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  • Writer's pictureBreanna Call

20 of the Most Confused Grammatical Terms

Review this list of the most common mistakes in the English language. Your writing will be that much better!


Woman reading a dictionary.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels

We love English. Twenty percent of the world’s population speaks it, with about 400 million native speakers and 1.5 billion learning it as a second language. English blends and borrows words from many cultures and languages. It’s a linguistic melting pot. 


English is fascinating! But let’s face it—it’s also really complicated. English is one of the languages with the most complex grammatical structures. And when you throw in

spelling . . . well, English can be rough to nail down.


But no worries! We’ve collected a list of some of the most confused grammatical terms in the English language. If you learn these, you’ll be speaking and writing English better in no time.


 

1. A lot, Alot, Allot


A lot is an adverb that means “much” or “frequent.”


I go to the gym a lot.


That is a lot of ice cream. 


Alot is not a word. Don’t write it.


Allot is a verb that means “to distribute” or “to assign a portion.”


I will allot half of the posters to my business partner to hang up.


After her speech, Dimitria will allot ten minutes for questions.


 

2. Affect, Effect


This one is tricky, but the main rule is affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun.


The new machinery will affect the productivity of the plant.


The effect of the lights is stunning.


For a deeper dive into affect and effect, check out our tip: “Affect vs. Effect.”



 

3. Among, Between


Among is used for relationships of three or more items. Between is used for relationships of only two items.


I can’t choose which among all my shoes to wear.


I often stand between the stop sign and the fire hydrant when waiting for the bus.


 

4. Assure, Ensure, Insure


All three of these words are verbs that mean “to make sure.”  Though some of their definitions cross over, there are a few rules of thumb you can remember that will help you place the correct word in the right context.


Assure removes doubt and suspense from someone’s mind. Ensure can be replaced with guarantee. And insure is mainly used for financial risk. Refer to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary for more examples and definitions.


I assure my pets I will be home no later than 3:00.


David ensures he has next week off work.


Gemma will need to insure her new car. 


 

5. Complement, Compliment


Complement means “to complete.” Compliment means “to say something nice to or about someone.”


Her red heels complement her shade of lipstick.


Jane complimented Michael on his choice of tie for the evening.


 

6. Every day, Everyday


Every day is a noun or adverb. Everyday is an adjective and is used only before a noun.


Erika teaches yoga classes every day.


Erika’s everyday yoga classes will keep you invigorated.


 

7. Farther, Further


Farther refers to literal distances. Further means “more.”


Jenna runs farther than Jared every time they jog.


The team decided they needed to discuss the concept further.


To learn more, read our tip “Farther vs. Further.”



 

8. Fewer, Less


If you can count it, use fewer. If you can’t count it, use less.


The fewer pets  you own, the less hair you’ll find on the floor.


The less flour Halley uses in the mix, the fewer pancakes she’ll be able to make.


Learn more about their differences by reading our tip “Fewer vs. Less.”



 

9. In to, Into


Into refers to movement and is attached to a noun. When separated with a space, the in and to in in to are normally attached to other parts of the sentence than to each other. For example, in the phrase “call in to order food,” call in and to order go together more than in and to.


Chloe stepped into the car.


Please sign in to your computer.


 

10. Its, Its


Its is a possessive pronoun showing ownership. It’s is a contraction meaning “it is.”


The dog lazily gnawed at its bone.


Kiana assures Luz that it’s happening sooner than she would think. 


 

11. I.E., E.G.


I.E. means “in other words.” E.G. means “for example.”


When decorating my home, I prefer to use earth tones (e.g., greens, browns, and tans).


When decorating my home, I prefer to use earth tones (i.e., warm and muted

shades found in nature).


For more examples, read our tip “E.G. vs. I.E.”



 

12. Lay, Lie


Lay can be replaced with “place.” Lie can be replaced with “recline.”


After a long day, Noah wants only to lie in his bed.


I lay six eggs in the carton.


The differences between lay and lie are a bit more complex than the rule above. To learn more, read our tip “Lie vs. Lay.”



 

13. Like, Such as


Like is used to give a comparison. Such as is used for specific examples.


I have read many novels like Dracula, Twilight, and Carmilla. (This sentence implies that the reader has read novels similar to these but not necessarily these novels.)


I have read many novels, such as Dracula, Twilight, and Carmilla. (This sentence implies that the reader has read these specific novels.)


 

14. Lose, Loose


These words are mainly mixed up because they are spelled so similarly. Loose is something that is not tight. Lose means “to be deprived of.” You can read more definitions at merriam-webster.com.


I lose my keys constantly.


Stella has a loose tooth.


 

15. Peak, Peek, Pique


These words can be confusing because they are all pronounced the same. But they each have different meanings. Peak is the “top or apex of something.” Peek is “to take a quick glance.” And pique is “to excite or irritate.”


Did you see the snow at the peak of the mountain?


Jill peeked around the corner.


That topic always piques my interest.


 

16. That, Which


These words are used pretty interchangeably in speech and writing, but here is the correct grammatical rule: Use that if information that follows is important and should not be taken out of the sentence. Use which if the information that follows can be taken out without changing the meaning of the sentence.


The peach that is sitting on the end of the table is Gabe’s.


My favorite fruit, which is a peach, is sitting at the end of the table.


To learn more, read our tip “Which vs. That.”



 

17. Their, There, They’re


These are common words in English and are often confused because they are all pronounced the same. Here’s the difference in their meaning: Their is a possessive pronoun showing that more than one person or thing owns something. There is the opposite of here. (You can remember that because they are almost spelled the same.) They’re is a contraction for “they are.”


The new car is their blue Subaru.


You won’t find the blue ball over there.


They’re as tall as my sister.


 

18. Than, Then


Here’s another set of words that gets confused because they are often pronounced the same way. Then is linked to a sequence, normally “if . . . then” or “first . . . then.” Than is used for comparisons. 


If you think you can beat me, then give it your best shot.


Peter is faster than Sam.


 

19. To, Too


These words are pronounced the same way and almost spelled the same way too! The difference is that too means “also” or “an excessive amount,” while to is used in every other instance. We won’t list those because there are a lot of them. 


Vanilla coke is my go-to drink.


Do you want to come to my house a quarter to one?


Annelise is wearing red too.


That is too much ice cream to eat in one sitting.


 

20. Your, You’re


These words are pronounced the same but have different usages. Your is a possessive pronoun showing that you own something. You’re is a contraction meaning “you are.”


You’re going to your grandmother’s tomorrow after lunch.


Your sweater you’re wearing obviously shrunk in the dryer.


 

The examples above are just some of the many grammatical terms that are commonly confused in the English language. But now you have a succinct list to look back on if you get confused. Keep practicing your grammar, and with the help of this tip, you’ll be a grammar master in no time!

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