Commonly Misused Words in English - Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1, English can be a difficult language, especially if it's not your native language and even native English speakers can find it tricky deciphering the difference between similar sounding words. As a result, it is not uncommon for words to be used out of context. So, let's look at Part 2 of the most commonly misused words in English:

Canvas and Canvass

Canvas is a noun and is a material whereas Canvass is a verb and means to request votes and support:

He likes to use oil paints on canvas
During the election campaign, she canvassed tirelessly for voters' support.

Capture and Captivate

These are both verbs. Capture means to seize something whereas captivate means to fascinate:

He captured the wild tiger in a cage.
She was captivated by the beautiful paintings.

Complement and Compliment

Complement means to complete, to fill up or make perfect and Compliment means to flatter someone with a courteous remark:

I think the blue rug complements the grey floor tiles.
John complimented Jane on her new dress.

Comprehensive and Comprehensible

These are both adjectives but whereas Comprehensive means something is exhaustive, including all or everything, Comprehensible means something is understandable. Here are some examples:

The encyclopaedia gave a comprehensive description of ancient Egypt.
The description of ancient Egypt was written in a clear and comprehensible way.

Confirm and Conform

Confirm is a verb and means to affirm, ratify or substantiate something and Conform is an adjective which means to comply with, be similar and in line with something:

She confirmed her hotel booking one week before her holiday.
His dress sense does not conform to the rules laid down by the school.

Dependant and Dependent

Dependant is a noun and relates to somebody who depends upon someone else for a home and food etc. Dependent is an adjective and means depending on something or someone:

John has many dependants.
John's children are dependent on him until they leave school.

Difference and Deference

Both are nouns and whereas Difference means to be unlike something or dissimilar, Deference means to show respect:

The differences between the siblings are very noticeable.
He showed a lot of deference when he first met the Head Master.

Elicit and Illicit

Elicit means to draw out something, such as information from a person and Illicit means something secretive, illegal or not permitted:

The teacher tried to elicit answers from the students.
The students were punished for taking illicit drugs.

Eligible and Legible

These are both adjectives. Eligible means qualified, worthy, desirable and Legible means readable and clear:

He was described as the country's most eligible bachelor.
His writing is far from legible.

Eminent and Imminent

Both are adjectives but Eminent means distinguished, of a high rank or position whereas Imminent relates to something that is about to happen soon:

She holds an eminent position on the Board.
It looked like rain was imminent.

Every day and Everyday

Every day means each individual day whereas Everyday means something that is done habitually and frequently:

The office is open every day except Sundays.
Christmas is not an everyday occurrence.

Graceful and Gracious

Both are adjectives. Graceful means to be full of grace, elegant and Gracious is to be full of kindness and generosity of spirit. Here are some examples:

She always looked graceful when she danced.
He was very gracious despite losing the match.


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