Commonly confused word pairs
Here are some of the most commonly confused English word pairs. They have been chosen especially for ESL learners.
beside / besides
beside: preposition meaning 'next to', 'at the side of'
I sit beside John in class.
Could you get me that book? It's beside the lamp.
besides: adverb meaning 'also', 'as well'; preposition meaning 'in addition to'
(adverb) He's responsible for sales, and a lot more besides.
(preposition) Besides tennis, I play soccer and basketball.
clothes / cloths
clothes: something you wear — jeans, shirts, blouses, etc.
Just a moment, let me change my clothes.
Tommy, get your clothes on!
cloths: pieces of material used for cleaning or other purposes.
There are some cloths in the closet. Use those to clean the kitchen.
I have a few pieces of cloth that I use.
dead / died
dead: adjective meaning 'not alive'
Unfortunately, our dog has been dead for a few months.
Don't touch that bird. It's dead.
died: past tense and past participle of the verb 'to die'
His grandfather died two years ago.
A number of people have died in the accident.
experience / experiment
experience: noun meaning something that a person lives through, i.e. something that someone experiences. — also used as an uncountable noun meaning 'knowledge gained by doing something'
(first meaning)His experiences in Germany were rather depressing.
(second meaning) I'm afraid I don't have much sales experience.
experiment: noun meaning something that you do to see the result. Often used when speaking about scientists and their studies.
They did a number of experiments last week.
Don't worry it's just an experiment. I'm not going to keep my beard.
felt / fell
felt: past tense and past participle of the verb 'to feel'
I felt better after I had a good dinner.
He hasn't felt this well for a long time.
fell: past tense of the verb 'to fall'
He fell from a tree and broke his leg.
Unfortunately, I fell down and hurt myself.
female / feminine
female: the sex of a woman or animal
The female of the species is very aggressive.
The question 'female or male' means 'are you a woman or a man'.
feminine: adjective describing a quality or type of behaviour that is considered typical for a woman
He's an excellent boss with a feminine intuition.
The house was decorated in a very feminine manner.
its / it's
its: possessive determiner similar to 'my' or 'your'
Its color is red.
The dog didn't eat all of its food.
it's: Short form of 'it is' or 'it has'
(it is) It's difficult to understand him.
(it has) It's been a long time since I had a beer.
last / latest
last: adjective usually meaning 'final'
I took the last train to Memphis.
This is the last test of the semester!
latest: adjective meaning 'most recent' or 'new'
His latest book is excellent.
Have you seen his latest painting?
lay / lie
lay: verb meaning 'to put down flat' — past tense — laid, past participle — laid
He laid his pencil down and listened to the teacher.
I usually lay my pies on the shelf to cool.
lie: verb meaning 'to be down' — past tense -lay (be careful!), past participle — lain
The girl lay on the bed asleep.
At the moment, he's lying on the bed.
lose / loose
lose: verb meaning 'to misplace'
I lost my watch!