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Problem Words - Definition, Overview, and Lists of Examples

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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The Troublemakers

Many words in the English language set traps for even the most accomplished writer. Here, on, we’ve provided discussions of over 200 of these troublemakers. (Scroll down for an alphabetical list.)

Glossary Links

In the discussions, whenever a grammatical term appears, we’ve linked to a definition in the Glossary of Grammatical Terms. If you click on a linked word, after reading the definition, simply hit the backspace key to return to the Problem Word you were studying.

Sources Cited

Click here for a list of sources cited. Then hit "back" to return to this page.

"A" Words

a, an accept, except adverse, averse advice, advise
affect, effect affect, impact agree aide, aid
all, all of all ready, already all right, alright allude, elude
allusion, illusion almost along with alot, a lot, allot
among, between and anecdote, antidote appraise, apprise
apt, likely, liable as far as as per as well as
as, because, since, for as, like assure, ensure, insure awake, awaken, wake, waken
awhile, a while


"B - D" Words

bad, badly because, as, since, for besides, beside breath, breathe
bring, take brought, bought but can, may
cannot, can not, cannot but capitol, capital, capital (money) chose, choose cite, site, sight
climactic, climatic clothes, cloths coarse, course compliment, complement
comprise, constitute, compose continual, continuous counsel, council coupled with, as well as, along with, together with, not to mention
criterion, criteria critique currently, presently data
demure, demur dessert, desert devise, device diary, dairy
different from, different than discreet, discrete disingenuous disinterested, uninterested


"E - G" Words

e.g., i.e. elicit, illicit email, e‑mail, E‑mail emigrate, immigrate
eminent, imminent empathy, sympathy enclosed please find, please find enclosed, enclosed herewith enormousness, enormity
ensure, insure, assure equable, equitable everyday, every day explicit, implicit
farther, further feel fewer, less fiancé, fiancée
figuratively, literally firstly, secondly, thirdly flammable, inflammable, noninflammable flaunt, flout
for, because, as, since forgo, forego former, latter formerly, formally
fourth, forth further to your letter get, got, got milk? gibe, jibe, jive
good, well grizzly, grisly grow


"H - J "Words 

handful, handfuls hanged, hung harass, harrass healthful, healthy
height, heighth herself, himself himself, herself historical, historic
homage however i.e., e.g. illicit, elicit
immigrate, emigrate imminent, eminent impact, affect implicit, explicit
imply, infer incentivize, incent incipient, insipid incomparable, uncomparable
incredulous, incredible indexes, indices inflammable, noninflammable, flammable ingenuous, ingenious
input in receipt of insidious, invidious insure, assure, ensure
inter-, intra- interface irregardless its, it’s
jibe, jive, gibe judgment, judgement juncture


"K - N" Words 

kind of know, no, now latter, former laudatory, laudable
lay, lie led, lead less, fewer liaison
literally, figuratively loan, lend loath, loathe loose, lose
machination mad majority manner, in a
manner in which may, can medal, metal, mettle, meddle media, medium
memorandum, memoranda mitigate, militate moral, morale much, many
myriad myself, himself, herself nauseous, nauseated, nauseating naval, navel
neither noisome, noisy none (singular or plural) noninflammable, inflammable, flammable
nor not to mention now, know, no


"O - R" Words 

only or ourself, ourselves passed, past
patience, patients peace, piece peak, peek, pique peddle, petal, pedal
perquisite, prerequisite personnel, personal phenomenon, phenomena pleaded, pled
please find enclosed,enclosed please find,enclosed   herewith pore, pour, poor pray, prey precedent, precedence
predominant, predominate premier, premiere presently, currently principal, principle
prior to, subsequent to prioritize proceed, precede prostrate, prostate
quality quite, quiet, quit quote, quotation really, real
receipt, “in receipt of” reek, wreak reign, rein, rain right, write, rite
rise, raise, rear


"S - Z" Words 

salacious, salutary sanguine, sanguinary secondly, firstly, thirdly seen, scene
sense, since sensuous, sensual set, sit since, for, because, as
shall, will shone, shown should, would simple, simplistic
site, sight, cite so stanch, staunch stationery, stationary
statute, stature, statue subsequent to, prior to supersede, supercede sympathy, empathy
take, bring than, then that, which they're, their, there
thirdly, secondly, firstly threw, through, thorough together with torturous, tortuous, tortious
tout, taunt, taut, taught trooper, trouper two, too, to uncomparable, incomparable
unconscionable, unconscious unexceptionable, unexceptional uninterested, disinterested venal, venial
waist, waste wake, waken, awake, awaken well, good whether
which, that who, whom, whose whole, hole whose, who's
wonder, wander would, should wreak, reek xylophone
yet you're, your yourself, yourselves Zeitgeist



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