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Job Aid

Confusing Word Pairs

Purpose: Use this job aid to review the meanings and use of commonly confused word pairs.

Many words are difficult to use correctly because they're so similar to other words, either in sound or meaning.

Commonly confused pronoun forms
Pronoun Possessive form Example Contracted form Example
it its The team completed its assignment. it's It's important for you to attend.
they their Their attendance at the meeting is imperative. they're They're all attending the meeting.
who whose You're someone whose input is required at the meeting. who's You're the one who's needed at the meeting.
you your That's your responsibility. you're You're required at the meeting.
Similar sounding words
Similar sounding words Meaning Example
accept To receive favorably I accept responsibility for the project's failure.
except Other than or with the exclusion of It's published monthly, except for March and August.
elude To escape notice, perception, or often memory His name eludes me.
allude To hint at or refer to something indirectly The CEO alluded to the possibility of expanding the business next year.
imminent About to happen, ready to occur, threatening, or expected The merger is imminent.
eminent Well known and respected; an expert We're hiring an eminent scientist to head the Research Department.
cite To make reference to something You must cite the documents you've drawn information from.
site A place or location The building site is being prepared.
complement Something that completes or makes perfect The skills of the new employees complement those of the existing team.
compliment An admiring remark or a sign of respect, honor, or praise, often directed at a person He received a compliment on his managerial skills.
principal An adjective meaning most important or influential, or a noun meaning the person in charge of a school The school has a new principal.
principle A basic law or doctrine Women fought hard for the principle of equal rights.
capitol An official place or building where government work is done The government officials returned to the capitol for the new session.
capital Chief in importance or influence; the most important town or city in an area; money, funds, or assets I live in the capital city.

I need capital to start the business.
stationery Office supplies used in paperwork She ordered pens, pencils, paper, and paperclips from the stationery store.
stationary An adjective describing an object that is not moving I drove past a stationary vehicle.
a while A noun phrase that follows the preposition for or in We haven't had this problem for a while.

awhile An adverb denoting a period of time We stopped there awhile.
Similar meaning words
Similar meaning word Meaning Example
ambivalent Having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something The customer is ambivalent about the architect's design for the house.
ambiguous Having more than one meaning, open to different interpretations, or doubtful or indistinct His ambiguous pronouncements left his audience in the dark.
anxious Worried, tense, or suffering from anxiety I'm anxious about the examination.
eager Marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest I'm eager to start planning the vacation.
continuous Uninterrupted or constant Change is a continuous process.
continual Intermittent or often repeated The growth in the investment has been continual.
comprise To be made up of or to include The full pack comprises 52 cards.
compose To make up, to constitute, or to form the substance of something The five sections that compose the report are well laid out.
disinterested Objective, impartial, and unbiased You should be disinterested when conducting a performance appraisal.
uninterested Unconcerned or bored An uninterested manager shows a lack of respect toward the company and employees.
less Used for uncountable things There was less traffic on the road this morning.
fewer Used when referring to countable objects There were fewer cars on the road this morning.
myself If you've already used the word I, use the word myself I myself wouldn't choose that one.
me If you're referring to yourself for the first time, you can use the word me This appeals to me.

Course: Business Grammar: Common Usage Errors
Topic: Commonly Confused Word Pairs