Tuesday, November 15, 2011

15 Frequently Confused Pairs of Verbs

These similar-looking words below have dissimilar meanings. Make sure you’re using the correct one in each pair.

1. Amused/bemused: To be amused is to be entertained; to be bemused is to be confused.

2. Appraise/apprise: To appraise is to evaluate; to apprise is to inform.

3. Ascribe/subscribe: To ascribe is to attach an idea to a source; to subscribe is to hold belief in an idea.

4. Attain/obtain: To attain is to reach; to obtain is to acquire.

5. Barter/haggle: To barter is to trade; to haggle is to negotiate.

6. Born/borne: To be born is to be brought forth; to be borne is to be carried along.

7. Borrow/loan: To borrow is to receive something for temporary use; to loan is to provide something on those terms.

8. Careen/career: To careen is to lean over to one side or to sway; to career is to hurry carelessly—not to be confused with the alternate meaning of a chosen pursuit, a profession or occupation. (Additionally, to 'carom' is to ricochet.)

9. Censor/censure: To censor is to ban; to censure is to reprimand.

10. Criticize/critique: To criticize is to judge harshly or in a negative manner; to critique is to evaluate.

11. Denigrate/deprecate: To denigrate is to defame or belittle; to deprecate is to disapprove or de-emphasize (but can also, like denigrate, mean to disparage).

12. Differ/vary: To differ is to disagree or to be distinct from; to vary is to change (although differ can also refer to 'variation').

13. Espouse/expound: To espouse is to support; to expound means to state, explain, or defend (which is also distinct from the phrase “expand on,” which means to provide additional or digressive details).

14. Rebut/refute: To rebut is to argue in response to another argument; to refute is to deny an argument.

15. Wangle/wrangle: To wangle is to obtain by underhanded means; to wrangle is to wrestle.

Source: Daily Writing Tips


  1. I haven't even heard of wangle before...I am going to try to use that word!

  2. Wangle is a word? I need to remember that for Scrabble.

  3. Alex, Old Kitty, Jo-Jo and Diane: Thanks so much for your continued support of my random posts! :)

    I'm HAPPY to have provided a few *new* words for you to use (and at the same time clarify their meanings)!

  4. Hey hey. I was threatened with a game of scrabble once. I shudder to think what my spelling would have done to me. Scrabble doesn't have spellchecker. haha

  5. Great list. Two words that people confuse here in Texas is ideal/idea. Hearing someone say "That's a great ideal" is like finger nails on the blackboard to me.

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