It's quite easy to find lists of commonly misused words. They are all over the internet. But it's not clear which of them are the MOST commonly misused words. This article says that there are 38 commonly misused words. But the words in this article are so obvious, like then and than, cant and can't. I am looking for something more meaningful!!! I found another article on Wikipedia which has a huge list of commonly misused words. But even native speakers don't know the half of these words!And it's just pointless to learn them all.

I am a non-native speaker. Please, tell me which MOST commonly misused words I should learn! Thank you all.

closed as too broad by oerkelens, Edwin Ashworth, user66974, J.R., Mari-Lou A Mar 30 '15 at 9:41

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  • 3
    If those 38 examples are obvious to you, then stop worrying about misusing words. Many native speakers do not consider those things obvious (as illustrated by the plethora of mistakes that litter the interwebz...). What are common mistakes by non-native speakers will mostly depend on their own mother tongue, so assuming all learners of English make the same common mistakes is probably not constructive. – oerkelens Mar 30 '15 at 9:08
  • False friends are words that may be easily misused: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_friend – user66974 Mar 30 '15 at 9:21
  • Enjoy! public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html But seriously the mistakes non-native spoeakers make are not the same that native speakers commit. – Mari-Lou A Mar 30 '15 at 9:41
  • Since you are a non-native speaker new to the Stack Exchange, you might be interested in checking out English Language Learners. (But don't re-ask this question there, because cross-posting of identical questions is discouraged across the network.) – J.R. Mar 30 '15 at 9:42
  • It depends on your original language. Does you language have articles or genders for instance? If you're coming from French, you might accidentally refer to things as "he" or "she". If you're coming from Chinese, you're more likely to get "the" and "a" confused. And if you're coming from Britain, you'll add the letter "u" to an obscene number of words (colour, neighbour, honour) for no reason at all. ;) – Parthian Shot Mar 30 '15 at 19:30

This is your new bible, friend:

A Collection of Confusible Phrases By Yuri Dolgopolov

Will steer you away from many a trap, and give you a lifeline in dire straights, Scylla and Charybdis :-)

Outstanding. And I am not friends with the author, even though I was consulted by him, like many others, on various issues.

  • @William Bloom: Glad to hear that! – Marius Hancu Mar 30 '15 at 10:08

One area I see non-native speakers have trouble with fairly often is correctly making the count/uncount distinction on nouns. For example, misusing "advice" as a count noun: "Do you have any advices" instead of "do you have any advice?" "Information" is another word like this.



There's obviously no definitive answer to this question, only subjective answers. I'll try to pick five words from the list that seem to me to be the most misused:

  1. affect & effect

  2. assure, ensure, & insure (This one is my personal pet peeve! People frequently write "insure" when they mean "ensure," even in professional writing.)

  3. desert & dessert

  4. lay & lie

  5. there, their, & they're

BONUS: that & which (IMO, you should us "that" before a restrictive clause and "which" before a non-restrictive clause)

Hope this helps!

  • These are all errors that native speakers are far more likely to commit than non-native speakers. Except perhaps for the that/which one, which isn’t an error at all. Restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses are not defined by their complementiser/relative pronoun, but by their intonation (and in writing, by their punctuation). Both that and which can set off both restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. (StoneyB has written an excellent ELU blog post about this, which I highly recommend.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 30 '15 at 11:02

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