Confusing words (Part 1)

Recently, we’ve talked a lot about topics like language learning strategies, how to stick to your study plan, finding (and keeping) motivation, etc. Today I thought it was time for a post with some ‘proper’ language content, in this case: vocabulary! We’ll look at some confusing word pairs that even trick native speakers, simply because they are written or pronounced almost the same, yet have a (completely) different meaning!

In this post, we’ll discuss just a few examples of confusing words (including German translations!)– we’ll save the rest for another week, so watch this space for part 2!

Enough chit-chat – here we go!


1) accept vs. except  

(etw annehmen/akzeptieren vs. außer)

To accept something means to ‘agree to receive something’ or to ‘believe something is correct’.

‘’He gratefully accepted the present’’

‘’She didn’t believe him at first, but eventually she accepted the story.’’

Except means ‘not including’.

‘’I work every day of the week except Sunday’’.


2) lose vs. loose

(etw verlieren vs. locker)

To lose something means ‘to not have something anymore / be unable to find it’, or ‘to not win’.

‘’I hope our football team won’t lose another game’’.

‘’I always lose my keys’’.

Loose (pronounced with a hard /s/, not /z/!), means ‘not tight’.

‘’I have lost a lot of weight, so now my pants are too loose!’’


3) affect vs. effect

(auf jdn/etw auswirken/beeinflussen vs. Auswirkung/Effekt)

The meaning of these two is actually the same, but they’re used differently in a grammatical sense. Affect is a verb, whereas effect is a noun. Have a look:

‘’Smoking has a negative effect (noun) on your health.’’

‘’Smoking (negatively) affects (verb) your health.’’


4) compliment vs. complement

(Kompliment vs. ergänzen)

If two things or people complement each other, they complete each other.

‘’My colleague is good at dealing with customers, while I’m better at solving technical problems. We complement each other well.’’

Giving someone a compliment (or to compliment someone) means to say something nice to someone about, for example, their appearance.

‘’I gave my friend a compliment on her new hairstyle.’’


5) bear vs. bare

(tragen/ertragen vs. nackt/bloß)

Again, these two are pronounced the same but mean completely different things.

Bear (not the big scary animal, but the verb) means to endure difficulties.

‘’I can’t bear to see my friend in so much pain’’.

Bare, which is an adjective, means ‘naked or uncovered’.

‘’You cannot enter this church with bare arms or legs’’.


6) stationary vs. stationery

(ruhend vs. Büroartikel/Schreibwaren)

Can you even spot the difference between these two? It’s just one letter, hidden in the middle (a vs. e) and yet these two have nothing to do with each other in terms of meaning!

Stationery is everything you have on your desk to write, such as pens, paper, staples, etc.

‘’Teachers tend to need a lot of stationery’’.

Stationary, on the other hand, means ‘not moving’.

The car crashed into a stationary vehicle’’.


Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of English words that tend to confuse absolutely everyone – it takes a lot of hard work to know all of them!

The good news is that, when speaking English, it’s easy to get away with not knowing which one to use – native speakers do this all the time! After all, it’s often impossible to hear the difference.

However, if you find yourself writing a lot of English emails, for example, it is necessary to know these word pairs well to avoid making mistakes.

We hope that this post has made you more aware that tricksters like these exist so that you hopefully catch yourself before making a mistake!

Stay tuned to our blog for more English tips & tricks! 😊