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In this English lesson, we’re going to clarify the meanings of another dozen pairs of such commonly-confused words. Just like in our last blog post on common English malaproprisms, we’ve included brief definitions for each set of words, as well as sentences designed to illustrate the differences in meaning.

Also like in our last blog post, 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 The English Island in Atlanta. Our experienced, passionate English teachers can give you the tools to sort through the seemingly-endless collection of commonly-confused English words.

Accept: to receive.
Except: with the exclusion of.

The mentorship program accepted all applications except those submitted with incomplete documentation.

Advice: a recommendation.
Advise: to recommend.

Robert’s mother advised him to reject the advice of his friend who said that grades do not matter for college admissions.

Angel: a supernatural being.
Angle: shape made by joining two straight lines.

Juan felt that the statutes of angels in front of the church looked extremely menacing because they incorporated many sharp angles in their design.

Capital: a major city (often the seat of government); most important; money.
Capitol: a building where government meets.

The Georgia State Congress meets in the capitol building in Atlanta, the capital city of Georgia.

Discreet: careful in one’s speech and actions (in order to avoid drawing attention to oneself).
Discrete: separate and distinct; individual parts of a whole.

Anna’s boyfriend discreetly contacted important people from her many discrete professional and social circles to arrange a surprise birthday party.

Eminent: famous and respected in a particular area; the best of the best.
Imminent: about to happen.

The academic community is waiting impatiently for the imminent release of the eminent historian’s newest book.

Empathize: to understand and share the feelings of someone.
Emphasize: to give special importance to something.

While Julie said that she empathized with the employee’s frustrations over his irregular work schedule, she was quick to emphasize that she couldn’t condone his habit of skipping shifts that he did not want to work.

Extensive: covering or affecting a large area.
Intensive: concentrated in a single area; giving force or emphasis.

Although the teacher began the class with an extensive summary of Tudor England, he dedicated most of the lesson to an intensive examination of Queen Elizabeth I’s private life.

Lightning: storm related electricity.
Lightening: making lighter.

The babysitter’s attempts at lightening the mood of the toddler who had been scared by the thunder and lightning only succeed in making the child more upset.

Miner: person who works in a mine.
Minor: underage person; less important.

Although the 16 year old towered over many of the adult miners, he was refused permission to work in the mine because he was still technically a minor.

Peace: absence of war.
Piece: part of a whole; a musical arrangement.

The fragile peace between the two nations nearly collapsed when both countries refused to compromise on a minor piece of the proposed treaty.

Personal: intimate, owned by a person.
Personnel: employees.

The vice president of the company was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had been spying on the personal lives of numerous personnel within the company.

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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