Confusable words | Sunday Observer

Confusable words

4 April, 2021

Some words in English look similar, but they have different meanings. If you learn the meaning of such words, you will be able to write meaningful sentences.
Abnormal / subnormal
Abnormal is an adjective meaning ‘very different from usual in a way that seems strange, worrying, wrong or dangerous.’
Ravi’s parents thought it was abnormal for a boy to be interested in ballet.
Subnormal means ‘less or lower than normal.
Subnormal children have low intelligence.
Abuse / misuse
Abuse means ‘to maltreat, insult or damage someone or something.’
Newspapers have reported several cases of child abuse.
Misuse means ‘to use something for the wrong purpose or in the wrong way, often with harmful results.’
Even harmless drugs can be misused.
Ascent / assent
Ascent means ‘the act of climbing something or moving upwards.’
The first ascent of Everest received wide publicity.
Assent means ‘approval or agreement from someone who has authority.’
Parliament gave its assent to wage war against terrorists.
Accept / except
Accept means ‘to take something that someone offers you.’
Roy accepted Sara’s offer of coffee.
Except means ‘to not include something’
The post office is open every day except Sundays.
Accidental / incidental
Accidental means ‘happening unexpectedly and unintentionally.’
If you buy an insurance policy, it will cover accidental damage.
Incidental means ‘happening or existing in connection with something else that is more important.’
Increased motivation is more than an incidental benefit of reward schemes.
Activate / motivate
Activate means ‘to make an electrical system or chemical process start working.’
Cooking fumes may activate the alarm.
Motivate means ‘to be the reason why someone does something.’
He was motivated solely by a desire for power.
Actually / really
Actually is used to emphasise the real or exact truth of a situation.
What time are you actually leaving?
Really means ‘extremely.’
I am really sorry.
Adapt / adopt
Adapt means ‘to gradually change your behaviour and attitudes in order to be successful in a new situation.
I found it hard to adapt to the new school.
Adopt means ‘to make someone else’s child into your home and legally become its parent.’
Cyril was adopted when he was four.
Advantage / benefit
An advantage is a situation that favours success.
Young people have an advantage when applying for jobs.
Benefit means ‘an advantage, improvement or help you get from something.’
I never had the benefit of a university education.
Adverse / averse
Adverse means ‘hostile and damaging.’
The adverse weather wrecked our holiday.
Averse means ‘showing disinclination or reluctance.’
Jim is averse to using chemicals in his garden.
Ascetic / acetic
An ascetic is a person who rejects worldly comforts.
Siddhartha led an ascetic life.
Acetic is the adjective from acetic acid.
The main component of vinegar is acetic acid.
Affect / effect
Affect means ‘to cause or influence something to happen.’
Smoking can affect your health.
Effect means ‘a result.’
Some painkillers do not produce the desired effect.
Aggravate / exasperate
Aggravate means ‘to make conditions worse.
Building a road through a forest will aggravate the situation.
Exasperate means ‘to make someone very annoyed.’
It exasperates me to hear comments against my proposal.