Commonly Confused Words

Some words get confused more than others.  There are a number of words that sound similar, or are spelled similarly, but have very different meanings.  They get confused and mixed up all the time, even by native English speakers.

That’s why we’re here, though.  Here are four of the word groups we see mixed up a lot in our essays, and what the proper usage of each is:

Sneaked and Snuck

We may be fighting a losing battle here, but the correct past tense of “sneak” is sneaked.  Snuck is an odd word; it wasn’t used anywhere before about the mid-1800s, and it’s since sneaked into language all over the place – it might even be the most commonly used form in the United States.  Sneaked, however, is the standard form to use, and if you try to sneak in a snuck, you may find yourself judged by your English professors.

Compliment and Complement

This is almost unfair; there’s only one vowel difference between the two words!  They mean two very different things, though.  Compliment, with an “i”, means to give praise.  You can compliment someone on their good grammar.   Complement, with an “e”, means that something completes something else.  Your shoes might really complement your outfit.

In addition, complimentary means free – like complimentary tequila at a bar.  Complementary means it brings something together – salt and lime are complementary to that tequila.

Forward(s), Backward(s), Toward(s)…

In the United Kingdom, all these words have an “s” on the end.  That’s correct, and the only way to use them.  In the United States, however, you drop the “s” – so just “forward”, “backward”, “toward”.  The two different forms of English sometimes disagree on what proper usage is, and this is one of those times.

Can and May

We’ve all had that one picky English teacher:

“Can I go to the bathroom?”
“I don’t know, can you?”

While we here at Wordsmith Essays believe that said teacher should really know what you meant, can implies an ability to do something, while may implies permission to do something.

Here at Wordsmith Essays, our team of editors is more than happy to take a look at your essay and help you get rid of the run-on sentences and other tricky grammatical problems.  With around-the-clock service, we can help you out with whatever you need.  Stop by our order page today!


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