Frequently Misused Words

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Frequently Misused Words 

The meaning and spelling of the following word pairs are commonly confused:


Affect / Effect


Affect – To influence, to change

            An organization’s profitability can affect whether employees receive raises.


Effect – (noun) impression, results; (verb) to cause

            Global warming is having an increasingly strong effect on our everyday lives.

            It has effected a change in the way we view our future.


Among / Between


Among – used for more than two

            He divided the money among his three sons.


Between – used in connection with two persons or things

            He divided the money between his two sons.


Continual / Continuous


Continual – action that occurs with pauses and intermissions

            The computer continually breaks down.


Continuous – action that occurs without pauses

            The roar of the waterfall was continuous.


Disinterested / Uninterested


Disinterested – impartial, showing no preferences or prejudice

            To serve on a jury, you must be a disinterested party.


Uninterested – bored or lacking interest

            He was uninterested and took no part in the meeting.


Eager / Anxious


Eager – fervent, enthusiastic

            I am eager for news about my job possibility.


Anxious – full of anxiety or worry caused by apprehension

            Her co-workers were anxious about her poor health.


Farther / Further


Farther – refers to physical distance

            We will drive no farther tonight.


Further – refers to degree or extent

            Let’s pursue this argument no further.


Imply / Infer


Imply – to throw out a hint or suggestion

            She implied by her manner that she was unhappy with her supervisor.


Infer – to take in a hint or suggestion

            I inferred from her manner that she was unhappy with me.


Lay / Lie


Lay – to put or place something

Please lay your report on the desk.


Lie – to rest or recline

            We asked the sick employee to lie down.


Less / Fewer


Less – used for quantities

            The amount of money in my savings account is less than it was last month.


Fewer – used for individual units, numbers

            You will need to make fewer mistakes in your report.


Stationary / Stationery


Stationary – still, fixed

            The computer terminal is stationary.


Stationery – letter paper

            Please order more stationery for the office.