20 Confusing English Verbs You Need to Know

English is a language that can often be confusing, especially when it comes to verbs. As a non-native speaker, it can be difficult to distinguish between verbs that sound or look similar but have different meanings. In this article, we will discuss 20 confusing English verbs that are commonly misused. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how to use these verbs correctly in your writing and speaking.

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20 Confusing English Verbs You Need to Know

1. Affect vs Effect

"Affect" is a verb that means to influence something, while "effect" is a noun that refers to the result or outcome of an action. 

For example, "The rain affected my mood," and "The effect of the rain was a flood."

2. Lay vs Lie

"Lay" is a transitive verb that means to put or place something down, while "lie" is an intransitive verb that means to recline or rest in a horizontal position. 

For example, "I will lay the book on the table," and "I am going to lie down for a nap."

3. Accept vs Except

"Accept" means to receive or agree to something, while "except" means to exclude or leave out something. 

For example, "I accept your invitation to dinner," and "Everyone except John is coming to the party."

4. Allude vs Elude

"Allude" means to refer to something indirectly, while "elude" means to escape from or avoid something. 

For example, "He alluded to the book without mentioning its name," and "The suspect eluded the police."

5. Beside vs Besides

"Beside" means next to or alongside something, while "besides" means in addition to or apart from. 

For example, "She sat beside her husband," and "Besides English, she speaks French and Spanish."

6. Compliment vs Complement

"Compliment" is a noun or verb that means to praise or express admiration, while "complement" is a noun or verb that means to complete or enhance something. 

For example, "She complimented him on his cooking," and "The wine complemented the meal perfectly."

7. Emigrate vs Immigrate

"Emigrate" means to leave one's country to settle permanently in another, while "immigrate" means to come to a new country to live forever. 

For example, "My grandparents emigrated from Italy to the United States," and "She immigrated to Canada from Mexico."

8. Farther vs Further

"Farther" refers to physical distance, while "further" refers to extent or degree. 

For example, "The store is farther away than I thought," and "We need to discuss this further."

9. Lose vs Loose

"Lose" is a verb that means to misplace or be unable to find something, while "loose" is an adjective that means not tight or secure. 

For example, "I don't want to lose my keys," and "Her dress is too loose."

10. Principal vs Principle

"Principal" is a noun or adjective that refers to the main or most important person or thing, while "principle" is a noun that refers to a fundamental belief or rule. 

For example, "The principal of the school announced the new policy," and "He adheres to a strict set of principles."

11. Stationary vs Stationery

"Stationary" is an adjective that means not moving or still, while "stationery" is a noun that refers to paper, envelopes, and other writing materials. 

For example, "The car was stationary at the traffic light," and "She bought new stationery for her business."

12. Then vs Than

"Then" refers to time or sequence, while "than" is used for comparison. 

For example, "I went to the store

13. Ensure vs Insure

"Ensure" means ensuring or guaranteeing something will happen, while "insure" means providing financial protection against loss or damage. 

For example, "I will ensure that the project is completed on time," and "I need to insure my car before driving it."

14. Lend vs Borrow

"Lend" means to give something to someone temporarily, while "borrow" means to take something from someone temporarily. 

For example, "Can you lend me your pen?" and "I need to borrow your book for a few days."

15. Peek vs Peak

"Peek" means to sneak a quick look or glance, while "peak" refers to the highest point or summit. 

For example, "She peeked through the window to see who was outside," and "The mountain peak was covered in snow."

16. Comprise vs Compose

"Comprise" means to consist of or be made up of something, while "compose" means to make up or form something. 

For example, "The team comprises 10 members," and "The cake is composed of flour, sugar, and eggs."

17. Imply vs Infer

"Imply" means to suggest or convey something indirectly, while "infer" means to deduce or conclude something from evidence or reasoning. 

For example, "She implied that she was unhappy with her job," and "From his tone of voice, I inferred that he was angry."

18. Precede vs Proceed

"Precede" means to come before or precede in time or order, while "proceed" means to go forward or continue with something. 

For example, "The appetizer will precede the main course," and "We will proceed with the meeting as planned."

19. Continual vs Continuous

"Continual" means occurring frequently but with interruptions, while "continuous" means happening without interruption or pause. 

For example, "He had continual problems with his car," and "The music played continuously throughout the night."

20. Elicit vs Illicit

"Elicit" means to evoke or draw out a response or reaction, while "illicit" means illegal or forbidden by law. 

For example, "Her story elicited a lot of emotions from the audience," and "He was arrested for his involvement in illicit activities."


Mastering the correct usage of English verbs can be challenging, especially for non-native speakers. However, with a little practice and effort, you can easily differentiate between the commonly confused verbs and use them accurately in your communication. It's always a good idea to double-check the meaning and context of the verb before using it in your writing or speech. By improving your understanding and usage of these verbs, you can improve your communication skills and convey your message more effectively.
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