50 Common Mistakes in English You Should Avoid

Our writers, editors, and proofreaders come across a number of common mistakes in English that people make time and time again— even native English writers whose writing is otherwise exemplary. Get these basics wrong, and the proofreading mistakes can be pretty funny.

Here are some of the most common slip-ups we see.

Common Mistakes in English


accept vs. except

One of the most common mistakes in English is to confuse accept and except. Accept is a verb, which means to agree to take something: “I accept that I should have applied for the job earlier.” Except is a preposition or conjunction, which means not including: “I get up at 08:00 am every day except Sundays.”

advice vs. advise

It is a common mistake in English for writers to confuse the word Advice. Advice is a noun that refers to an opinion or recommendation that someone provides to you: “I need advice on which job to apply for.” Advise is a verb. When you advise someone, you direct him or her to take a particular course of action: “I advise you to apply for the job as soon as possible.” Notice in this example that the noun form (the naming word) ends in “ice” and the verb form (the doing word) ends in “ise.” This is very often the case in English language and can be used to help you avoid mistakes.

affect vs. effect

Affect and effect are two words that are commonly confused. Affect is usually a verb (an action or a doing word), which means to influence or change something. You should use the word affect when you are referring to something that you intend to do in the future: “Insufficient sleep will affect my ability to compete in the race on Sunday”. Effect is usually a noun (a naming word or a thing) that is generally used to discuss something that you have already done: “The lack of sleep had an effect on my performance”. It can also mean the result of something: “I experienced side effects when I told the tablets the doctor gave me.” Avoid this common mistake in English.

all right vs. alright: Is “alright” all right?

All right has a number of different meanings that lead to its misuse being one of the most common mistakes in English. The meanings of the word “all right” include yes, satisfactory, suitable, and feeling okay: “Yes, it’s all right for you to borrow my basketball.” While many people use the word alright, this is actually not a real word, and many educators or teachers may strike a big red mark through it if it is used for academic or professional writing. When in doubt use “all right.”

a lot vs. alot vs. allot

Many people use the words a lot as an informal way of identifying a “large quantity” of something: “I have a lot of shoes.” While this is permissible in everyday language, it is actually slang and isn’t accepted as Standard English. It would most certainly be corrected by an English proofreader. As such, it shouldn’t really be used in written form. The more suitable usage is when you’re trying to measure something that can’t be physically counted very easily, like water, heat or fog: “There was a lot of mist surrounding the castle.” As for “alot”, this word does not exist… at all. You should never use it, ever. Allot is a verb, which means to give, assign or allocate: “We were allotted a job each.”

all ready vs. already

One of the most common mistakes in English occurs when people confuse “all ready” with “already.” All ready means entirely or in total: “Are you all ready for your group singing lesson?”. Already is an adverb that means before the present time or earlier than the time expected: “I was upset when I arrived at dinner and realized that they had started eating already.”

altogether vs. all together

All together (adj) means in unison, simultaneously or all at once: “The choir sang all together.” Altogether (adv) means in total, overall or in sum: “Eventually, the car broke down altogether.”

any one vs. anyone

Any one means any single person or thing out of a group of people or things: “I can recommend any one of the students I have taught.” Anyone means anybody or any person and it’s always written as one word: “Has anyone seen my car keys?”

any vs. some

Any and some are both determiners. A determiner indicates the type of reference that a noun has. Determiners are used to discuss indefinite quantities or numbers when the exact quantity or number is not important. In some cases, any and some can have the same meaning. Examples: “Will you have any?” “Will you have some?” “Won’t you have any? ” “Won’t you have some?” As a general rule, however, we use some for positive statements and any for questions and negative statements. Examples: “You may have some cookies from the jar,” “I don’t want any cookies from the jar”.

Apart vs. a part

Apart (adv) means to be separated by distance or time: I always miss my boyfriend when we’re apart”. A part (noun) a piece of something that forms the whole of something: “They make me feel like I am a part of the family”.

been vs. gone

Been refers to a place which someone has visited sometime in his or her life. In other words, “has been to” refers to an experience. Gone to refers to someone who has gone to a place but has not yet returned.

borrow vs. lend

Lend means to let somebody use something or to give something to someone with the expectation that it will be returned: “I will lend you my car, but I want it back next week.” Borrow means to take something from somebody with the expectation that you will return it: “If you let me borrow your car I will ensure that I return it by Monday.”

bought vs. brought

Bought is the past tense of the verb to buy: “I bought a new car with my bonus”. Brought is the past tense of the verb to bring: “I brought the dog to visit my aunt”.

Do you make these common mistakes in English?