We are always quick to excuse our poor English by claiming that English came with the white man by ship. We can choose to use that excuse for so long, or opt to learn to speak and write it properly.
You will realize that though some English words sound similar, their meaning has a world of difference. Try not to use them interchangeably because contrary to popular (mis)use, these words are not synonyms.
Accept and Except
While these may seem easy, you will be surprised by the number of times mistakes are made when they are put to use. To Accept is to receive or to take. Except on the other hand means excluding, or not including.
Principle and Principal
Can you remember which of these words refers to the head of a school? If your guess is the first one, then you are absolutely wrong. A Principal is the person of higher authority in an institution or organization, and Principle means a basic rule or truth.
Climactic and Climatic
Climactic comes from the word Climax, which means to reach the point of highest intensity while Climatic is that word your Geography teacher used quite a bit while referring to the weather: The El Nino phenomenon is a Climatic condition manifested by wetter-than-normal or drier-than-normal weather conditions.
Weather and Whether
Weather goes hand in hand with climate while Whether presents a choice between two options: I am leaving, whether you like it or not!
Emigrate and Immigrate
Note that we say Emigrate from and Immigrate to. Also note that the former has a single ‘m’ while the latter has a double ‘m’. To Emigrate from means to leave a country or state to go somewhere else, while to Immigrate to means to enter another country from your original country, state or region. Simply put, when you Emigrate, you exit a country and when you Immigrate, you enter a country. Easy, right?
Bemused and Amused.
They may sound like it, but these two words are not synonyms. Bemused means to be puzzled or confused, while the better known amused, of course means to be tickled.
Farther and Further
Farther is used to refer to the physical distance, a greater physical distance from point A to point B. Further on the other hand refers to figurative distance: Nothing could be further from the truth.
Avail and Available
There is nothing right about this sentence: The books were availed to us. This is because ‘Avail’ means to use to one’s advantage. Available means ‘make accessible’, or to put at someone’s disposal. That sentence should therefore read “The books were made available to us”. To avail does not mean to make available.
Lie and Lay
Lie means to rest your body on a surface e.g. Lie in bed, lie on the grass, lie on the table. Lay means to place something on a surface e.g. lay a book on the shelf, lay a plate on the table.
Your and You’re
I can’t count the number of times I have come across the abuse of these two words. ‘Your’ is a possessive pronoun that means, belonging to you: Your blog. Your website. Your car. You’re on the other hand, is a contraction of two words: You + are = You’re: You’re late. You’re lazy. You’re smart. You’re it. I beg you, you self-respecting blogger you, to restrain from making the mistake of interchanging these words again. They surely have been abused enough times.
There and Their
There is used to indicate a place or a position: I am going there, while Their is a possessive pronoun that means belonging to them: These are their book, their house, their school…
This and These
This one’s easy but I will throw it in here anyway. The short of it is that both words are pronouns with This being the singular form of These.
Any other words you can think of?