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Commonly Misused Words and Misused Phrases

Use this list of misused words and phrases for elementary, middle school and high school students and teachers to learn and understand the correct way to spell and use those words and phrases that are commonly misused.


A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M
N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A Words

He said it was an honor to meet you.
It wasn't right for you to call that child an urchin

I accept your apology.
Everyone except John may leave.

In a foreign country, you must adapt to new customs.
The Grays plan to adopt several hard-to-place children.

He overcame many adverse circumstances to win the marathon.
The mayor said he was averse to my proposal.

The speaker adverted to an earlier talk she had given.
She narrowly averted a dangerous fall.

Because of Michael's excellent advice, Bob completed a successful business deal.
Michael will advise Bob to be daring

The accident did not affect Thomas.
The effect on his brother, however, was great.

If you continue to scratch that rash, you will aggravate your condition.
Your constant scratching annoys me.

all ready-already
Call me when you are all ready to go. (each one)
By the time Sue arrived, we had already finished dinner.

all together-altogether
The four of us were all together at the coffee shop.
This book is altogether too long.

In passing the speaker alluded to the new technology in business
The speaker referred to statistics that demonstrated the rise of technology in business.

T.S. Eliot uses an allusion to Greek mythology in that poem.
You have the illusion that I enjoy classical music, I don't.

Many a would-be-bride has been left at the altar.
Would it be inconvenient for you to alter your plans for this weekend?

Ted is an alumnus of Columbia, and so is Sally Ann, but June and Pete are alumni of Yale.
Mary is an alumna of Bryn Mawr, and Gert and Sada are alumnae of Sarah Lawrence. (This form is feminine only.)

Kindly Dr. Brown is the most amiable professor on the faculty.
Management and the union reached an amicable settlement.

The campaign director divided the state among his three most competent assistants. (any number greater than two)
In many of today's homes, the care of the children is divided between the two parents.

You would not believe the amount of time I have spent on this project.
I wish I could reuse the number of hours I have spent on this project.

Scarlett O'Hara remembered those antebellum days fondly. (before)
He is heading a new antinuclear committee in our city. (against)

I am anxious about the diagnosis. (to unhappily anticipate)
I am eager to see your new car.

Having a good brain, he is apt to get high grades.
Unless it cuts spending, the firm is liable to fail.

Paula looks very much like her sister.
Rosemary swims as well as Pam does.
Carl looks as if he needs a nap.

The ascent to the tower was frighteningly steep.
Before continuing, I await your assent.

B Words

Linda likes to sit beside Ellen at the table.
Who, besides Pam, is taking swimming lessons?

Our youngest child was born last month.
John has borne the burden by himself for long enough. (to carry, as in a weight, etc.)

May I borrow your pocket calculator? (take from)
I can lend you my mechanical pencil. (give to)
I need a $500 loan.
borrow from ("borrow off" is unacceptable)

I prefer a bicycle with a foot brake. This makes it easier to brake for a chipmunk crossing the road.
If you are not careful, you will break that dish.

"Bring the book over here to me." (carry toward)
"When you leave, take the book away with you." (carry away)

The balloon got bigger and bigger and finally burst.
The sculptor was happy with the bust done in marble.

C Words

Some fortunate people can arrange their time to include work and pleasure. (possible to do)
You may hunt deer only during certain seasons. (need permission for)

Ricardo has 90% of the necessary capital for his new business venture.
Trenton is the capital of New Jersey.
New Jersey's capitol building is in Trenton.
Did you visit the Capitol when you were in Washington, D.C.?

An attorney often cites previous cases that support her argument.
One of the most beautiful sights in the country is the Grand Canyon.
The alternative school will be build on this site.

I find this coarse fabric to be abrasive.
That is an acceptable course of action.

Rice nicely complements a chicken dinner.
I'd like to compliment you for doing such a thorough job.

Tom is continually late. (always)
The river runs continuously through several towns. (from one to the other)

Our neighbor has just been elected to the town council.
The troubled man sought his friend's counsel.

Because the defendant had a good alibi, his story seemed credible. (believable)
As a result of many hours of hard work, Joe presented a creditable report.

His unusual recipe called for currant jelly.
Because the current was swift, the canoe was difficult to maneuver.

D Words

The desert is very hot and dry.
More and more young soldiers have been deserting the army.
Apple pie is America's favorite dessert.

His constant lying detracts from his good qualities. (takes away)
The loud noise distracted her making her lose concentration. (averting attention)

Eventually, every living thing dies.
I'll never dye my hair.

different from
My opinion on the subject is different from his. (This is the correct form; different than is incorrect.)

The builders discovered oil on our land. (found)
Whitney invented the cotton gin. (began)

He was discreet in his habits.
Each grain of rice was discrete, not clinging to the others.

Marlene draws very well.
She keeps her pads and pencils in the top drawer of her desk.

E Words

The Harlows emigrated from England. (coming from)
After immigrating to the United States, the Harlows settled in Kansas. (going to)

F Words

John Simpson is a famous pianist.
Arthur Jones is an infamous car thief.

May car can run farther on this other brand of gasoline.
I cannot continue this discussion any further.

Mark is very aggressive and has a forceful personality.
To break down a door is one way of making a forcible entry.

Please dress formally for the wedding.
I was formerly employed by a jewelry company, but I am now working in a bank.

Maria did a good job.
Maria doesn't feel well.

The continuous harsh and rasping sound grated on my nerves.
A grate in the sidewalk covered the opening to the sewer.
Ernest Hemingway was considered a great writer in his own lifetime.

H Words

He was condemned to be hanged by the neck until dead.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

Orange juice is healthful.
If you eat properly and exercise sufficiently, you will be healthy.

I Words

Although he did not state it directly, the candidate implied that his opponent was dishonest.
From the mayor's constructive suggestions, the townsfolk inferred that he was trying his best to do a good job.

I think it's a fine idea!
The dog wagged its tail.

L Words

Sue can finish the report later in the week.
I can meet you Tuesday or Thursday. The latter (meaning Thursday) would be more convenient.

I'll need one more lead pipe to complete this plumbing job.
I only enjoy a race when I am in the lead.
John was unfamiliar with that route, so Jules led the way.

Harriet is having great difficulty with her efforts to learn flowcharting.
Leslie is patiently trying to teach Harriet how to flowchart.

If the customs officer finds nothing wrong with a traveler's baggage, the officer lets the traveler leave the area.

Eric was excited about his first loose tooth.
If you step out of line, you will lose your place.

M Words

The manor, or landed estate, dates back to feudal times in England.
They don't like the manner in which you responded to my sincere question.

The coal miners were trapped during the cave-in.
The young man was not allowed to enter the bar because he was a minor.

Because of Ed's high moral standards, he returned the wallet to its owner.
The story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" has a moral that applies to everyone.
Because the war was immoral, the morale of the troops was low.

N Words

When we drove past the dead skunk, the car was filled with a nauseous odor.
The odor of the dead skunk nauseated Sara.

P Words

The amount of paint needed to finish the job would fill a one-gallon pail.
Because of her long illness, Maria's complexion was very pale.

We passed the Model T on the parkway.
We cannot always try to recapture the past.

If we work together, perhaps we can end war and achieve a truly lasting peace.
In time, we will be paying an extremely high price for a piece of paper.

Older children frequently persecute their younger siblings.
You are prosecuted if you are put on trial for a crime.

The items written in a diary are very personal.
When applying for a job at a large company, you must go to the personnel office.

The meaning is quite plain and requires no further explanation.
We rode for miles across the open plains of Kansas.
The plane landed smoothly.
Please plane that wood so that I can build a birdhouse with it.

Studying computer programming is a practicable plan for the future.
Computerizing payroll is a practical business decision.

A preface always precedes the body of a book.
Don't let me interrupt you; proceed with your work.

A school is as good as the teacher and principal.
The principal actors in the play remained for a final rehearsal of the second act.
The principle upon which many simple machines are based is frequently the lever.

Q Words

As the campers lay down for the night, quiet settled over the campsite.
That is quite a strong accusation.

R Words

When we raise the flag, we'd like everyone in the audience to rise.

S Words

The chairman requested committee members to sit down. (human)
The artist set the clay on the workbench and began to create a sculpture. (inanimate)

Theater seats are most often stationary.
When I write letters, I always use my engraved stationery.

I am sure Alice will be at the meeting.
Surely, you don't expect me to take notes.

T Words

New York is smaller than Wyoming, but Wyoming has a much smaller population than New York. (comparison)
First the eastern seaboard was colonized, then settlers moved westward. (refers to next)

When leaving their war-torn country, most of the refugees left all their possessions behind.
There are no easy answers to the problem of world-wide hunger.
As for the members of Congress, they're not always responsible for the wisest decisions.

The special crew worked through the night to repair the damaged wires.
When the Little League pitcher threw the ball, her teammates cheered.

United States presidents often travel to foreign countries. (preposition)
Many foreign heads of state visit the United States, too. (also)
Two visitors were the late Anwar Sadat and Margaret Thatcher. (number)

V Words

The vain man peered at his reflection in every window as he strolled down the street.
A rooster is the traditional weather vane symbol.
Veins are passageways that carry deoxygenated blood to the heart.

Vale is an uncommonly used synonym for valley.
The mourning woman hid her grief behind her veil.

W Words

The smaller children were told to wade near the shore.
The clerk weighed and priced the fresh vegetables.

If you measure your waist before you go to buy a pattern, you will avoid much confusion.
Don't waste precious time gossiping on the phone.

Tomorrow morning the general weather conditions will determine the distance of our first day's hike.
Whether or not you wish to pay taxes, you must.

The teacher asked, "Who's responsible for clean up today?"
We must determine whose turn it is.

Kurt Vonnegut writes excellent fiction.
Their attorney explained the family's rights in the lawsuit.
The religious rites of many tribes are an impressive part of their culture.

Y Words

Where is your car parked?
You're attempting something that's too difficult for you.


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