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The Differences Between Easily Confused Words

Updated on March 6, 2013

Putting an End to Confusion One Word at a Time

It is a fact that the English language is a pain in the ass. Most people who speak English (even if they speak it as their first language) have difficulty in speaking, writing, using and applying it correctly (and that's not even including punctuation!).

Even professional writers fall victim of these vicious words, making themselves look ridiculous, when in actuality they are fairly intelligent human beings. These words humiliate many others as well, making them feel stupid, dumbfounded and outwitted by grammar itself.

Upon conclusion of this article one will have a better understanding of the differences between some words that are easily confused so that one can be taken more seriously and seem more professional in the written form.

This article defines the differences between who and whom. Then and than. They're, there, and their. Except and accept. Two, to, and too. You're and your.

The Difference Between Who and Whom

The difference between who and whom is one of the most difficult and easily confused words in the English language and there is a very limited amount of people whom use these words in proper context. Even though very few readers would catch this mistake, it is still a grammatical error that should be avoided when one desires to become a respected professional.


The word “who” can only be used when it is the subject of the verb.

Examples on how to use the word "who" properly are listed below.

  • Who paid for this?

(Who is the subject of the verb pay).

  • I'm not sure who lives in that house on the corner of Baxter Street and Cleveland Avenue

(who is the subject for the verb live)


The word “whom” can only be used when it is not the subject of the verb; whom is never the subject of the verb (while who is always the subject of the verb).

Examples on how to use the word "whom" properly are listed below.

  • You sat by whom at the Opera?

("You" is the subject to the verb "sat", so one must use whom)

  • Kevin was talking with whom?

("Kevin" is the subject of the verb "talking" therefore whom must be used)

Whom should also always be used after prepositions (prepositions are words such as, to, with, by, in, on, and near).

  • With whom did you see Jesse?

(with- preposition)

  • This is the lady to whom I made the promise.

(to- preposition)

When in Doubt use Who

There is so much confusion when it comes to knowing and understanding the difference between "whom" and "who". If one is ever in doubt in which word to use in a sentence, one should use "who" first. Who is the most common form of the word and is used in more instances than whom, and a very minimal amount of readers will be able to point out a mistake between the two.

Whom can be perceived as contrived or "old fashioned" in some instances.

"Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?" -Groucho Marx
This quote by Groucho Marx is incorrect. It should start "Whom are you going to believe". However, as "whom" sounds a bit contrived, so we'll let Groucho off this time.

Example found on:

The Difference Between Then and Than

The difference between "then" and "than" is the second most difficult and also one of the most easily confused words in the English language. These words take sentences from serious to hilarious. When a writer confuses these words, the sentenced is transformed, and holds a completely different meaning than what the writers original intent was.


The word “then” has a direct relationship with time. It is most commonly used as an adverb.

Examples on how to use the word "then" properly are listed below.

"Then" can be used as subsequently or afterwards:

  • Go to the stop sign, then turn right.
  • I thought about it for a week, then I told him we should break up.

"Then" can be used as a direct consequence of a verb.

  • If you would have brushed your teeth, then you wouldn't have a cavity.
  • If that's how you feel, then we will break up.

"Then" can be used directly correlated with time.

  • I will have next weeks scheduled by then.


The word “than” is used as a comparison word. It is mostly used with comparatives, and is combined with words like more, less, and fewer.

Examples on how to use the word "than" properly are listed below.

  • Bill is more intelligent than Buck.
  • Having money is better than being in poverty.

Then and Than Have two Very Different Meanings

"Then" and "than" have two very different meanings and mistaking one for the other can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. This mistake can become very obvious and even comical, so make sure to proofread and edit since spell check will not recognize the grammatical error.


Than is used when comparing. I like this better than that.

Then is used when explaining a scheduled order of things. This happened and then that happened.

The Difference Between There, Their, and They're

The difference between "they're", "there", and "their" is obvious yet these words are still very easily confused in which many people fall victim to. Most people know and understand the differences between these words, but still use them incorrectly due to a lack of editing and proofreading before publishing (or sending). Due to a writers fast paced thoughts and quick hand it is very easy to make a mistake, but it is always important to proofread and edit ones work so these type of mistakes do not slip through ones fingers.


The word “there” is a word describing a place. There will always show a place, concrete or abstract.

Examples on how to use the word "there" properly are listed below.

  • They will be there.
  • Walk over there and then you will see it.


The word “their” is a word describing a group of people. “Their” is a word that shows belonging or possession.

Examples on how to use the word "their" properly are listed below.

  • Their dog jumped the fence into our yard.
  • Their child ran away.


The word “they're” is a contraction which means this word is made up of two separate words; it is a combination of they and are. This is mainly used in the form of dialogue. The word "they're" is informal.

Examples on how to use the word "they're" properly are listed below.

  • "They're going to be at the party" she told me.
  • They're going to drive across country in their van.

If the sentence does not make sense by changing the contraction to its formal form of "they are" it cannot be used.

Stop Confusing There, Their, and They're

When people confuse "they're", "there", and "their" it is the most frustrating grammatical mistake for any reader. Readers can easily point out this type of grammatical error and it annoys many readers, teachers, professionals, etc. Everyone who has to express their thought process through the written form, one should never make a mistake when using the words "they're", "there", and "their".

Also remember: when writing a professional letter and/or document never use contractions. Therefore the word "they're" should not be used and instead one should use "they are".

The Difference Between Except and Accept

"Accept" and "except" are different words with very different meanings but they can still become easily confused causing a grammatical error in ones writing. The main reason these words are easily confused is because they sound very similar, but if confused the context of ones sentenced will take a complete detour from the original direction.


The word "except" is often used and seen as a preposition. However is can be used as a conjunction (in some circumstances) and very rarely it can be used as a verb.

Examples of how to use "except" properly (and some definitions) are listed below.

Except as a preposition means 'apart from', 'not including' or 'excluding'.

  • "I have nothing to declare except my genius" -Oscar Wilde

Except as a conjunction means 'but' or 'if not the fact that'.

  • I would go swimming except I am afraid of fish.

Except as a verb means 'to exclude'.

  • You are excepted from the ruling.


“To accept” is a verb and has several meanings.

Examples of how to use "accept" properly (and some definitions) are listed below.

"Accept" can be used in meaning holding something as true.

  • I accept the fact that you are tired, but there is no excuse for tardiness.

"Accept" can be used meaning to receive something.

  • I accept this award on behalf of the entire cast.
  • Please accept my letter of resignation...

"Accept" can be used meaning yes (especially when answering an invitation).

  • I would love to accept your invitation to the ball, but I have prior engagements so I must decline.

Except and Accept Should Never become Confused

"Except" and "accept" do not become confused as often as some other words do, but confusion still happens due to the similarity in the way these two words sound. Even though these words sound similar, they carry two very different meanings and should never become confused.

The Difference Between Two, To, and Too

The difference between "two", "to", and "too" is another obvious difference, but for some reason many people confuse these words in their writing, probably due to the fact that these words have the same sound, but hold different meanings.


"Two" is the word form of the number 2. This word should only be used when trying to express the number (most generally, in writing, any number lower than 100 should be expressed in the form of a word).

Examples of how to use the word "two" are listed below.

  • Two birds, one stone.
  • Choose two people to share the vacation with you.


The word "to" has two different uses and meanings.

The meanings and examples of how to use the word "to" properly are listed below.

The word "to" is used in expressions of a verb in infinitive terms.

  • I walk to the store.
  • I love to run.
  • I am glad to hear that you quit smoking.

The word "to" can also be used as a preposition in an expression.

  • I am going to the park.
  • She picked up the pencil and handed it to the stranger.


The word "too" also has two different uses and meanings.

The meanings and examples on how to use "too" properly are listed below.

"Too" means "as well", or "also".

  • I can do it too.
  • Did you think that too?

"Too" can also mean "in excess of".

  • That cat is way too fat.
  • You spent too much money on those shoes.

End the Confusion of Two, To, and Too

The words "two", "to", and "too" are always being mistaken for one another, creating a sentence to become jumbled and strange. The words "to" and "too" are more often confused with one another, but the three sound exactly alike which makes these words very easily confused and misused.

The Difference Between Your and You're

There is a definitive difference between "your" and "you're" but these two words continue to confuse many. Several people mix these words up, changing the meaning of ones sentence unintentionally.


The word “your” is a possessive adjective.

Examples of how to use the word "your" properly are listed below.

  • Your uncle is on the phone.
  • Please save your questions until after the presentation.


The word “you're” is a contraction; it is a combination of you and are put together to form one word to make speech more fluid. “You're” is usually used in dialogue. The word “you're” is informal.

Examples of how to use the word "you're" are listed below.

  • When you're downtown, could you pick up some milk?
  • "If you're late, you're absent, because I lock the door when the bell rings" the professor said.

If the sentence does not make sense by changing the contraction to its formal form of "you are" it cannot be used.

Why Does One Insist on Confusing You're and Your?

The confusion people have between the words "you're" and "your" is very frustrating because it is EASILY avoided. Always make sure to proofread and edit to ensure this grammatical error does not make itself present.

Also remember: when writing a professional letter and/or document never use contractions. Therefore the word "you're" should not be used and instead one should use "you are".

DO NOT Let Poor Grammar Overshadow Talent

It is important for all writers, students, and professionals to never allow grammatical confusion to ruin the talent and thoughts of their writing. These simple mistakes cause many issues for those who have a great desire to become respected. One of the greatest consequence would be for readers not taking the article (or piece of writing) seriously due to grammatical mistakes (which would cause people to not want to continue to read the piece). If one takes time out of their lives to research on how to better understand and use grammar properly, one will ultimately become better at the craft one so desperately wishes to succeed in.

Having a respect for proper English and grammar will ultimately make one a better and well-respected author and writer.





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    • PaoloJpm profile image

      John Paolo B.Magdaluyo 

      5 years ago from Philippine

      Hey this is very useful! You see I am enhancing my writing skills since I am always praised and told to so yet, I always come in the conclusion of "Is this the right word? hmmmmm" Basic always been the most important fundamentals so great job.

    • JamiJay profile imageAUTHOR

      Jami Johnson 

      5 years ago from Somewhere amongst the trees in Vermont.

      Abby (MaximumFatLoss), it is one of my pet peeves as well, which is probably why it takes me a little more time to publish my hubs ;)

      We all do it, but it is something we should be aware of. Good grammar is becoming lost, and it will be a sad day when no one understands proper grammar and punctuation.

    • Abby Campbell profile image

      Dr Abby Campbell 

      5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Excellent hub, JamiJay! Bad grammar is one my pet peeves (though I'm sure I do it sometimes when I'm tired). LOL. I hope every writer reads this hub. ;)

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      I enjoyed this hub and here's to so many more for us both to share on here.

      Enjoy your day.


    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 

      5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      JamiJay, it's always nice to go back to the basics when it comes to the use of proper English. It seems like it's the simple words and rules that we make the most mistakes on!


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