8 Simple English Mistakes to Avoid

One of the hardest things about learning English language is getting to grips with the usage of words – particularly ones that sound the same. We’ve put together a list of some of the most confusing English words and simple English mistakes with examples of how to use them correctly.


Compliment and Complement

Pronounced the same, the words compliment and complement sound similar but have very different meanings. Compliment refers to praise and admiration for someone, whereas complement is used when something is enhanced or its value is improved. As a helpful trick, something that is complemented by something else is made more complete, whereas I would be happy to receive a compliment.

  • Anna complimented me on my new haircut.
  • Adding salt and vinegar to my fish and chips really complements the flavor.
My friends complimented the pasta I made for our dinner party. They said it was delicious!


Farther and Further

In general, farther and further both refer to a greater distance. In the US, however, farther is generally preferred when referring to physical distances, whereas further tends to be used for non-physical distances and abstract ideas. In the UK, this distinction is rarely made. Further can also be used to mean additional, while farther can't be used in this way.

  • Anna moved farther down the train to find an empty carriage.
  • Emily's house price fell further today than yesterday.
  • I have no further questions.


Especially and Specially

With a similar sound (especially when people talk quickly) and almost identical spelling, it’s no wonder people often get confused by these words. Use especially when singling out a person, object or situation; it's used to say that something is particularly applicable to particular situation. Specially, on the other hand, is used when referring to a special purpose.

  • Harry despises his PE lessons, especially when he has to play football.
  • A chocolate cake was made specially for Amy’s birthday.
I can't wait to try Amy's cake, made specially for her birthday – especially the big chocolate buttons!


Valuable and Invaluable

Generally speaking, ‘valuable’ and ‘invaluable both refer to the value of something. The main distinction, however, is that valuable is used to describe something that is worth a lot of money, whereas invaluable refers to something that is priceless; it's so important you can't assign it a value. Usually, this will be an abstract concept that you can't give an actual price to.

  • I have inherited a gold necklace from my grandmother which is very valuable.
  • Laura’s loyalty is such an invaluable trait to have in a friendship.


Lose and Loose

One of the biggest mistakes people mistake with the words lose and loose is the belief that they are pronounced the same. They are two different words with different pronunciations and different meanings. Lose can mean to misplace something, or else describes the opposite of winning, and is pronounced to rhyme with newsLoose, on the other hand, describes the opposite of tight, and rhymes with juice.

  • We have two injured players on our team, so I think we will lose the football match.
  • The knot on my shoelace was loose so my shoe fell off.


Sight or Site

Although sight and site are pronounced the same, their meanings differ. Sight refers to the ability to see, or else something you can see. Site, on the other hand, refers to a place where something happened or something has been built, or else the more abstract location of a website. When you're in a new city, you'll often go sightseeing, which is essentially saying you're going to see the things that can be seen!

  • Emma’s sight is deteriorating, so she will have to wear glasses soon.
  • Barry is working on a building site to help build a children’s school.
Now that Emma the dog's sight is fixed, she can continue working on her website.


Bring or Take

Bring and take both refer to the act of moving or carrying an object. The main difference, however, is in the point of reference. Bring is used for something that is being brought here to the speaker, whereas take is used to described something that is being taken away from the speaker's point of view.

  • Be sure to take your CV to the interview tomorrow. [This would be said by someone advising a friend who is going to an interview the next day; from their perspective, the friend and CV are leaving.]
  • Please bring a list of references to the interview. [This would be said by the interviewer; from his or her perspective, the person and list are coming.]


Principal or Principle

It's no wonder principal and principle are often confused; they are pronounced the same and have an almost identical spelling. However, while they sound the same, they have different meanings. Principal describes something of main importance, or else is a term for the person in charge of a school in the US. A principle, however, is a belief, truth, or chain of reasoning, and often serves as the foundation for something such as a religion.

  • The principal aim of the criminal justice system is to deliver justice for all.
  • The principal of Karen's elementary school was Ms. Johnson.
  • It is the basic principle of criminal law that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.
The principal principle of a good principal is to treat the students fairly.


Think you've got your head around these? Put what you've learned into practice and see if you can distinguish the difference between these confusing words.

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