Notes and Examples
SPI 3002.1.13 Select the appropriate word in frequently confused pairs (i.e.,
to/too/two, their/there/they’re, it/it’s, you/you’re, whose/who’s, which/that/who,
accept/except, affect/effect, between/among, capitol/capital, principal/principle,
stationary/stationery, who/whom, allusion/illusion, complement/compliment,
cite/site/sight, counsel/council, coarse/course, farther/further, lose/loose, fewer/less,
advice/advise, precede/proceed, adapt/adopt, eminent/imminent, assure/ensure/insure).
affect / effect
– Affect is a verb meaning “to
• Use affect in sentences
meaning influences, such as,
“The prosecutor’s speech
affected the jury’s decision.”
• “The bright colors affect how
the patients feel.”
– Use effect as a verb to mean “to bring about” or
• This word effect is used only for specific meaning, such
as “The treatment will effect a cure for the disease.”
• Note: This sentence came directly from a grammar
book. However, the grammar checking program on
Microsoft Word flags it as incorrect with “affect” as the
correction. The grammar checking program is
affect / effect
• “High gas prices did not effect
a change in most people’s
• Notice that “effect” as a verb
usually has a specific direct
object with it to focus attention
on that which is focused or
affect / effect
• Typically, “effect” is used
as a noun to mean “the
result of some action.”
– Example: “The bright colors
have a beneficial effect on
– Example: “The hurricane
had a devastating effect on
off / off of
Do not use off or off of to
• Here’s the money I
borrowed off you.
• Here’s the money I
borrowed from you.
kind of / sort of
*In formal situations, avoid using
either of these expressions for
adverb rather or somewhat.
• The waves were sort of
• The waves were rather [or
somewhat] rough. (correct)
a while / awhile
• *The noun while, often preceded by the
article a, means a “period of time.”
• *Awhile is an adverb meaning “for a short
period of time.”
• I haven’t heard from your pen
pal for a while.
• I usually read awhile before
going to bed.
all ready / already
• all ready (adjective)
• already (adverb)
• We were all ready to
• We had already painted
suppose to / supposed to
• *To express an intention or
plan, use the verb form
supposed before an
• We were supposed to (not
suppose to) meet Wendy
at eight o’ clock.
• *Who’s is the contraction of who is or who
• *Whose is the possessive for of who.
• Who’s [who is] the narrator of
“A Christmas Memory”?
• Whose autobiography is
titled Black Boy?
which, that, who
• *Who refers to persons only.
• *Which refers to things only.
• *That may refer to either persons or things.
• Isn’t Walt Whitman the poet who [or that] wrote
Leaves of Grass? [person]
• They decided to replace Miss Forestier’s
necklace, which they did not know
was fake. [thing]
• The necklace that the Loisels bought
cost thirty-six thousand francs. [thing]
who / whom
• *Who – (nominative case) is a pronoun used as
a subject in sentences and subordinate clauses.
• Who gave Michelle the beautiful flowers?
• The man who gave Michelle the
flowers is her husband.
who / whom
• *Whom – (objective case) is a pronoun used as a
direct object in sentences and subordinate clauses.
• You baked these delicious cookies for whom?
• The teachers wondered whom the
seniors selected as class president.
• *Your is a possessive form
• *You’re is the contraction
of you are.
• What is your opinion of
• You’re [you are] my best
• *Its is the possessive form of it.
• *It’s is the contraction of it is or it has.
• The bird has stopped its singing.
• It’s [it is] an easy problem.
• It’s [it has] been raining since noon.
their, there, they’re
• *Their is a possessive form of they.
• *As an adverb, there means “at that place.” There is also used
to begin a sentence.
• *They’re is the contraction of they are.
• Harry Pope lay there quietly.
• There is a conflict between Odysseus and the
• Their daughter, Juliet, was in love with a
• They’re throwing pebbles at Miss Lottie’s flowers.
• *As a noun, counsel means “advice.”
• *As a verb, counsel means “give advice.”
• *Council is a noun meaning “group called
together to accomplish a job.”
• I’m grateful for your counsel. [noun]
• Did the doctor counsel her to
get more rest? [verb]
• The city council will debate the issue.
• *Accept is a verb that means “to receive” or “to
• *Except is usually a preposition meaning “but.”
• *Except may also be a verb that means “to leave
out or exclude.”
• Will accept our thanks?
• Everyone will be there except you.
• The government excepts people
with very low incomes from paying taxes.
• *In general use among to show a
relationship in which more than two persons
or things are considered as a group.
• The committee will distribute the
used clothing among the poor
families in the community.
• There was confusion among
the players on the field.
• *In general, use between to show a relationship
involving two persons or things, or to compare one
person or thing with an entire group.
• Mr. and Mrs. Ito live halfway between Seattle
and Portland. [relationship involving
• Emilo could not decide between
the collie, the cocker spaniel, and
the beagle. [items within a group]
• *An allusion is an indirect reference.
• *An illusion is a false idea or appearance.
• Her speech included an allusion to one of
Robert Frost’s poems.
• The shimmering heat produced
an illusion of water on the road.
• *A capital is a city that is the seat of government.
• *Capital can also mean “money or property.”
• *As an adjective, capital can mean
“involving execution” or “referring to
an uppercase letter.”
• *Capitol, on the other hand, refers only
to a building in which a legislature meets.
• What is the capital of Vermont?
• Anyone starting a business needs capital.
• Capital punishment is not used in
• Hester Prynne embroidered a capital
A on her dress.
• The capitol has a gold dome.
cite, site, sight
• *To cite is “to quote or refer to”.
• Cite can also mean “to summon to appear
in a court of law.”
• *As a noun, sight means “vision.”
As a verb, sight means “to see.”
• *As a noun, site is a place or a
cite, site, sight
• Consuela cited three sources of
information in her report.
• The officer cited the driver for
• My sight is perfect. [noun]
• The board of education has
chosen a site for the new high
• *As a noun, complement means “something that
completes”; as a verb, it means “to complete.”
• *As a noun, compliment means, “a flattering
remark”; as a verb, it means “to praise.”
• This purple scarf complements your
• Phyllis received many compliments
on her speech.
to, too, two
• *To means “in the direction of”’ it is also part
of the infinitive form of a verb.
• *Too means “very” or “also.”
• *Two is the number after one.
• John walks to school.
• She likes to read mystery books.
• We have two kittens.
• *Stationary means “fixed”
• *Stationery is writing paper.
• This classroom has
• Rhonda likes to write letters
on pretty stationery.
• *As a noun, principal means “head of a school”; it can also
mean “a sum of money borrowed or invested.”
• *As an adjective, principal means “main” or “chief.”
• *Principle is a noun meaning “basic truth or belief”
or “rule of conduct.”
• Mr. Schneitman, our principal, will speak at the
morning assembly. [noun]
• What was your principal reason for joining the club?
• The principle of fair play is important in sports.
• *The adjective loose means “free,” “not firmly
attached,” or “not fitting tightly.”
• *The verb lose means “to misplace”
or “to fail to win.”
• Don’t lose that loose button on
• If we lose this game, we’ll be out of
• *Use farther in referring to physical distance.
• *Use further in all other situations.
• San Antonio is farther south
• We have nothing further to discuss.
• How much further is it to
• *Use fewer with nouns that can be counted.
• *Use less with nouns that can’t be counted.
• *Less may also be used with numbers that are
considered as single amounts or single quantities.
• There were few students in my math
class than in my physics class.
• I used less sugar than the recipe
• I can be there in less than thirty minutes.
• *Coarse means “rough,” “crude,” “not fine,” “of
• *Course can mean “a school subject,” “a path or
way,” “order or development,” or “part of a meal.”
• To begin, I will need some coarse
sandpaper for my project.
• Mrs. Baldwin won’t tolerate coarse
• Are you taking any math courses this year?
assure / ensure / unsure
• *Assure means “to state with confidence.”
• *Ensure means “to secure or guarantee” or “to make sure or
• *Insure means “to guarantee against loss or harm”
or “to issue or procure an insurance policy.”
• Joey assured his mother that his homework
• Diligent preparation will ensure your success
in this class.
• The bank insists that I insure my new car before I drive it.
• *The adjective eminent means “high in state or
rank,” “lofty,” “high,” or “prominent.”
• *The adjective imminent means “likely to occur at
• The Pope is an eminent figure in some
• Since the storm was imminent, the
baseball game was postponed.
• *Advice (noun) is “an opinion offered as a
guide to action.”
• *Advise (verb) is “to give counsel to” or “to
offer an opinion or suggestion.”
• The Pope is an eminent figure
in some religious circles.
• Since the storm was imminent,
the baseball game was postponed.