250 Often Confused Words • A

Below are the words beginning on A of a list of more than 250 words that speakers and writers of English often confuse. They are called false cognates because they sound or are written so similarly that they are often confused. Even if you are an excellent writer, you should read through this list; otherwise, how will you know if you are confusing any words? We will soon have a quiz that will help you check your knowledge of the most common false English cognates.

• A •
a lot
A lot is two words meaning "much": A lot of bologna was left over from the party.
Allot is a verb meaning "distribute proportionately, to portion out": You guys need to allot a lot more time to practice!
all ready
All ready is two words meaning "everyone or everything is ready": The boys are all ready for the game.
Already is an adverb meaning "earlier (than expected); so soon": The boys have already left for the game.
a while
A while is two words meaning "a short period of time": I will meet you in a while. These two words are never spelled together.
A is an indefinite article used before nouns beginning with a consonant: a photograph, a tree, a horse.
An is to be used before nouns beginning with a vowel (sound): an apple, an hour, an elephant.
And is a conjunction used between nouns in a list: A blanket and picnic basket are needed for the afternoon.
Accede means "to agree or allow": Hiram Cheaply finally acceded to accepting the presidency of the company.
Exceed means "to go beyond, to surpass": The amount of alcohol in his blood exceeded the previous record.
Accept means "to take willingly": Miss Deeds accepted the cup of hot tea even without a saucer.
Except is a preposition meaning "excluding": Everyone was disappointed with the party except Ida Goodtime.
Adapt means "to adjust": Minnie Miles quickly adapted to working 20 miles away from home.
Adept means "skilled": Lucille is adept at speaking languages.
Adopt means to "accept as your own": It was difficult to adopt only one puppy from the animal shelter.
Adverse means "unfavorable, hostile": Those driving in adverse winter conditions may be putting themselves at risk.
Averse means "repulsed or repelled": She was immediately averse to the idea.
Advice is a noun meaning "an opinion given with the intention of helping": My mother still gives me advice even though I'm 40 years old.
Advise is a verb meaning "to give counsel or advice": The meteorologist advised listeners to stay indoors because of the extremely cold temperatures.
Affect is most often used as a verb meaning "to influence and change": The president's speech affected his views of the upcoming election.
The verb effect means "to cause": Batting her eyes so flirtatiously effected a strong desire in Rathbone to embrace Mirabelle.
Aid is help or assistance given: Every Christmas the community gives aid to those less fortunate.
An aide is a person who helps: Frieda Gogh worked five years as a teacher's aide.
Airs refers to snobbish and artificial behavior: Portia Radclyffe put on airs at the fine dinner party just because she had a few diamonds dangling from her neck.
Heirs are people who, because they are family, will inherit an estate or title: Portia was the heir to her mother's diamonds.
all right
All right is a phrase meaning "everything is right": Is all right here?
Alright is a single word meaning "OK": All are alright here.
all together
All together is applied to people or things that are being treated as a whole: We always had fun when we were all together. To double check this usage, try separating the two words: We all had fun when were together.
Altogether is an adverb that means "completely or totally": Using a flashlight in bed is an altogether new approach to reading at night.
all ways
All ways means "by every means or method": Dirk tried all ways to navigate the storm.
Always means "forever": Sue St. Marie always responded calmly during emergency situations.
Allude means "to suggest indirectly": Leticia can't speak to her husband without alluding to his affair with Martha Snodgrass.
Elude means "to dodge or escape": Serious relationships always seemed to elude him. Also beware of illude "to deceive, trick", the verb underlying illusion. It isn't used often but it is out there.
An allusion is a subtle reference or hint: Rita Book made an allusion to the most recent novel she read in our conversation yesterday.
An illusion is a deception, mirage, or a wild idea: The teacher said she had no illusions about how much work teaching demands.
Almost means "nearly all": Almost all my friends have graduated from college by now.
Most is superlative of more, meaning "the greatest or to the highest degree": Chuck is the most computer savvy guy I know, or Chuck cooked a most delicious supper.
Aloud means "speaking out so that someone else can hear you": Read this paragraph aloud.
Allowed means "having permission": His boss allowed him to take the weekend off.
already, all ready Already is an adverb that indicates an action is completed by a certain time: Herschel had already finished the whole pie by the time his guests arrived.
All ready means "everyone or everything is completely prepared": The children were all ready and bundled up warmly to go caroling on the snowy evening.
Alternately means "taking turns": We paddled alternately so neither of us would get too tired.
Alternatively means "as an option": Instead of going by train, we could have gone alternatively by car.
An altar is a table used in communion and other services in a church: The priest conducted the ceremony at the altar."
To alter means "to change": Don't alter a thing; leave everything as it is.
Ambiguous is describes a phrase or act with more than one meaning, or one that is unclear: The ending of the short story is ambiguous; we don't know if he died or continue his journey.
Ambivalent means "uncertainty and having conflicting attitudes and feelings": He was ambivalent as to which candidate to vote for.
Amiable refers to a person who is friendly, good-natured, and pleasant: Susan was very amiable and liked by all.
Amicable means "friendly and peaceable", and is used to describe agreements or relationships between groups or people: After years of disagreement, the two countries came to an amicable agreement.
Among is used for three or more: Shirley had to choose among four universities she might attend.
Between refers to only two two things: I couldn't decide between blue and green.
Amoral means "having no principles at all, good or bad": Percy is totally amoral; he is either helping others or helping himself at their expense.
Immoral means "bad, lacking good principles": Everything his brother does harms others whether it benefits him or not.
Amount is used with uncountable and abstract nouns: a large amount of money, amount of work, amount of happiness or amount of dirt.
Number is used with countable and concrete plural expressions: a number of people, a number of attempts, a number of novels, a number of trials.
Amused is when something is entertaining: The children were amused by watching the kittens play.
Bemused means "bewildered" or "lost in thought": George was bemused by the unexpected ending to the movie.
Annual means "yearly": We must pay an annual tax.
Annul means "to make void or invalid": They want to annul the marriage.
any one
Any one means "any one person": Any one of you may go, but not all of you.
Anyone means "anybody, any person at all": Anyone can chew gum and walk at the same time.
Anyway, anywhere, and nowhere are the correct forms of these words.
a part
Apart is an adverb meaning "in pieces": My plan for my vacation fell apart.
A part is a noun meaning "one section of": A part of my heart left when he did.
Appraise means "to assess or estimate the worth of": The jeweler appraise a diamond at $5000.
Apprise means "to inform or notify": the officer apprised us of our rights.
Arcane refers to things known and understood by few people: Amanda Lynn teaches arcane theories of modern music at the college.
Archaic refers to things very, very old and outdated: The Oxford English Dictionary contains many words that are archaic.
As may be used as a conjunction that introduce dependent clauses: George talks as his father does. Informally, it may also be used as a preposition in comparative constructions like: Jean-Claude is as forgetful as me (or as I am).
Like is a preposition is followed by a noun or pronoun: George looks like his mother. It may also be used as an adjective meaning "similar": George and I have like minds.
Ascent is an upward movement, physical or abstract: Leo's ascent to the presidency of the company came slowly.
Assent means "to agree to": Greta could not begin the project unless management assented.
An ascetic is a person who renounces all material comforts, often for religious devotion: the young man became an ascetic despite his parents' hopes that he would be a dentist. It can also be used as an adjective: Ethan Asia led an ascetic lifestyle.
Aesthetic refers to the philosophy of beauty or the pleasing qualities of something: The statuette Leander created was lacking in aesthetic qualities.
Ascribe means "to attribute to": She ascribed her feelings of jealousy to insecurity.
Describe means "to show what something is by drawing a picture with words": Describe in detail what the man looked like.
Aspersion is slander, a damaging remark: The campaign was filled with one aspersion after another.
Dispersion is the act of scattering: The dispersion of seeds was irregular because he sowed the seeds by hand.
See ascent, assent.
Assistance is help or aid: the nurses gave assistance to the patients.
Assistants are more than one assistant, a person who gives help: the emergency room assistants were ready to help anyone who came through the door. (See also patience and patients.)
Assure means "to guarantee": He assured her it was a quality item. (Outside the US this word can also mean "insure".)
Ensure means "to make sure by double checking": The custodian ensured the doors to the school were locked at night.
Insure means "to provide insurance": It is wise to insure your house against flood, fire, or theft. (Insurance may be assurance outside the US.)
An auger is a tool used for digging holes: If you want to ice fish, you need to first drill a hole in the ice with an auger.
Augur means "to predict, forecast": Leroy's inheritance augured happiness for him in the near future.
Now test your knowledge of these words here.