ACT English Test Prep: Commonly Misused Words
COMMONLY MISUSED WORDS
There are certain words and phrases in the English language that are often misused and that often show up on the ACT English Test. We’ve included a list of commonly misused words here, along with definitions and examples of the proper use of the words.
Accept is a verb that means “to agree to receive something.”
Example: Jenny did not accept my invitation to dinner.
Except is usually a preposition that means “excluding,” or more rarely a verb meaning “to omit or leave out.”
Example: The entire family except for my sister Jill attended the reunion.
Affect is usually a verb meaning “to influence.”
Example: His opinion will affect my decision.
Effect is usually a noun meaning “result” or “force.”
Example: His opinion had a great effect on my decision.
All ready, Already
All ready means “completely ready” or “everyone is ready.”
Example: The instructor asked the climber if he was all ready to begin.
Already means “by or before a specified time.”
Example: The students were already late for the bus.
Among is used with more than two items.
Example: The scientist is living among a group of native people.
Between is used with two items.
Example: The race between Amy and Jenny was very close.
Amount is used to denote a quantity of something that cannot be divided into separate units.
Example: There was a small amount of water in the glass.
Number is used when the objects involved are discrete or can be counted.
Example: A large number of students participated in the festivities.
Assure, Ensure, Insure
Assure means “to convince,” or “to guarantee” and usually takes a direct object.
Example: I assure you that I will not be late.
Ensure means “to make certain.”
Example: Ensure that the door is locked when you leave.
Insure means “to guard against loss.”
Example: Please insure this package for $100.
Bring should be used in situations where something is being moved toward you.
Example: Please bring me the book.
Take should be used in situations where something is being moved away from you.
Example: Did you take my book with you when you left?
Capital refers to “the official seat of government of a state or nation.”
Example: The capital of Michigan is Lansing.
Capital can also be used to mean “wealth or money.”
Example: He needed to raise investment capital to start his company.
Capital, when used as an adjective, means “foremost,” or “excellent.”
Example: “That is a capital idea,” Steve said.
Capitol refers to the “building where government meets, or when capitalized, refers to the building in which the U.S. Congress is housed.”
Example: Some members of the legislature have their offices in the capitol building downtown.
Compare to, Compare with
Compare to means “assert a likeness.”
Example: My grandmother often compares me to my mother.
Compare with means “analyze for similarities and differences.”
Example: The detective compared the photograph with the drawing.
Complement is a noun or verb that implies “something that completes or adds to” something else.
Example: The dessert was a tasty complement to my meal.
Compliment is a noun or verb that implies “flattery or praise.”
Example: Pam appreciated Mike’s compliment on her high test scores.
Eager implies “an intense desire” and usually has a positive connotation. Example: Carrie was eager to begin her new job.
Anxious indicates “worry or apprehension” and has a negative connotation.
Example: Fred waited anxiously for the plane to take off.
Farther refers to distance.
Example: Matt traveled farther than all of the others.
Further indicates “additional degree, time, or quantity.”
Example: The airline representative told us to expect further delays.
Fewer refers to units or individuals.
Example: Fewer students went on the class trip this year.
Example: I weigh fewer pounds this year than I did last year.
Less refers to mass or bulk.
Example: There is less air in my bicycle’s front tire than in its rear tire.
Example: I weigh less this year than I did last year.
Imply means “to suggest.” The speaker or author “implies.”
Example: His pants and shirt colors imply that he is color blind.
Infer means “to deduce,” “to guess,” or “to conclude.” The listener or reader “infers.”
Example: He is not color blind, so we can infer that he simply has bad taste in clothes.
The possessive form of it is its.
Example: The dog lost its collar.
The contraction of it is is it’s.
Example: It’s too bad that your dog ran away.
Lay means “to put” or “to place,” and takes a direct object.
Example: Please lay your scarf on the back of the chair.
Lie means “to recline, rest, or stay,” or “to take a position of rest.” This verb does not take a direct object.
Example: Carrie likes to lie down when she gets home from school.
Learn means to “gain knowledge.”
Example: I have always wanted to learn how to cook.
Teach means to “impart, or give knowledge.”
Example: My uncle agreed to teach me to cook.
Lend means to “give or loan something” to someone else.
Example: Will you lend me your jacket for the evening?
Borrow means to “obtain or receive something temporarily” from someone else.
Example: May I borrow your jacket for the evening?
Precede means “to go before.”
Example: Katie preceded Kahla as an intern at the law office.
Proceed means “to move forward.”
Example: Please proceed to the testing center in an orderly fashion.
Principal is a noun meaning “the head of a school or an organization.” Example: Mr. Smith is the principal of our high school.
Principal can also mean “a sum of money.”
Example: Only part of the payment will be applied to the principal amount of the loan.
Principal can also be used as an adjective to mean “first,” or “leading.”
Example: Betty’s principal concern was that Gary would be late.
Principle is a noun meaning “a basic truth or law.”
Example: We learned the principles of democracy in class today.
The verb set takes a direct object, while the verb sit does not.
Example: Please set the glass down on the table.
Example: Please sit in the chair next to mine.
Than is a conjunction used in comparative constructions.
Example: Jill would rather eat fruit than eat chocolate.
Then is an adverb denoting time.
Example: First, I will go for a run, then I will do my homework.
That is used to introduce an essential clause in a sentence. Commas are not normally used before the word that.
Example: This is the book that Jenny recommended I read.
Which is best used to introduce a clause containing nonessential and descriptive information. Commas are required before the word which.
Example: That book, which is old and tattered, is a favorite of mine.
There, Their, They’re
There indicates location.
Example: My car is parked over there.
Their is a possessive determiner.
Example: Their car is parked next to mine.
They’re is a contraction of they are.
Example: They’re afraid of getting a ticket if the car is not moved.
To, Too, Two
To is a preposition.
Example: Send the check to my office.
Too is an adverb, and means also, excessively, or prohibitively.
Example: It is important that you read the textbook, too.
Example: John has been too sick to work this week.
Example: That silk scarf is too expensive for me to buy right now.
Two is a number.
Example: There are only two tickets remaining for the game.
Your is a possessive determiner.
Example: Your brother is going to be late for school.
You’re is a contraction of you are.
Example: You’re going to be late as well.