When you write in Japanese kana, you might have difficulty adjusting to the Roman alphabet.  Spelling can be tough. So let us help with that. Here are word pairs that look alike, and sometimes also sound alike, but have entirely different meanings.

In English, spelling is an important factor in ensuring that the person you are talking to will be able to understand what you are saying. Imagine saying affect when you mean effect, or perfect rather than prefect.

There are words that look alike, and sometimes also sound alike, but would have entirely different meanings. To help you with these words, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the commonly confused words in the English language.


  1. Affect – Effect
B2 Affect: to influence something o TV programs affect children.
B1 Effect: result o TV programs have an effect on children.


  1. Access – Assess
B2 Access: to get information o Can I access the files in your computer?
B2 Assess: to judge o Can you assess the essay I wrote?


  1. Altar – Alter
Altar: a church table o He put the wine glass on the altar.
B2 Alter: to judge o He added lime to the wine to alter its taste.


  1. Anemia – Amnesia
Anemia: a blood condition o He had anemia due to lack of sleep.
Amnesia: memory-loss o He had amnesia due to a car accident.


  1. Capital – Capitol
A2 Capital: a major city o I live in the country’s capital.
Capitol: a government building o I go to work in the capitol.


  1. Complement – Compliment
Complement: to make something look better o The blue earrings complement her eyes.
C2 Compliment: to say a positive comment o He complimented her earrings.


  1. Dual – Duel
C1 Dual: two parts o My phone is dual purpose: for communication and for games.
?? Duel: a fight o My sister and I almost had a duel because of the phone.


  1. Farther – Further
B2 Farther: more (distance) o My sister can bike farther than I can.
B2 Further: more (idea or explanation) o My sister described the park further.


  1. Martial – Marital
Martial: relating to war-like conditions o The country is under martial rule.
Marital: relating to marriage o He experienced marital problems with his old wife.


  1. Natural – Neutral
B1 Natural: from nature o The company produces natural products.
C1 Neutral: no opinion o The manager was neutral about the issue.


  1. Naval – Navel
C2 Naval: relating to the sea or the navy o Her father is a naval officer.
Navel: the hole in the middle of the stomach o His navel is quite dirty.


  1. Perfect – Prefect
A2 Perfect: without error o My look seems perfect.
Prefect: an officer o He is the campus prefect.


  1. Principal – Principle
B1 Principal: main o His principal reason for inventing the telephone was to talk to his loved ones.
C1 Principle: an idea that explains something o His invention followed engineering principles.


  1. Stationary – Stationery
Stationary: not moving o The train remained stationary at the last station.
?? Stationery: writing materials o She brought stationery to the trip.


  1. Wreak – Wreck
Wreak: to cause damage or problems o The fire will wreak destruction to the city.
C2 Wreck: to damage or destroy o The cranes will wreck homes.


We hope this list can help you with your spelling and word usage to avoid misunderstandings or confusion. And always remember that when in doubt, you can always consult the dictionary first.


*Levels based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

**Most dictionaries contain “word usage” or usage examples to verify if the word in question is the right one to use.



Bell, Masha. (2017). Homophones with different spellings. English Spelling. Retrieved from http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.com/2013/02/homophones-with-different-spellings.html

Whitten, Richard. (2017). 9 English Word Pairs That Confuse Absolutely Everyone. FluentU. Retrieved from http://www.fluentu.com/english/blog/confusing-word-pairs-in-english/