Huffpost Fifty

13 Common Words You Are Probably Mixing Up

Posted: Updated:
Richard Clark via Getty Images

For some reason, people just can't seem to get the difference between "they're" and "their" and "there." One is a contraction of they are, one is the possessive form of they, and one talks about a place or location. It's not rocket science. But there are plenty of other words people mix up as well simply because they sound the same or similar. We asked our Facebook friends to tell us about the words people constantly confuse. Here are just a few of their responses. Have any to add? Let us know in comments.

1. Tack and Tact
They may sound alike, but the two are radically different. The verb tack means to attach or add and the noun tack means a tiny nail, a course of action, or the direction of a ship. The noun tact means diplomacy or skill in handling a sticky situation.

2. Moot and Mute
Have you ever heard someone say "It's a mute point"? WRONG. A moot point is one that's "subject to debate, dispute, or uncertainty, and typically not admitting of a final decision," according to the dictionary. Mute can mean muffle, to refrain from speech, or someone who can't speak, depending on whether the word is used as a verb, adjective or noun.

3. Peek and Peak and Pique
Now things are getting complicated. Although these three words sound the same, peek means to get a quick look at something, while peak means a topmost point like a mountain peak, and pique means to excite someone or get them interested in something.

4. Arc and Arch
Both words may be based on the same root word, arcus, from the Latin. But arc is a noun meaning a line or shape that is curved like part of a circle whereas arch, as a noun, is a curved symmetrical structure and, as a verb, is to have the curved shape of an arch.

5. Affect and Effect
This one is so common some people might not even realize there's a difference. But affect means to influence, as in "my friend's delay affected my plans," whereas effect is usually a noun meaning a result, as in "the effect was amazing."

6. Flout and Flaunt
This mixup is somewhat understandable. But flout usually has a more negative connotation. It means to openly disregard something such as to "flout convention." Flaunt, on the other hand, is to display (something) ostentatiously, especially in order to provoke envy or admiration.

7. Mould and Mold
There's not even a mould in American English or a mold in British English. Yet people mix these up all the time. Mould is simply the British spelling of mold, which means a frame for shaping something, to shape in a mold, or any of various fungi.

8. Horde and Hoard
Since neither of these homophones are extremely common, there can be confusion. But horde is a noun meaning a huge crowd or mob whereas hoard, as a noun, refers to a supply of something that has been stored up and, as a verb, means to gather up and store away.

9. Pour and Pore
As you pore over pore and pour, remember that pour means to tip a liquid out of a container and pore, as a verb, means to examine closely and, as a noun, means a small opening in the skin. Of course, there's also poor, which means someone who is impoverished.

10. Rein and Reign
Hold your horses. Rein refers to the actual strap attached to a horse. It's also used as a verb, meaning to control. A reign, however, is to rule over a kingdom or a period of time during which a particular ruler oversees a kingdom. Oh, yes, and rain, of course, falls down from the sky.

11. Founder and Flounder
As nouns, these words are both pretty cool. Founder means someone who starts something whereas a flounder is a fish. Verb-wise, though, to founder is to sink or fail completely and to flounder is to struggle or move with difficulty.

12. Gauge and Gage
For sure, it's easy to confuse these two. But gauge is an instrument that is used for measuring something and gage is a token of defiance or a glove or cap cast on the ground to be taken up by an opponent as a pledge of combat. At least that's according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

13. Further and Farther
Many of our Facebook friends commented on this pair. But they are indeed different. Farther is used in relation to physical distance whereas further means to a greater degree. If you still have a hard time, just say to yourself "in a galaxy far, farther away" as a reminder to use farther when speaking of distance.

Earlier on HuffPost50:

What Is The Most Random Fact That You Have Never Forgotten?
Share this
Current Slide

Suggest a correction