to me?”

Therefore; the most important difference between listen and hear is that listening is deliberate, and hearing is not. Hear means that sounds come into your ears whether you want it or not, while listen means that you consciously pay attention to what you hear, that is you want to hear something

9. Emigrate and Immigrate 

  • Emigrate (from…) (to…) means to leave one location, such as one’s native country or region, to live permanently in another country .
    My grandparents emigrated from Vietnam to the US in the 1980s.
  • Immigrate (to…) (from…) means to come and live permanently in a country after leaving your own country
    About 6.6 million people immigrated to the United States in the 1970s.

10. Fit and Suit

  • Fit means to be the right shape and size for somebody/something
    I tried the dress on but it didn’t fit
    My shoes fit perfectly
    A close-fitting dress
  • Suit means to be convenient or useful for somebody
    If you want to go by bus, that suits me fine.
  • Or suit somebody (especially of clothes, colors, etc.) means to make you look attractive
    Blue suits you. You should wear it more often.
  • Or suit somebody/something means to be right or good for somebody/something
    This hot weather doesn’t suit me.
10 Commonly Misused Word Pairs In English
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