Misused Words

EDUCATION

Staff Writer

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Are you a grammar Nazi? Then this quiz is for you. Test your knowledge of these commonly misused words.

Did you do well in English? Were you on the school newspaper? Does the glut of incorrect grammar on the internet make you want to bang your head against a wall? If you answered yes to all of these questions, you're not alone. But you don't have to have been an English major to be bothered by grammar errors. Even us regular folk find it difficult to stomach.

Some of the most commonly misused words include there, their and they're. These are big ones. The trick to knowing how to use these is to know what they mean. "Their" is the possessive form of "they," so the correct use of this word would be "They left their luggage at the airport." "There" indicates placement, so the correct usage of this word would be "Put your coat there." And "they're" is a contraction of the words "they" and "are." The correct usage of the word "they're" would be "They're leaving on vacation tomorrow." See the difference? If you don't get it, go back to school.

So, do you think you can ace this misused words quiz? Let's get started.

I will go to the store ______ to the restaurant.

"Then" conveys a sense of time while "than" implies a comparison.

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The magician created the most fantastic __________ for the crowd.

Anything "elusive" is hard to get a hold of. It eludes you. Something "illusive," on the other hand, is not real, even if it seems to be, while an "allusion" is an indirect reference.

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It’s difficult to say if my friend is _______ by the weather because he seems happy either way!

"Affect" is usually a verb, meaning to have an influence on while "effect" is usually a noun, meaning "the result of an action or cause."

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If you’re invited to a party and would love to go, you must _____ the invitation.

Accept means to willingly receive something as in, "I accept your apology." Except means that something is not a part of the grouping under discussion such as, "I'd like everything on my hamburger except pickles."

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How many times have you found lint from your clothes in your ______?

Naval is an adjective meaning of or related to ships, shipping, or the navy, while a navel is another name for your belly button.

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Have you ever been to the _______ city of Spain?

Capitol might seem right, but that’s actually a building, not a city!

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This word means, “a narrow passage of water.”

A narrow passage of water might be in a straight line, but it’s called a "strait"!

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My favorite fruit is a _________.

Plumes are on birds, and plumb is something a carpenter tries to do. Plum is the delicious stone fruit.

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It would be better if we had ______ chairs on the patio.

The homophones to / two / too can be tricky, but the word meaning a number is spelled "two."

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I’d rather be _____ than intentionally hurt an innocent wild dog.

The word "humane" refers to showing kindness and concern towards others. As a noun, human refers to a person and as an adjective, human refers to showing better qualities of people or it can also be understood as of people.

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What _________ did the bank agree to on the loan for your new car?

Principal means "primary" or "chief" — like the principal of a school — while principle generally refers to a rule, law, or general truth. Remember the ol' trick: the principal is your *pal.* As a noun, the word “principal” has more than ten meanings, from the head of a school to the non-interest portion of a loan.

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________ are quite a few options, but I think you’ll find the right one!

They sound the same, but the meanings are completely different. "They're" is short for they are. "Their" shows possession, just like my, his, her, and our. And "there" is a place, similar to here.

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How many times did the car _____ down the hill before you parked it?

The homophones roll and role actually have a common origin—the Latin rotula, diminutive of wheel—but they differentiated long ago and share no common ground in modern English.

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I think the bright lights are having an _____effect on the quality of my sleep.

Adverse and averse are both turn-offs, but adverse is something harmful, and averse is a strong feeling of dislike.

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Would you like to eat cookies or ice cream for _________?

A trick to remembering the difference between "desert" and "dessert" is that de*ss*erts are *S*uper *S*weet.

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I think he had ______ phone when he left the bar.

Your is the possessive form of the personal pronoun you, you’re is actually a contraction of the words “you are” while yore is a relatively obscure word that means “time long ago” or “in times past”.

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My favorite bread is made from ____ flour.

Rye is a cereal plant and the grains that come from this cereal plant, but wry refers to a dry humor or a twisted facial expression.

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This word describes a person with honorable intentions and a suit of armor.

A knight was originally a person of noble birth trained to arms and chivalry; today in Great Britain a person honored by the sovereign for personal merit. Night, on the other hand, is the time after sunset and before sunrise while it is dark outside.

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Please _____ the web_____ that you used for your project about animal eye______.

These homophones will all come in handy for research papers, but other than that, they don't have anything in common: cite is short for citation, site is a place, and sight is what your eyeballs are for.

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When was the last time you _____ the ball ______ the goal posts?

“Threw” is the past tense of the verb “throw”: “The pitcher threw a curve ball.” “Through” is never a verb: “The ball came through my living room window.” Unless your sentence involves someone throwing something—even figuratively, as in “she threw out the idea casually”— the word you want is “through.”

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I didn’t realize that the headband you wear is a communication ______.

A device is an instrument invented for a particular purpose while to devise means come up with (an idea, plan, explanation, theory, or principle) after a mental effort.

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When you feel sick to your stomach, you’re feeling_______.

Nauseated is actually a verb. It is the act of feeling nauseated or, as mentioned, wanting to vomit. Therefore, when you actually feel as if you are feeling discomfort in your stomach, it is not right to use the term "nauseous" but rather, "nauseated."

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There were three ____ in the front hard, but my father didn’t want them to eat the grass, so he scared them away!

Doe is a female deer; also used of similar animals such as reindeer, antelope, goat while dough is a thick, malleable substance made by mixing flour with other ingredients such as water, eggs, and/or butter, that is made into a particular form and then baked. And of course, everyone knows that "doh" is what Homer Simpson says!

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I _______ a ______ of sheep over the hill, but when I looked, there were none to be seen!

Heard is the past form of the verb to hear (to perceive sound or listen) while the noun herd refers to a large group of animals or people. As a verb, herd means to gather into a group or to move as a group.

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Have you ever eaten a ______ with a ______ while sitting on the ______?

A peer means a person who is an equal (noun) or it can mean to look attentively (verb). A pier is a structure extending out over water. The word "pear" refers to the fruit and is pronounced slightly differently from peer and pier.

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I never knew that there was a killer ________ at the aquarium!

Most folks know that a whale is an animal that lives in the ocean. And most commonly the verb wail means to cry or complain loudly. But did you also know that an informal meaning of whale is “to beat”? For example, even though a vocalist in a band may wail a song, the drummer whales on the drums and lead guitarists when they thrash their instruments wildly, whale on them.

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Who would you place on the soccer ______ for the finals?

Team refers to some kind of cooperative unit, especially in sports, and it can be used as a noun (I play on the volleyball team) as well as a verb (We teamed up to complete this project).

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The dwarves were astounded to find that the dragon had a _______ of gold!

To hoard is to squirrel stuff away, like gold bricks or candy wrappers, while a horde is a crowd of people.

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Everyone was smiling with joy when he lifted her _____ at the wedding.

A vale is a valley. To vail is to take off your hat in a sign of respect -- it's pretty archaic and in the US, the word more commonly associated with the Vail ski resort in Colorado. A veil is a piece of cloth worn over the head and sometimes face, normally associated with women and brides. To veil something is to obscure it or hide it, as a veil does.

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It would be better if you got your ______ from someone with more experience.

Advice and advise not only have different meanings but are also pronounced differently. Advise is a verb, and advice is a noun.

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Do you think that the _____ of the story was easy to understand?

Morale, which has the accent on the second syllable, is a noun meaning "a person's mental or emotional state." Moral, with an accent on the first syllable, is either a noun meaning "the lesson from a story" or an adjective meaning "virtuous, behaving according to high standards."

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It is a very _______thing to ask someone about their medications.

Here's a tip for remembering personal vs personnel: personnel has two ns, just as a company has to have at least two employees to have personnel. Anything personal (one n) is about one individual.

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The fishing weights are made of _____.

Lead (rhymes with bead) is associated with being in charge or being in front. The past tense of the verb to lead is led. Confusion arises because lead (a soft toxic metal) is pronounced led.

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She is a very practical woman, but unfortunately she often ends up settling on the ______solutions, missing out on crucial elements.

Simple is a good quality and means easy, simplistic means you missed some parts.

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The family __________ to Europe to find better work and delicious food.

Now this is a tough one! When a person emigrates, she leaves one country or region to live in another, either temporarily or permanently. When she immigrates she arrives in that other country. In other words, she emigrates from one country to immigrate to another country.

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I don’t think you put the money in the ________, but I’ll check again.

Antelopes have horns and live in the desert! Envelop (with the stress on the second syllable) is a verb meaning "cover" or "enclose" and envelope (stress on the first syllable) is a noun meaning "container used for mailing."

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He was so drunk that he thought he was in the park, even though he was on a ______ bike!

Stationary means not moving, fixed in one place, still. Stationery, with an "e," is paper, usually paper that you use for writing letters or notes. Who writes letters anymore anyway? But there's a tip for remembering the difference between stationAry and stationEry: just as you write e-mail, you write on stationery with an "e."

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With a smile and a nod, it was clear that she was aware of his _______ meaning.

Imply and infer are opposites, like a throw and a catch. To imply is to hint at something, but to infer is to make an educated guess. The speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring.

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This word means, “in addition; also”.

"To" has two functions: as a preposition ("I'm going to the store") and indicating an infinitive when it precedes a verb ("I need to study"). "Too" also has two meanings: a synonym for also ("Can I go too?") and meaning excessively when it precedes an adjective or adverb ("I’m too tired"). Finally, the number "two" refers to the number.

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If you make a funny face, it should _________ a response from that baby.

"Elicit" means to call something forth, such as emotions or responses, while "illicit" means contrary to accepted morality (especially sexual morality) or convention.

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