Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often confused. Two or more words may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same or pronounced differently or spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or almost have different meanings. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure for learning commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study. We will look at some of the categories of words that may be considered confusables: homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, words that have a similar spelling, and words that have a similar meaning, with examples of those types of words.
Homophones are types of confusables that are two words that are pronounced in the same way when spoken aloud but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones; however, pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Homophones are confusables and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology.
Examples of homophones used in sentences:
I ate all the salad that was in my bowl.
My dog gave birth to eight puppies.
One thing led to another.
Lead is a heavy mineral.
Homonyms are confusables that are two words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings. Homonyms are also generally derived from different sources and have different etymologies.
Examples of homonyms used in sentences:
The mayor would like to address the crowd.
Please fill in your phone number and your address on this card.
My dog likes to bark.
The tree began to shed its bark.
Heteronyms are confusables that are two words or more that are spelled in the same way but are pronounced differently and have different meanings. Heteronyms are also generally derived from different sources and have different etymologies.
Examples of heteronyms used in sentences:
My teenager has decided to be a rebel.
My teenager has decided to rebel against my authority.
That artist is the best drawer of buildings that I have ever seen.
I keep my underwear in the bottom drawer of my bureau.
Some words are confusables for no other reason than they are simply close in spelling. Interestingly, these words are confused by many, many people.
Examples of confusing words that are close in spelling used in sentences:
I would advise you to lock your doors.
Some good advice is to lock your doors.
The doctor prescribed some medication.
The teacher proscribed talking in class.
Some words are confusables for no other reason than they are similar in meaning.
Examples of confusing words that are similar in meaning:
You will have fewer problems in school if you study hard.
I have less money than my neighbor.
I have trained my pet to be a good dog.
I have trained my pet well.