Misused Words in the Bizarre English Language

written by Georgia Schumacher 9 September 2011

Let's face it: sometimes the English language just doesn't make any sense. A word may look exactly the same as another word, but be pronounced differently and have a different meaning. For example, you might say “I read the book a week in advance, but it was like pulling teeth to get everyone else to read it.” Then there are those pesky words that seem interchangeable but definitely aren’t. Review the examples below.

  • They’re, There and Their. This trio is quite possibly the most-often confused of all, but they don’t have to cause you to scratch your head in frustration. They're is a combination of they and are, as in “They’re planning to meet after graduation for dinner.” There can be used either as an adverb (She is planning to go there tomorrow) or a pronoun (There is nothing we can do about it). Finally, their shows possession, as in “I was invited to a party at their house.”
  • To , Too and Two. The word to can be used either as a preposition (We came to their new home; they had moved from a small apartment to a house) or as an adverb (When she came to, she couldn’t remember anything that had happened). Too is an adverb meaning in addition to or also, as in, “I wanted to attend the conference too” or “I, too, thought she was an excellent candidate.” Finally, two is the spelling for the number 2, as in “There were two of us in the office when I arrived.”
  • Lose and Loose. Lose is a verb. For example, “I’m always worried I will lose my car keys” or “I have always struggled to lose weight.” The word loose can be used as an adverb (The rope was tied loosely around her waist), or a verb (After I lost weight, my pants were definitely loose).

If there are other words that stump you, or you need general writing help for your class, check out the Tutoring Center in the Campus Common.