Confusing Words 2

HomographGail talked about some of the most confusing words in the English language in a previous post. Here let us look at a few more homonyms that many people tend to get wrong.

1. Devise & Device:

Devise” is a verb and means “to come up with” something.


I devised a plan to get us out of there.

She devised a clever plan to raise money for her cause.

“Device” is a noun and refers to an object that performs something, usually mechanical.


This is a device for counting money.

I have designed a device for counting votes.

2. Alter & Altar:

“Alter” refers to changing something, like a dress or a suit.


I need this altered. Can you please alter this for me?

I found the wedding dress I wanted, but I need to get it altered.

“Altar” refers to the raised platform in temples and churches where religious ceremonies are performed.


She was left at the altar.

The priest approached the altar to perform Communion.

3. Pored & Poured:

“Pored” means studied in detail.


I pored over the books in preparation for my exams.

The paralegal pored over the case studies, but could find no precedent.

“Poured” means “transferred liquid,” maybe from one container to another or even from sky to earth, in heavy rains


She poured the iced tea.

It’s pouring outside. (Here it means it is raining heavily.)

4. Serial & Cereal:

“Serial” means something happening in a series, in a sequence, one after another


I’m relieved the police caught that serial killer.

These vampire serials have taken over every television channel.

“Cereal” refers to grains produced by grass, generally used for breakfast.


I prefer cereals for breakfast.

Regular serving of cereal for breakfast will give you all the fiber necessary for the whole day.

5. Stationery & Stationary:

“Stationery” refers to office supplies like pen, paper, envelopes, etc.


I have to go to the stationery shop to buy some notebooks.

Do you have enough stationery for the meeting?

“Stationary” means “motionless”


The train is stationary.

Do not climb aboard the bus unless it stationary.

(“Bus station” and “train station” are derived from this word.)

6. Compliment & Complement:

“Compliment” refers to praising something about someone


My teacher complimented me on my well-written essay.

The guest paid a compliment to the hostess on her beautiful table and wonderfully cooked dinner.

“Complement” refers to adding something to improve or complete.


The jewelry complemented her outfit beautifully.

The wine was the perfect complement to the dinner.

Do not get discouraged if all these confusing words and meanings look complicated. With regular usage, and conscious and continuous self-improvement, you will be talking and writing like a native in no time.

In case you would like to improve your language skills, we at Wordsmith Essays are only too happy to help you learn. Just send in something you would like edited through the order form, and our comments and edits on your paper will help you improve your writing and spot your weaknesses for the next assignment.


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