Nine frequently misused homophones


1. affect/effect

affect (verb) - to do something that influences someone or something
Example: The actions of the nobility affected girls’ ideas of correct behavior.

effect (verb) - to make something happen
Example: His careful work effected (brought about) the new structures in the organization.

effect (noun) - a result or reaction to someone or something
Example: The aristocrats’ purchase of more and more elaborate clothing had the effect of increasing social divisions.


2. its/it’s

its (possessive adjective) - belonging to people, animals, or things
Example: The company needs to do what is in its best interest.

it’s = the short form of “it is”
Example: It’s important to understand the organization’s goals before implementing any changes.

3. lay/lie
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lay, laid (present, past verb) - to put or set something down
Example: You can lay (present) your books over there. She laid (past of lay) her books on the table.

lie, lay (present, past verb) - for a person or creature to recline or rest in a horizontal position
Example:  Every morning, I lie (present) down to take a nap.  Yesterday after the exam, I lay (past of lie) down for just five minutes.

4. lead/led

lead (noun)-substance in a pencil
Example: You need to sharpen your pencil because the lead is dull.
lead (verb)- to guide a person or animal to a place
Example: Moses endured many obstacles to lead the Israelites out of bondage.

led (past tense of lead)
Example: The actions taken in science to better our society led people to become too materialistic. 

5. then/than

then (adverb) - after something has happened; next
Example: If the risks are too great,  then the company may gain almost nothing.

than (conjunction/preposition) - used when comparing
Example: Although he should be more grieved than the doctor, Meursault displays much less sorrow.

6. there/their/they’re

there (expletive) - it has no meaning but is used to start sentence
Example: There are many areas in which a manager needs to be competent; these areas include writing, speaking, critical thinking, and active listening.

there (adverb) - it is used to describe a location
Example: She dumped the books over there and then left for school.

their (possessive adjective) - belonging to people, animals, or things
Example: The employees’ need to care for their sick relatives is a sensitive issue.

they’re = the short form of “they are”
Example: A person may follow rules, but they’re not always the best guide to the right action.

7. to/too/two

to - used with the basic form of a verb to make the infinitive
Example: He mentioned that he liked to watch TV for the liquor commercials and that it made him want to try new drinks and beverages.

to (preposition) - toward or in the direction of
Example: I went to the lab early in the morning.

too (adverb) - more than is needed or wanted
Example: However, too much monitoring can have a negative effect on morale.

too (adverb) – also
Example: I have that exam tomorrow too.

two = number
Example: Assuming that these two issues are truly the source of the absentee problem, then implementing the recommendations will decrease the absentee rate.

8. you’re/your

you’re = the short form of “you are”
Example: Sometimes you do not know if you’re doing well at all, since nobody tells you where you stand at each meeting.

your (possessive adjective) - belonging to people
Example: Mr. Friedlander told you that the most important aspect of being human is to use your intelligence and reasoning abilities.

9. whether/weather

whether (conjunction) - used when talking about a choice between two possibilities
Example: Resources obviously play a big role in whether or not a company takes risks.

weather - the temperature or conditions outside
Example: The rainy weather was responsible for the car accident.