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For this commonly-confused words lesson, we’re going to look at yet another dozen pairs of words with similar spellings but different meanings. Just like in our previous English lesson on commonly confused words, we’ll be providing brief definitions for each set of words, as well as sentences designed to illustrate the differences in meaning.

Keep in mind that this is only a small sample of the sorts of words that both native and non-native English speakers often confuse with one another. If you find yourself routinely confusing these kinds of tricky words, contact us. Our experienced, passionate English teachers can give you the tools to sort through the seemingly-endless collection of commonly-confused English words.

Aisle: the space between rows.
Isle: a shortened form of “island.”

Paper towels are located on aisle three. Make sure you buy enough rolls to last the English Isle a month.

Already: by this time.
All ready: full prepared.

When is Jane going to finish packing? She said she’d be all ready to go by noon, but it’s already one o’clock.

Altar: a scared platform or the place of a sacred platform.
Alter: to change.

With the new altar still under construction, the church was forced to alter the schedule for baptisms.

Altogether: thoroughly.
All together: everyone or everything in a single place.

Despite the altogether excellent reception the proposal received, James had a difficult time getting the managers all together to formally vote it into action.

A lot: many of something.
Allot: to divide or portion out.

How many clients are confirmed for the meeting? I want to allot two copies of the report for each client in attendance, but all I’ve heard is that “a lot” of them will be coming.

Bare: naked or unordered; to expose someone or something.
Bear: a large animal.

The zoo employee bared his soul to the reporter about how scared he was the first time he had to feed the brown bears.

Complement: something that completes something else.
Compliment: praise or flattery.

Molly complimented Ellen on how well the new rug complemented the décor of the living room.

Dessert: a final (usually sweet) course of a meal.
Desert: to abandon; a dry, arid place.

Despite being located in the middle of a desert, this restaurant always offers an abundance of fruit-based dessert dishes.

Dyeing: changing color by adding pigment.
Dying: losing life (of a person or idea).

The traditional fabric dyeing techniques of the indigenous people are a dying art. Most members of the tribe would rather buy bolts of cloth in the color they want than go to the trouble of dyeing it themselves.

Envelop: (verb) to surround
Envelope: (noun) a container for a card or letter.

Sometimes greeting cards and envelopes are mismatched on the shelf. You need to check whether an envelope completely envelops the card that it is behind.

Hole: an opening.
Whole: complete, everything.

After the hail storm, we discovered that the siding on our house was made of large, prefabricated panels. To fix a few small holes, the siding company had to replace the whole set of panels on the south side of the house.

Need Help with Your English?

The English Island offers ESL classes to non-native English speakers in the Atlanta area. We can improve your grammar, teach you how to read, and reduce your accent. If you want to test your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary, try our free English level test.
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