There are groups of words that sound similar or mean similar things, but are actually different in very specific ways. Fun stuff. But don't worry! We've got you covered with tips and tricks for remembering their unique meanings.
We use 🧠 to indicate an important tip for memorizing something, so be on the lookout for those.
It's vs. Its
It's is short for it is, while its is the possessive of it.
Example: It's not a banger if its chorus doesn't make you want to jump up and down.
🧠 Think of the apostrophe as a replacement for a letter: it is ➡️ it's.
They're vs. Their vs. There
Same deal as above - think of the apostrophe in they're as a replacement for the letter a in are, so they are becomes they're.
Then, their refers to people, because it has the letter I in it, and I am a person. So, their is the possessive form of "they."
This leaves there to refer to a place.
Example: If there isn't an Instagram apology, they're not really fake-sorry for their mistake.
You're vs. Your
Same drill! Think of the apostrophe in you're as a replacement for the letter a in are, so you are becomes you're.
That means your is the possessive form of "you."
Example: You're going to regret eating all your snacks before 4th period.
Accept vs. Except
Accept means to receive or welcome something. Except means to not include something.
Example: I accept apologies in the form of food, Netflix subscriptions, and any form of money, except bitcoin (because I don't know what it is).
🧠 Just remember - except starts with e - e for exclude.
Access vs. Excess
Access is the entrance or way of entering an area. Excess is extra - e for extra.
Example: If you give certain people access to your life, they'll cause you to experience an excess of stress.
🧠 Just remember - excess starts with e, e for extra.
Affect vs. Effect
Usually, affect is an action, while effect is the result of an action.
Example: I want my smile to affect someone like this.
Example: I wish the effect of my smile on another human would be like this.
🧠 Affect comes before effect in the dictionary - the action comes before the result. Or, affect starts with an a - a for action.
Afflict vs. Inflict
This one is tricky. Afflict means to be affected by pain or suffering. Inflict means to cause pain or suffering for someone or something.
Example: I am afflicted with extreme anxiety any time my teacher inflicts a presentation assignment on us.
🧠 Afflicted sounds like affected and inflict sounds more like injure.
Alludes vs. Eludes
Alludes means to hint at something without revealing it completely. Eludes means to escape from something.
Example: Robert Pattinson often alludes to the fact that he wishes he could have eluded filming the Twilight movies.
🧠 Eludes starts with e for exit, and alludes starts with al, like you almost reveal something, but not quite.
Allusion vs. Illusion
An allusion is something used to remind you of something else. An illusion is like a hallucination or a vision that isn't actually real.
The title of Ava DuVernay's film 13th
is an allusion
to the 13th Amendment and the illusion
that it completely abolished slavery, when, in fact, the prison system acts like another method of slavery.
🧠 If you're feeling really ill, you might experience illusions.
Cite vs. Site vs. Sight
We use cite to describe giving credit to a source for something that you're using or repeating.
We use site to refer to a place - either online or in real life. And we use sight to describe the gift of seeing things in the world.
Example: The sight of a student not citing their sources and just copying content from a website infuriates every English teacher.
🧠 In the word sight, there's a silent g - you can see it, but you can't hear it. And in English class, if you don't cite your sources, you'll get a C on your paper.
Conscious vs. Conscience
Conscious describes being either 1) awake and responsive or 2) super sensitive to something (like self-conscious). A conscience is that little voice in your head that tells you to study and stop watching Netflix.
Example: My conscience tells me that the auto-play options on YouTube and Netflix are the enemy, but as long as I'm conscious, I'll watch one more episode.
🧠 Being self-conscious means being super aware of yourself and what others think of you. So being conscious means being aware of or sensitive to something.
Could of vs. Could have vs. Could've
So, here's the thing, could of is not English-grammar-correct, even though we all say it. The correct forms are could have or could've , which are actually the same thing.
Just like before, the apostrophe replaces letters - in this case, it replaces the ha in have, so could have ➡️ could've.
Illicit vs. Elicit
You know that Taylor Swift song
, illicit affairs? T-Swift likes her vocab. Illicit
means forbidden or illegal, so in this case, Taylor is singing about a forbidden affair.
Elicit, on the other hand, means to get a reaction from someone.
Example: Having an illicit affair while dating Taylor is likely to elicit a song about you from her.
🧠 Illicit starts with i for illegal. Elicit starts with e for emotion - like getting an emotional reaction from someone.
Eminent vs. Imminent
Eminent is used to describe someone who is famous and well-respected. Imminent is used to describe something that is about to happen.
Example: The imminent release of a new movie is more exciting if it features eminent actresses and actors.
🧠 Eminent looks super close to Eminem, who is a famous rapper.
Empathetic vs. Emphatic
We use empathetic to describe someone who is able to understand other people and how they're feeling. We use emphatic to describe something being said very forcefully.
Example: It's hard for me to be empathetic to how someone is feeling if they're being too emphatic as they share.
🧠 Emphatic sounds a lot like emphasize, which means to say something more forcefully. Empathetic has the word pathetic in it, and we can all relate to and understand someone who might be feeling pathetic.
Fewer vs. Less
We use fewer when the items we're talking about can be counted. We use less when we're talking about things that can't be counted.
Example: After my brother leaves the kitchen, we have fewer pizza rolls and less happiness in the house.
🧠 We can use few to count things - like a few minutes or a few people (can't say "a less minutes" - sounds weird). So, fewer should be used when the things we're talking about can be counted.
Many vs. Much
Like above, we use many when the items we're talking about can be counted. We use much when we're talking about things that can't be counted.
Example: After my mom leaves the kitchen, we have many pizza rolls and much happiness in the house.
🧠 Many has the word any in it - and we use any to indicate if there's at least one of something, like, "Are there any jobs that include afternoon naps?" So, many must be used for things we can count. This means much should be used when the things we're talking about CAN'T be counted.
Imitated vs. Intimated
Imitated means copying something or someone, while intimated means to hint at something.
Example: There are many hand-gestures you can imitate to intimate that you're mad at someone.
Note that intimate can also mean being very close with someone, or it can be used to describe something that is private and personal.
🧠 On that note, we can remember that intimated means to hint at something because you might not want to openly say something that is private.
Ingenuous vs. Ingenious
Ingenuous is used to describe someone who is innocent and trusting, while ingenious is used to describe someone who is super smart and clever.
Example: People who are ingenious tend to know too much about the world, so they aren't always ingenuous - except, maybe, for spelling bee champs, who are still so young, like Akeelah.
🧠 The end of the word Ingenious sounds like genius. And the end of the word ingenuous kind of sounds like generous, and people who are trusting and innocent are probably also generous.
Patience vs. Patients
Patience means staying calm even if things are not going well, while patients are people receiving care at the doctor's office.
Example: Doctors and nurses have shown incredible bravery and patience in treating millions of COVID patients during the pandemic.
🧠 Patients is the plural form of patient, so it should end in s.
Perspective vs. Prospective
We use perspective to mean a point of view that someone has. We use prospective when we're talking about something that is likely to be true or happen in the future.
Example: From my perspective, we should make it easier for all students to become prospective college students.
🧠 Perspective, has the word per in it, like how there are many opinions per person in the world. Prospective starts with the same letters as prosper because we all want to live comfortably in the future.
Respectfully vs. Respectively
We use respectfully to say that something is done with respect, and we use respectively to refer back to something said earlier in the sentence. This might be confusing, so let's look at an example.
Example: COVID case numbers in the U.S. and South Korea are 5 million and 50 thousand, respectively.
The word respectively helps us know that the order here matters: the 5 million number goes with the U.S., and the 50 thousand number goes with South Korea.
🧠 Respectfully has the word fully in it because people like to demand your full respect.
Than vs. Then
We use than to compare things, and we use then to indicate the time that something happens during.
Example: If you think Cool Ranch Doritos are better than Nacho Cheese, then I've got to walk away now.
🧠 Ignore the h in both. We have then, which can be a time, like 10 PM. So, then should be related to timing. We also have than, which is something we can compare between two people - like, "I am tanner than you."
Wander vs. Wonder
We use wander to describe randomly exploring or walking around somewhere. And we use wonder to describe feeling amazed.
Example: I wonder how long I can wander the hallways before a teacher catches me.
🧠 Wonder has the word on in it - like, everything might seem amazing when you're high on...life. Remember wander by remembering that you want to wander the world.
And, that's it! So, remember these however you can, even if means sticking post-it notes everywhere, and you'll be all set on test day.