Constantly confused english words

Constantly+confused+english+words

Han Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

In the English language, there are many words and phrases that resemble each other in some way, but have different meanings, leading to mass confusion about which word or phrase they should use in each given situation.

Your vs You’re

The most well known example of confusing homophones, words which sound the same but have a different meaning from one another, is the constant misusage of the words “your” and “you’re”. Despite sounding the same, not only do “your” and “you’re” not mean the same thing, they aren’t even the same part of speech. If you aren’t sure which to use, then the simplest way to ascertain which word to use is the “you are” test: if you can replace it with “you are” and the sentence means the same thing, then you should be using “you’re”, otherwise you should use “your”. For example: “[your/you’re] a genius” can be replaced with “you are a genius” and mean the same thing, so you should use “you’re” in that case.

Its vs It’s

As with “your” and “you’re”, “its” and “it’s” are constantly confused by many people. Just like you can use the “you are” test to check whether to use “your” or “you’re”, you can use the “it is” test to determine whether you should be using “its” or “it’s”: “[its/it’s] a great day today” can be replaced with “it is a great day today” and mean the same thing, so you should use “it’s” in this case.

The reason behind the confusion of “its” and “it’s” is twofold. Not only is there the problem of them being homophones, the fact that apostrophes are used to show possession for nouns can help confuse people into thinking that “it’s” is saying that it belongs to it. The reason why that is not the case is that “it” is a pronoun, not a noun, so when showing possession, you don’t use an apostrophe to indicate it. If this seems confusing to you, think about an analogous pronoun, like “he”; we don’t use “he’s” to show possession for the pronoun he, we use “his”.

Anyway vs Any Way

The usage of “anyway” and “any way”, are actually different. similarly to the “you are” and “it is” test used earlier, if you find yourself confused about whether to use any way or not, try replacing the “anyway/any way” with “in the way” and see whether the sentence formed makes sense. For example: “She will try to steal my job [anyway/any way]¬†she can” can be replaced with “She will try to steal my job in the way she can”, and still make sense, so you should use “any way” rather than “anyway”.

 

The number of words and phrases that get confused regularly is numerous, so much so that covering all, or even most, of them in this article is impractical. One way to improve your usage of these words is reading regularly; you’ll find that reading gives you so many examples of these words being used correctly that you’ll start to use them correctly without even thinking about it.