Commonly Confused Nouns & Verbs

Posted in: Better Writing, Editor

tomatoOne of the first items on your editor’s agenda is to make sure you really meant to say what you wrote. Writing the wrong word when you meant something else will confuse, irritate and frustrate your readers.

Often, nouns and verbs which sound similar are confused for one another. This quick guide will help you choose the right word.


Accept means to receive.

It would be improper to accept a gift from a supplier.

Except means to exclude.

To balance the budget, we must except the last quarter projects.


Advice is a noun.

She gives really good advice.

Advise is a verb.

Can you advise me?


Affect is a verb.

The only way to affect change is to identify the need for improvement.

Effect is a noun.

The shadow was an expected effect of the floodlights.


Can refers to ability.

He can kick the ball the farthest.

May refers to permission.

He may not kick the ball in the house.


Censor as a verb means to remove or suppress because of moral or otherwise objectionable ideas. As a noun, a censor is the person who suppresses the ideas.

The profanity was censored from the program because the censor found it inappropriate language for children.

Censure as a verb means to blame or criticize. Censure as a noun is an expression of blame or disapproval.

The rating committee will likely censure the production company for the program.
His censure was appropriate because he approved the script.


Imply means suggest without stating. Infer means draw a conclusion based on evidence.

Her pinched expression implied her annoyance, yet I inferred she had gotten what her purchase price demanded.


Lie means to recline or rest. It does not take an object; It is only an action of the subject. The past tense of the verb lie is lay.

He could lie there for hours.
He lay there for 30 minutes.
He has lain still for over an hour.
Why is he lying on the floor?

Lay means to set, put or place. It takes an object.

Can you lay the book on the desk?
I laid the book on the desk.
She had laid her book on the desk.
He was laying carpet beside the desk.


Nauseous means producing nausea.

The nauseous smell permeated the space.

Nauseated means enduring nausea.

She was nauseated by the smell of the rotted vegetables.


Precede means to go ahead of.

The offense precedes the citation.

Proceed means to go forward.

The parade will proceed down the street.


Raise is a transitive verb which takes an object. It means to lift; to cause to move upward; to bring up; to increase.

The Marine solemnly raised the flag.

Rise is an intransitive verb which does not take an object. It means to get up; to move or extend upward; to ascend.

The sun will rise tomorrow on a newly planted field.
Prices rose suddenly.
The old man had risen by the time the mail arrived.


To set is to place or put.

Did you set the file in the tray?

To sit is to be seated.

Are you going to sit there all day?


Cite means to mention.

You must cite your sources.

Site is a location.

The volunteers went to the disaster site.

Sight is the ability to see or a view.

His sight was obscured by the trees.
The little boy in the red high heels was quite a sight.

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