All the Troublesome Pairs

Here’s a list of all the troublesome pairs I’ve done (both ways round) in alphabetical order, to help you find them more easily.

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z


Adapt or adopt

Adopt or adapt

Advice or advise

Advise or advice

Affect or effect

Affect or impact

Allude, elude or illude

Allusive, elusive or illusive

Altar or alter

Alter or altar

Alternate, alternating or alternative

Alternating, alternative or alternate

Alternative, alternate or alternating

Among or amongst (see while or whilst)

Among or between

Amongst or among (see whilst or while)

Amoral or immoral

Amount or number

Annex or annexe

Annexe or annex

Any more or anymore

Anymore or any more

Assume or presume

Assure, ensure or insure

Asterisk or Asterix

Asterix or asterisk

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Baited or bated

Bare or bear

Bated or baited

Bazaar or bizarre

Bear or bare

Between or among

Biannual or biennial

Biennial or biannual

Bimonthly or semimonthly / semi-monthly

Biweekly or semiweekly / semi-weekly

Bizarre or bazaar

Borrow or lend

Bought or brought

Breach or breech

Breech or breach

Brought or bought

Burglary or robbery

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Can, may or might

Cite, sight or site

Client or customer

Comparable or comparative

Comparative or comparable

Complement(ary) or compliment(ary)

Compliment(ary) or complement(ary)

Compose, consist or comprise

Comprise, compose or consist

Confound or confuse

Confuse or confound

Consequently or subsequently

Conserve or preserve

Consist, comprise or compose

Continual or continuous

Continuous or continual

Councillor or counsellor

Counsellor or councillor

Convince or persuade

Coruscating or excoriating

Cue or queue

Customer or client

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Definite or definitive

Definitive or definite

Defuse or diffuse

Delusion or illusion

Desert or dessert

Dessert or desert

Device or devise

Devise or device

Diffuse or defuse

Disc or disk

Discreet or discrete

Discrete or discreet

Disinterested or uninterested

Disk or disc

Disorganised or unorganised

Dissatisfied or unsatisfied

Drier or dryer

Dryer or drier

Due to or owing to

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Effect or affect

E.g. or i.e.

Elder or older

Eligible or illegible

Elude, illude or allude

Elusive, illusive or allusive

En route or on route

Enquiry, inquiry or query

Ensure, insure or assure

Erstwhile or sometime

Erupt or irrupt

Excoriating or coruscating

Expansive or expensive

Expectancy or expectation

Expectation or expectancy

Expensive or expansive

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Faint or feint

Fair or fare

Fare or fair

Feint or faint

Fewer or less

Flammable or inflammable

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Gunnel or gunwale

Gunwale or gunnel

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Hangar or hanger

Hanger or hangar

have or of

Hear! Hear! or Here! Here!

Here! Here! or Hear! Hear!

Heterogeneous or homogeneous

Historic or historical

Historical or historic

Hoard or horde

Homogeneous or heterogeneous

Homograph, homonym or homophone

Homonym, homophone or homograph

Homophone, homograph or homonym

Horde or hoard

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I or me

I.e. or e.g.

Illegal, illicit or unlawful

Illegible or eligible

Illicit, unlawful or illegal

Illude, allude or elude

Illusion or delusion

Illusive, allusive or elusive

Immeasurable or unmeasurable

Immoral or amoral

Impact or affect

Imply or infer

Infer or imply

Inflammable or flammable

Inquiry, query or enquiry

Insure, assure or ensure

Interlude, interval or intermission

Intermission, interlude or interval

Interval, intermission or interlude

Invaluable or valuable

Invitation or invite

Invite or invitation

Irrupt or erupt

ise or ize

ize or ise

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Judgement or judgment

Judgment or judgement

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Lead or led

Led or lead

Lend or borrow

Less or fewer

Libel or slander

Licence or license

License or licence

Lightening, lighting or lightning

Lighting, lightning or lightening

Lightning, lightening or lighting

Linage or lineage

Lineage or linage

Loose or lose

Lose or loose

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Mandrel or mandrill

Mandrill or mandrel

Manx, minx or minks

Marinade or marinate

Marinate or marinade

May, might or can

Me or I

Me or myself

Might, can or may

Minks, minx or Manx

Minx, Manx or minks

Mrs or Ms

Ms or Mrs

Mucous or mucus

Mucus or mucous

Myself or me

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Number or amount

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Ocular or oscular

Of or have

Of or off

Off or of

Older or elder

On route or en route

Opossum or possum

Oscular or ocular

Owing to or due to

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Pacific or specific

Palate, pallet or palette

Pallet, palette or palate

Palette, palate or pallet

Pair, pear or pare

Pare, pair or pear

Passed or past

Past or passed

Peace or piece

Peak, pique or peek

Pear, pare or pair

Pedal or peddle

Peddle or pedal

Peek, peak or pique

Peer or pier

Perquisite or prerequisite

Persuade or convince

Perspective or prospective

Piece or peace

Pier or peer

Pique, peek or peak

Pore or pore

Pore or pour

Possum or opossum

Practice or practise

Practise or practice

Premier, premiere or premium

Premiere, premium or premier

Premium, premier or premiere

Prerequisite or perquisite

Preserve or conserve

Presume or assume

Prescribe or proscribe

Prevaricate or procrastinate

Principal or principle

Principle or principal

Procrastinate or prevaricate

Proscribe or prescribe

Prospective or perspective

Pus or puss

Puss or pus

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Queue or cue

Query, enquiry or inquiry

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Rain, rein or reign

Rebut or refute

Refute or rebut

Regretfully or regrettably

Regrettably or regretfully

Reign, rain or rein

Rein, reign or rain

Relation or relative

Relative or relation

Robbery or burglary

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Sear, seer or sere

Seer, sere or sear

Semimonthly / semi-monthly or bimonthly

Semiweekly / semi-weekly or biweekly

Sere, sear or seer

Sight, cite or site

Silicon or silicone

Silicone or silicon

Site, sight or cite

Slander or libel

Slay or sleigh

Sleigh or slay

Sleight or slight

Slight or sleight

Some time, sometime or sometimes

Sometime or erstwhile

Sometime, sometimes or some time

Sometimes, some time or sometime

Specific or pacific

Spelled or spelt

Spelt or spelled

Stationary or stationery

Stationery or stationary

Stentorious or stertorous

Stertorous or stentorious

Subsequently or consequently

Surfeit or surplus

Surplus or surfeit

Swath or swathe

Swathe or swath

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That, which or who

Themself or themselves

Themselves or themself

Than or then

Then or than

There, they’re or their

Their, there or they’re

They’re, their or there

Till or until

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Undulant or unguent

Undulate or ungulate

Unguent or undulant

Ungulate or undulate

Uninterested or disinterested

Unlawful, illegal or illicit

Unmeasurable or immeasurable

Unorganised or disorganised

Unsatisfied or dissatisfied

Until or till

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Valuable or invaluable

Venal or venial

Venial or venal

Viscous or viscus

Viscus or viscous

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Waist or waste

Waive or wave

Waiver or waver

Wander or wonder

Warn or worn

Wary or weary

Waste or waist

Wave or waive

Waver or waiver

Weary or wary

Weather or whether

Whether or weather

Which, who or that

While or whilst

Whilst or while

Who, that or which

Who or whom

Whom or who

Who’s or whose

Whose or who’s

Wonder or wander

Worn or warn

Would have or would of

Would of or would have

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Your or you’re

You’re or your

Yours or your’s

Your’s or yours

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Zeroes or zeros

Zeros or zeroes

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186 responses to “All the Troublesome Pairs

  1. Sarah

    September 19, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Would you be able to compare persuade and convince please? Think it’s quite a subtle difference but hard to explain.


    • Liz at Libro

      September 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm

      I can certainly add those to the list! Thanks for your suggestion!


  2. Nordie

    October 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Of and Off?

    Just caught myself about to use one, when I probably should have used the other.

    And not a pair, but the correct use of “either” and “Neither”? (So you can only have “either one thing or the other”, not “either A or B or C”?)


  3. Nordie

    October 9, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Who’s and Whose?


    • Liz at Libro

      October 9, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Both good ones, will add them to the list! Thank you!


  4. Nordie

    October 21, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Me again – lose and loose?


  5. Rose Harris

    January 9, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Hi Liz,

    I do so enjoy reading your troublesome pairs. I have one (well, a trio actually) for you – peek, peak and pique. I have so often read of someone’s interest being peeked! A pet hate – people who use “myself” when they mean “me” or “I” in the mistaken belief that it makes them sound more competent and official. It doesn’t.
    I could spend ages ranting away like a grumpy old woman, but I’ll spare you. Keep up the good work!



    • Liz at Libro

      January 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Ah – thanks for that one, it’s a good one! I’ll do that in a week or so. And yes, “myself” is annoying – I’m thinking of just starting a troublesome words series and will add that one in there. Thanks for your suggestions!


  6. Rose Harris

    January 9, 2012 at 11:33 am


    Oh Lord, I can’t even spell my own name!!



  7. Caroline Palmer

    September 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Wow I presume you are creating this into a book – could be as big as Eats, Shoots and Leaves or whatever it was called!!


    • Liz at Libro

      September 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you – I may do at some stage – still so many gaps at the moment!


  8. jeansbirdsean

    July 9, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Is it ‘defendent’ or ‘defendant’?



    • Liz at Libro

      July 9, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      Hello, Jean, and thanks for dropping in to ask your question. It’s defendant.


  9. Guy K. Haas

    August 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

    semimonthly or bimonthly (likewise for weekly)


  10. Linda

    May 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    You could do “warn” or “worn”.


  11. Damian O'Donohue

    May 19, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    Hi Liz,
    I’ve just stumbled across your blog, and I love it. How about covering “provided that…” versus “providing that…” ? That is provided that you have the time, of course.


    • Liz at Libro

      May 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Hello Damian and thanks for your comment. I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog, and that is a good idea, I’ll put it on the list!


  12. Neil Langley

    July 16, 2014 at 2:32 am

    Hi Liz,
    Really useful resource containing many of my personal bugbears! Suggest you may want to add complicated and complex


    • Liz at Libro

      July 16, 2014 at 9:02 am

      That’s a good one – I will add that to the list!


  13. Lucy

    August 26, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Great! Bookmarked for future use!


  14. kiwinana

    August 18, 2017 at 8:15 pm

    Well, that’s one big list of words. I have bookmarked it so I came come back and maybe write some poetry using them. Thanks. Have a nice weekend.


    • Liz Dexter

      August 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      That’s something I’d like to see – do let me know if any good poetry comes out of it!



    September 20, 2017 at 8:27 pm

    Gladly re-posting for my readers. Many thanks!


  16. mark norem

    March 30, 2018 at 5:01 am

    Will or shall?


    • Liz Dexter

      March 30, 2018 at 5:25 am

      Yes, I don’t think I’ve covered that one yet!


  17. Lady Fancifull

    April 29, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    What a brilliant and useful idea. Thanks Liz

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sophie Playle

    June 1, 2018 at 8:57 am

    Hi, Liz! Could you do a Troublesome Pairs post on ‘arching / arcing’? That one trips me up. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter

      June 1, 2018 at 8:59 am

      Ooh, good one – will add it to the list!


  19. Fretchie Santos

    December 4, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    Raise or Rise? Shoot or Shot?


  20. Miriam Parmenter

    May 9, 2022 at 8:18 am

    I’m so glad to have found you! I teach English as a foreign language and frequently have problems explaining the difference (and sometimes knowing the difference myself!) between words that my students use in their writing texts. I found you when I looked up the difference between decor and decoration. Thank you very much! Another pair that occurs to me is ‘incident’ and ‘incidence’, especially because the plural of ‘incident’ is pronounced the same as ‘incidence’.
    Miriam Parmenter


    • Liz Dexter

      May 9, 2022 at 5:37 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Miriam, and I am so glad I’ve been able to help. I can certainly add incident/incidence to my list to write about!



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