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Last Updated November 11, 2021, 3:10 pm
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Problem Words that Confuse People

The allusion was just an illusion

It was just a fig leaf of your imagination! Pardon the MALAPROPISM!
  1. I'm done with the job for all __________, but I haven't had my exit interview yet.
    1. intents and purposes
    2. intensive purposes
  2. The __________ of New York is Albany.
    1. Capitol
    2. capitol
    3. capital

    The capital of New York is Albany — "capital" is for cities (and money matters). "Capitol" always refers to a building, and "Capitol" with a capital C refers to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

  3. Tom wasn't too upset that Amy had been fired. He had never really liked her __________.
    1. anyways
    2. anyway
    Always "anyway," never "anyways." Ever. Beware of American Dyper English!
  4. The Empire State Building is taller __________ the Chrysler Building.
    1. Than
    2. then
    "Than" is for comparison, and "then" tells when. When in English grammar
  5. The teacher's pointed questions failed to __________ any answers from the class.
    1. illicit
    2. elicit
  6. Justin was __________ by the fireworks; he'd seen better pyrotechnics.
    1. nonplussed
    2. unimpressed
  7. It's so __________ that it rained on their wedding day.
    1. ironic
    2. unfortunate
    Rain on your wedding day, or a free ride when you've already paid, are not ironic events. They're just unusual, unexpected or unfortunate happenings. This is not the spot to debate the many usages and definitions of irony, but most coincidences are not ironic.
  8. Rebecca went shopping for some __________ outfits to wear on her work trip.
    1. practicable
    2. practical
    We guess it is possible that Rebecca wanted some outfits to be "put into use successfully," but more likely she wants "suitable" clothing for her trip.
  9. _________ of what you think should happen, we're still going ahead with the renovation.
    1. regardless
    2. irregardless
    "Irregardless" seems to be gaining a foothold in the language, but it's not a word. Just say "regardless."
  10. I'm __________ of that mean-looking dog next door. It could be nice, but you never know.
    1. weary
    2. leery
    3. wary/leery
    "Weary" means tired. "Wary" and "leery" are synonyms meaning suspicious or watchful.
  11. Don't __________ the rules: __________ __________ for your protection.
    1. flaunt/their/they're
    2. flaunt/they're/there
    3. flaunt/they're/their
    4. flout/they're/there
    5. "Flaunt" means to show off, and "flout" means to break the rules. "Their" is possessive, "they're" means they are and "there" always refers to a place.
    6. flout/their/there
  12. We were terrified on the __________ mountain roads. tortuous They differ by only one letter, but the meanings are very different. "Tortuous" means twisting or winding and "torturous" means "causing pain and suffering." So, tortuous roads could be torturous in some situations, but they're not the same thing. torturous
  13. I'm not under any __________ that our plane will actually leave on time tonight.
    1. illusions
    2. allusions
    An allusion is an indirect reference. An illusion is a misguided perception or belief.
  14. She was clearly __________ to the fact that she lost her job last week.
    1. eluding
    2. illuding
    3. alluding
    Because an allusion is an indirect reference, "alluding" means to indirectly refer to something. To "elude" is to hide. And "illude" is just a fake word.
  15. The __________ quilt looked lovely in the master bedroom.
    1. simplistic
    2. simple
    "Simplistic" actually means "overly or naively simple," like a simplistic explanation or a simplistic view of life. A quilt is just simple. They mean the same thing.
  16. The child's tantrum had absolutely no __________ on his mother. She just took his hand and quietly led him out of the store.
    1. affect
    2. effect
    When we're talking about nouns, "effect" is a change that resulted from some kind of action. "Affect" is a person's emotional demeanor.
  17. Paul __________ an English accent every time he answered the phone.
    1. affected
    2. effected
    "Affect" and "effect" are also verbs. "Affect" as a verb means "to have an influence on," "to touch someone emotionally," or "to put on a pretense." "Effect" means "to cause something to happen," or "to bring about."
  18. Lawrence was so __________ after the motivational speech that he went for a jog when he got home.
    1. enervated
    2. energized
    "Enervated" and "energized" are often used interchangeably for some reason, but they're actually opposites. They mean the same thing.
  19. We've decided to pay down the __________ of our mortgage instead of going on vacation this summer.
    1. principle
    2. principal
    "Principal" has many meanings, including your "pal" the head of school (or the head of a business) — and the non-interest portion of a loan.
  20. On __________, I refuse to buy from any cosmetics company that tests on animals.
    1. principle
    2. principal
    "Principle" always refers to a rule or belief.
  21. The soldier was __________ at dawn the day after he was convicted of murder.
    1. hung
    2. hanged
    In general, "hung" is for inanimate objects, like curtains and coats, and "hanged" is for people.
  22. The __________ moment in the movie came when the hero was dangling from a bridge.
    1. climatic
    2. climactic
    "Climactic" is for the climax, or high point. "Climatic" refers to the climate.
  23. I'll give you some money __________ your tuition if you get good grades this semester.
    1. toward
    2. towards

    "Towards" is the correct answer.

  24. My grandparents __________ here from Ireland.

    "Emigrate" and "immigrate" are very similar in both spelling and meaning. When the focus of the sentence is on the place the person left, it's "emigrate." When the focus is on the place the person ended up, it's "immigrated."

    1. emigrated
    2. immigrated
  25. __________ never going to win that race if you don't start training.
    1. you're
    2. your
    "You're" = "you are," and never anything else.
  26. Taylor had a/an __________ expression on her face when she heard the joke — it was pretty funny.
    1. bemused
    2. amused
    Amused means displaying amusement ; bemused means bewildered or confused.
  27. She had never been so happy as when she finally __________ that heavy suitcase down on the floor.
    1. laid
    2. layed
    3. lied
    "Lay" requires a direct object: You lay something down. "Laid" is the past tense of "lay."
  28. I'm going to __________ down in bed and take a nice, long nap.
    1. lay
    2. lie

    Again, "lay" requires a direct object: You lay something down. "Lie" does not require a direct object: You lie down in bed.

  29. When I __________ down in bed last night, I fell right asleep.
    1. lay
    2. layed
    3. lie
    4. lied
    But of course it's not always so straightforward. "Lay" is also the past tense of "lie," so it's not totally true that "lay" always needs a direct object. You can also "lay" on a bed (but only in the past).
  30. Lisa said she __________ if Tony went to the party with another girl. They had broken up weeks ago.
    1. could care less
    2. couldn't care less

    If you want to get literal about a figure of speech, "couldn't care less" is correct. If you "could care less," you're saying that it is possible you could care even less. But if you couldn't care less, you are officially at rock bottom of caring. Lisa could not possibly care any less about Tony.

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