engcit grammar online

art courtesy of
Janet Preslar, FrActivity

Spelling Tips

Spelling in English is difficult, both because of the number of languages that helped create it, and also because of the variations between different regions in which it is spoken. This site concentrates on commonly misspelled words in Standard American English. It is designed to help you with the mistakes that are frequently made. These lists are not exhaustive. They are designed to give you several examples of the problem being examined. Use a dictionary and be aware that these problems are common and correctable.

These are words that may sound the same but are not spelled the same, nor have the same meaning.


  • accept -- verb; to receive; or to agree or consent to
  • except -- preposition; with the exclusion of

  • are--verb; present plural of "be"
  • our--possessive pronoun; belonging to us
  • hour--noun; measurement of time equaling 60 minutes

  • coarse -- adjective; rough or unfinished; unrefined
  • course -- noun; prescribed route; program of instruction

  • conceded--verb; past tense of "concede" : to relinquish or give up
  • conceited--adjective; egotistical

  • dam -- noun; earthen or concrete structure designed to contain or control water
  • damn -- verb; to condemn

  • dew -- noun; morning condensation
  • do -- verb; take action
  • due -- adjective; immediately owed

  • fair -- adjective; equitable
  • fare -- noun; price of admission

  • hear -- verb; perceive sound
  • here -- adverb; at this place

  • its -- possessive pronoun; belonging to it
  • it's -- contraction; it is

  • lead -- noun (pronounced LED); metal element
  • lead -- verb (pronounced LEED); to take command of; or be in front of
  • led -- verb; past tense of verb lead

  • know -- verb; to have awareness of
  • no -- negative response, or lack of something

  • passed -- verb; past tense of pass
  • past -- adjective or noun; referring to previous events

  • plain--adjective; unadorned
  • plain--noun; wide expanse of flat, usually treeless landscape
  • plane--noun; a two dimensional area in geometry... or a flying machine (airplane)

  • rite -- noun; ceremony
  • right -- adjective; correct
  • right -- noun; just claim or title
  • write -- verb; put words on paper

  • sale -- noun; exchange of goods or services for money; discounted selling event
  • sail -- noun; structure for catching wind to propel a vessel
  • sell -- verb; to exchange goods or services for money

  • sight -- noun; the ability to see
  • site -- noun; place
  • cite -- verb; to give a person credit for quoted text or statistical information

  • scene -- place
  • seen -- verb; past participle of see

  • strait -- noun; body of water
  • straight -- adjective; direct

  • too -- more than is desired or required
  • two -- the number 2
  • to -- preposition meaning, among other things, in the direction of

  • their -- possessive pronoun; belonging to them
  • they're -- contraction; they are
  • there -- adverb; referring to a place...also a non-specific subject, as in, "There's a phone call for you."

  • threw -- verb; past tense of throw
  • through -- preposition; penetrated, finished

  • ware -- noun; goods
  • wear -- verb or noun; refers to clothing
  • where -- adverb; also the interrogative asking for location

  • we're -- contraction; we are
  • were -- verb; past plural of "be"

  • weather -- noun; atmosphere
  • whether -- adverb; if

  • yore--noun: refering to days in the past
  • your--possessive pronoun; belonging to you
  • you're--contraction; you are

Typos and Spell-Check Errors
These are mistakes made when bad typing creates a word that spell-check recognizes as another word.


  • ether -- noun; gas used as anesthetic
  • either -- adjective; "one or the other of two"

  • head -- noun; topmost segment of the body; or front or top of a structure
  • heed -- verb; "to pay attention to"

  • know -- verb; to have awareness of
  • now -- adverb; "at this time"

  • until -- preposition; "up to the time that"
  • till -- verb; to dig in the soil, usually for agricultural purposes; also means UNTIL

  • effect -- noun
  • affect -- verb

  • then -- adverb; time reference to past or future
  • than -- adverb; comparison

  • insure -- verb; to provide compensation for loss…an insurance policy
  • ensure -- verb; to make sure

  • latter -- noun; the second of two
  • later -- adverb; time statement

  • loose -- adjective; not tight
  • lose -- verb; not win

  • passed -- verb; past tense of pass
  • past -- adjective or noun; referring to previous events

  • quiet -- adjective, noun; lack of noise
  • quit -- verb; to cease
  • quite -- adverb; very, completely

  • though -- adverb; transition of exception
  • thought -- noun; process of the mind
  • through -- preposition
  • tough -- adjective; not easy
  • trough -- noun; a long tub, such as that used to provide water for horses

  • were -- verb; past plural of "be"
  • we're -- contraction; we are

  • wont -- noun; custom or habit
  • won't -- verb; contraction of will not

Nouns vs Verbs
This section refers to those words that are derived from verbs and have been made into nouns. The noun is usually written as one word or is hyphenated. The verb is written as two words.

break-up break up
pickup pick up
put-down put down
breakdown break down
setup set up
setback set back
tiedown tie down

The following are similar to those above, in that one form is one kind of word, and the other is a different word with a different meaning.

  • apart: separate
  • a part: fraction of a whole
  • everyday: adjective (an everyday occurrence)
  • every day: time phrase (We eat here every day)
  • maybe: perhaps
  • may be: verb of possibility

These Aren't Words
This is a list of "words" that are not really words, even though you may see them used as such.

  • see's: it's a candy company, not a verb (verbs don't get apostrophe "s")
  • thru: usually shortened to fit on signs
  • til: put an apostrophe before it or add un-
  • alot: should be written as two words...see Not One Word section below
  • conversate: the verb for the noun conversation is converse

Misspelled Phrases
These are phrases that are often misspelled for some reason, usually because people like to spell the way they speak.

  • have to (not half to)
  • nowadays (not now a days nor now in days)
  • should (would, could, must) have (not should (would, could must) of) (actually saying contraction should've)
  • supposed to (not suppose to)
  • used to (not use to)

Not One Word
These are often written as one word but are actually two words...ALWAYS:

  • a lot
  • even though
  • each other
  • every time

Keep in mind that there are many words that have problematic spellings. Look up both the spelling and definition of a word before you use it. There is nothing less impressive than using large words in the wrong context.

Updated April, 2003
© Mr. Thomas T. Eiland