commonly confused pairs

5 Commonly Confused Pairs (or is it Pears?)

Just the other day, I was confused by a student who wrote, “I was very boring as I sat in class.” Did the student just confess to being dull? Or did he mean that he was inattentive in the lesson because it was uninteresting? I am sure that it was the second meaning he was referring to, which points to the error of his statement, that instead of writing “I was boring”, he should have written, “I was bored”. What a world of difference this small change makes!

How is this related to the post I am writing today? Well, I am well aware that English is full of homophones, words that sound similar but are spelled differently (case in point: pairs and pears) and those that are identical in meaning so they are easy to misuse (boring vs bored). As such, I am going to share 5 pairs of words that often get many of my students tangled up in webs of confusion. Let’s take a look at them below:

 

Pair 1: stationery vs stationary

commonly confused pairs

Stationary: To be stationary is to be not moving or not changing like a car or train that has come to a stop

Stationery: ‘stationery’ refers to things that are needed for writing, such as a pen or pencil.

Tip to remembering: The easiest way to remember the difference is to remind yourself that there is an ‘e’ in ‘stationery’ just like there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ or ‘pencil’ or ‘eraser’ (which are stationery items). It has worked for me so far and I hope it’ll work for you too!

Pair 2: compliment vs complement

commonly confused pairs

Compliment: A compliment is something you say to express approval, admiration or respect.

Complement: when something complements something else, it is making that something else better when combined with it. For instance, when you compliment someone that her shoes complement her dress, you are telling her that these two items of clothing, when worn together, make her whole outfit more attractive.

Tip to remembering: To make it easier to remember, I tell myself there are 2 ‘e’s in ‘complement’, hence they go together and make the word more attractive (kind of).

Pair 3: disinterested vs uninterested

commonly confused pairs

Disinterested: To be disinterested is to be unbiased or impartial. Not receiving any personal advantage and free to act fairly.

Uninterested: To be uninterested is to be bored.

Hence, it is better to have a disinterested judge at a competition rather than an uninterested one; the former will choose the most deserving winner while the latter might fall asleep before the competition is over. Repeat to yourself: ‘dis’ is good but ‘un’ is bad (and ignore the strange looks other passers-by might give you).

Take note though that “disinterest” (noun) refers to both 1. not receiving any personal advantage and 2. a lack of interest. The noun covers both meanings!

Pair 4: assure vs ensure

Assure vs Ensure

Ensure: To make certain that something will happen

Assure: To tell someone confidently that something is true so as not to cause worry to him or her. For instance, a student assures her teacher that she will score top marks for the test. To ensure that she will get the best grade, the student studies very hard for it.

Tip to remembering: A good way to tell the difference is ‘assure’ is normally found between two people or groups of people, for instance, I assure you, but this is not true for ‘ensure’ (‘I ensure you’ is grammatically wrong).

Pair 5: affect vs effect

affectvseffect

Affect: Verb – To have an influence or to cause a change is to affect, for instance, the rain will affect my holiday plan. This means that the rain will influence and change my plan, since there are some things I cannot do in wet weather.

Effect: Noun – ‘effect’ refers to the outcome or result of something, as in, the effect of getting drenched in the rain is getting a terrible headache.

Tip to remembering: Simply put, ‘affect’ is a verb (action) while ‘effect’ is a noun (thing). Therefore, you cannot say, “This will effect my mood” but should instead say, “This will affect my mood” or “This will have an effect on my mood”.

Pop Quiz Time

I have prepared a simple quiz to see if you can tell the difference between these confusing pairs (which I am sure you can!). At any point when you are stuck, remember to use the clues present in each sentence!

I hope what I have shared with you today have made you less confused about how to use these words properly. Leave your comments below and let me know if this post has been useful for you. Have a great week ahead!

 

Have something to share? Drop us a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Share

Other related posts

Creative Writing | 3 Easy Steps to Write Your Own Haiku!
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 3: Changes in Verb Forms
Ketchup on English! – is, are, was and were!
Audience In Visual Text | Visual Text Comprehension
Exploring Points of View (POV) in Composition Writing
Metaphors For? | Part II – Implied Metaphors
10 Beautiful Vivid Verbs to Boost Your Writing and Oral! | Primary School English
Metaphors For? | Part I – An Introduction to Metaphors
3 Family-Friendly Shows on Netflix (Educational & Entertaining)!
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 2: Tenses
2021 Father’s Day Contest Winners
Verbs: More than Just Action Words! | Part 1: Subject-Verb Agreement
10 Beautiful Words You Can Use in Narrative / Descriptive Writing | Secondary School
Ways To Create A Well-Rounded Character | Creative Writing
Understanding Purpose-Related Questions in Visual Text Comprehension
How Playing Video Games Can Improve Our English (With Practical Tips for Parents!)
Primary School Composition | Onomatopoeia – What’s That?
2021 Mother’s Day Contest Winners + Our Founder’s Journey (Mother’s Day Special)!
Composition Revision: Using Your 5 Senses in Your Writing
How to Create A Dynamic Piece of Writing Using Idioms
Ketchup on English! – Subject-Verb Agreement
Punctuation Marks: Colon Vs. Semicolon
4 steps to Create Suspense
That Simile Though 2 | Using Stronger Similes
Practice or Practise? What’s the Difference?!
PSLE ORAL | Compiled Prelim 2021 Oral Topics + Questions!
If you’re looking at getting recent PSLE Prelim Oral topics and practice questions, this will be an excellent resource for you!
5 Steps to Convert a Newspaper Article into a Cloze Passage
I would like to share with you 5 steps on how authentic articles can be transformed into cloze passages easily. Read on here!
PSLE English | Oral Conversation: Free SG50 Sample Practice + Model Answers
In this blogpost we will be touching on the oral stimulus-based conversation topic of National Day and SG50! Read on here!
PSLE English | Oral Conversation: Filling your Story with Details Easily + Free Revision Cards
By simply using the 5W1H, your children will be able to lengthen their stories (hence, the conversation!). Read on here!
PSLE English | Situational Writing: Q&A + Formal vs Informal Writing Comparison Chart
To aid you in your situational writing revision, here is a comparison chart that shows the differences between formal and informal writing!
PSLE English Tips | Oral: Stimulus-Based Conversation Checklist
To help my children handle the Stimulus-Based Conversation examination, here are some instructions again about using the checklist!
A Little Encouragement | DIY Motivational Bookmark (Easy to personalise too!)
A bookmark with a quote to motivate is also a chance for them to see the power of words and how words can mean more than what they seem.
Situational Writing: Step-by-Step Guide + Free Revision Card
I believe a walkthrough on the process of doing situational writing is in order. Here are the requirements for content and language!
I Love Reading | 5 Ways to Motivate Reluctant Readers
One of the most important ingredients necessary for a child or anyone learning English is the habit of reading. Get motivated to read now!
PSLE English | Printable Ultimate Grammar & Synthesis Summary
Today, we are sharing two lists of essentials in our Ultimate Grammar and Synthesis Summary Printable. Download them free here!
How Well Do You Know Your Past Participles?
While we are familiar with the past, present and future tenses, the little less known but equally important tense is the past participles.
Primary Composition Writing | Starting Sentences with Introductory Clauses
Today, we'll be revising the use of sentence starters to help you create variety in your sentence structures. Read on here!
The Sentence Train | Lower Primary English
Today, we are going to learn what makes up a sentence. It will come in handy when you do the word order activity in school! Read on here!
PSLE English Tips | Oral: Reading Checklist
This Oral Reading Checklist can be used by children when they practise reading on their own. Download it now!
Language of COVID | 10 Words Added to the Dictionary
Using Personification to Show, Not Tell!
Expressing Character Feelings Too! | Using Show-Not-Tell (Part 2)
How to Choose a Book to Read: 8 Ways
How to Dress Up A Boring Paragraph | Creative Writing
Ketchup on English! – Halloween Special: Prepositions of Time!
Ketchup on English! – Verbs Are Not Just Action Words!
Expressing Character Feelings | Using Show-Not-Tell
Which Picture Should I Use? | Choosing the Best Picture to Use for Composition!
Oral: Reading Passage | Long Vowels – Have You Been Reading Your Vowels Correctly?
Previous
Next

Like what you are reading?

Subscribe now to receive news and tips hot off the press!

Primary School English Tuition| Lil' but Mighty English