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!