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Are You Making These Common Word Mix-ups?

Image representing students The Most Common Spelling Mistakes for English Language Learners

A lot of words in English look or sound pretty similar – which can be a bit confusing for someone who is learning the language!

So how can you tell which word is correct – and when? Check out our list below of some of the most common confusions out there – and how to use these words properly!

Accept and except

These two words sound very similar, so it can be easy to assume they might have similar meanings too!

But they don’t. In fact, they are quite different – “accept” means to agree to something, or to receive something, while “except” means to exclude something from a group or activity.

For example:

“I accepted the gift from my parents.”

“Everyone except me had a new outfit.”

Advice and advise

A lot of people make the assumption that these words are just different spellings of each other – this is not correct!

Actually, they have slightly different meanings. “Advice” is a noun – this describes the recommendation or suggestion you might give somebody. “Advise” is the verb – this describes the act of giving the suggestion!

For example:

“Her advice was to accept the offer.”

“My trainer advised me to take some rest.”

All together and altogether

These two words are another pair that look very similar. So what’s the difference between them?

“All together” is a phrase that means that something, or a group of things, are all in one place. “Altogether” means to describe something completely, or to summarise something on the whole.

For example:

“The cats were all together at feeding time.”

“I felt altogether quite upset.”

Alter and altar

These two words sound exactly the same – but they each have a very different meaning. An “altar” is a sacred table or stand that you would find in a church or religious space, while “alter” is a verb that describes making a change to something.

What a big difference a single letter can make!

For example:

“The restaurant altered the menu after we visited.”

“He placed the candles on the church altar.”

Aural and oral

This pair of words are often confused, as they are both related to senses – but that doesn’t mean they can be interchanged!

“Aural” describes anything related to sound or the ears, while “oral” relates to anything that goes in the mouth.

For example:

“The wind in the trees made a great aural experience.”

“You have to take the medication orally.”

Practice and practise

Last but not least – another common pair that people easily confuse with each other!

Like a lot of these pairs, even though they have very similar spellings, the difference in meaning is subtle – but important. “Practice” is a noun – it describes someone’s work or regular activity, while “practise” is a verb that describes doing something, or rehearsing for something.

For example:

“My doctor’s new practice opened this week.”

“I’ve been practising karate for 10 years.”

There are lots of words in English that look or sound similar, but often mean something quite unexpected – so if you’re not sure which is the right word – always look it up first!