Usage

This section gives you lots of advice, helping you to avoid making some of the most common mistakes of usage. Do you worry about the correct use of hopefully, for example, or wonder what the difference is between affect and effect or flaunt and flout? Are you uncertain about whether to say different from or different than or if you should say ‘a historic event’ or ‘an historic event’? And if you’ve ever been puzzled about cactuses versus cacti, go to Plurals of foreign words.

Explore the links below to find clear and straightforward guidance on these topics and many more. You can find more help with the correct use of English in Grammar tips.

Adverse or averse

"Adverse" Or "Averse"?

Although 'adverse' and 'averse' share a common origin, their meanings are quite different.

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"Affect" or "effect"?

Confusing 'affect' and 'effect' is a very common mistake English speakers often make. Let's learn how to get it right once and for all.

All right or alright

"All Right" Or "Alright"?

Is it acceptable to write 'alright' as one word instead of two? The answer to that is not quite as simple as you may think.

Allude or elude

"Allude" or "elude"?

Allude' and 'elude' have a similar pronunciation, but they do not have the same meaning.

Commonly confused words

A Look At Some Commonly Confused Words

Spellcheckers can miss mistakes where words have been mixed up because they look and sound alike. Our video guide will help you see the difference for yourself.

Alternate or alternative

"Alternate" Or "Alternative"?

What's the difference between 'alternate' and 'alternative'? We explore the meanings of those two words, and how American usage of 'alternate' is different from British usage.

Among or amongst

"Among" or "amongst"?

Do 'among' and 'amongst' have different meanings? Find out how to use those two prepositions correctly.

Amoral or immoral

"Amoral" Or "Immoral"?

You may think 'amoral' and 'immoral' have the same meaning since they sound similar, but the answer to that question is a bit more complex.

Appraise or apprise

"Appraise" Or "Apprise"?

It does make a difference whether you 'apprise' or 'appraise' someone. Find out why.

Assume or presume

"Assume" Or "Presume"?

Assume' and 'presume' can often be used interchangeably. However, there's still a subtle difference between those two.

Bare or bear

"Bare" or "bear"?

One's a wild animal, and the other's a verb and adjective. But there's yet more to this commonly confused word couple.

Breech or breach

"Breech" or "breach"?

Breech' and 'breach' are homophones – although they're pronounced the same way, they have very different meanings.

Bring or take

"Bring" Or "Take"?

'Bring' and 'take' often get confused but there's an essential difference between the two words.

Cannot or can not

"Cannot" Or "Can Not"?

Do you write 'cannot' as one word or two? We discuss whether one form is more acceptable than the other.

Can or may

"Can" Or "May"?

There is a widespread view that using can to ask for permission is wrong, but is this really true?

Censure or censor

"Censure" Or "Censor"?

'Censure' and 'censor' are easily confused. This short explanation will help you getting them right.

Cereal or serial

"Cereal" or "serial"?

Avoid embarrassing yourself by getting 'cereal' and 'serial' confused with these helpful tips.

Cite site sight

"Cite," "Site," Or "Sight"?

Although ‘cite’, ‘site’, and ‘sight’ are pronounced the same, they have different meanings and spellings. Our guide explains which to use and when to use it.

Climactic or climatic

"Climactic" or "climatic"?

Climactic and climatic might look very similar, but their meanings are vastly different. Our guide will help you learn which one to use.

Coarse or course

"Coarse" Or "Course"?

If you find it tricky to tell when to use 'coarse' and when to use 'course', then Oxford’s guide will help you out, of course. Or should that be 'of coarse'?