Humanities › English 20 Commonly Confused Word Pairs Share Flipboard Email Print A homophonic pair of pears. Isabelle Rozenbaum/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated October 02, 2018 Here, from our Glossary of Commonly Confused Words, are 20 tricky word pairs that look and sound alike but have different meanings. (For examples and practice exercises, click on the highlighted words.) Advice and AdviseThe noun advice means guidance. The verb advise means to recommend or counsel.All Together and AltogetherThe phrase all together refers to people or things gathered in one place. The adverb altogether means entirely or wholly.Baited and BatedA hook, witness, or animal is baited (lured, enticed, tempted). Breath is bated (moderated).Cite and SiteThe verb cite means to mention or quote as an authority or example. The noun site means a particular place.Complement and Compliment; Complementary and ComplimentaryComplement means something that completes or brings to perfection. A compliment is an expression of praise.Discreet and DiscreteThe adjective discreet means tactful or prudent self-restraint. Discrete means distinct or separate.Eminent and ImminentThe adjective eminent means prominent or outstanding. Imminent means impending, about to occur.Flair and FlareThe noun flair means a talent or a distinctive quality or style. As a noun, flare means a fire or a blazing light. Similarly, the verb flare means to burn with an unsteady flame or shine with a sudden light. Violence, troubles, tempers, and nostrils can flare.Formally and FormerlyThe adverb formally means in a formal way. The adverb formerly means at an earlier time.Hardy and HeartyThe adjective hardy (related to hard) means daring, courageous, and capable of surviving difficult conditions. The adjective hearty (related to heart) means showing warm and heartfelt affection or providing abundant nourishment.Ingenious and IngenuousThe adjective ingenious means extremely clever--marked by inventive skill and imagination. Ingenuous means straightforward, candid, without guile.Lightening and LightningThe noun lightening means making lighter in weight or changing to a lighter or brighter color. Lightning is the flash of light that accompanies thunder.Mantel and MantleThe noun mantel refers to a shelf above a fireplace. The noun mantle refers to a cloak or (usually figuratively) to royal robes of state as a symbol of authority or responsibility.Moot and MuteThe adjective moot refers to something that is debatable or of no practical importance. The adjective mute means unspoken or unable to speak.Prescribe and ProscribeThe verb prescribe means to establish, direct, or lay down as a rule. The verb proscribe means to ban, forbid, or condemn.Rational and RationaleThe adjective rational means having or exercising the ability to reason. The noun rationale refers to an explanation or basic reason.Shear and SheerThe verb shear means to cut or clip. Likewise, the noun shear refers to the act, process, or fact of cutting or clipping. The adjective sheer means fine, transparent, or complete. As an adverb, sheer means completely or altogether.Stationary and StationeryThe adjective stationary means remaining in one place. The noun stationery refers to writing materials. (Try associating the er in stationery with the er in letter and paper.)Track and TractAs a noun, track refers to a path, route, or course. The verb track means to travel, pursue, or follow. The noun tract refers to an expanse of land or water, a system of organs and tissues in the body, or a pamphlet containing a declaration or appeal.Whose and Who'sWhose is the possessive form of who. Who's is the contraction of who is.