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February 8, 2019

064 Words with similar spelling and pronunciation but different meaning

Words with similar pronunciation and spelling but different meaning

Hi there! Welcome back to another episode of the art of business English, well this week I do have a quick episode for you and it’s on a common problem that people often have with knowing the difference between certain pronunciation and certain spelling of words that sound the same but in fact they have different meanings. So what will be looking at in this episode is basically, in the first part I’ll cover words that have very similar spelling, OK? But they have a different meaning. And then in part two I’ll be looking at words that have very similar pronunciation but they have a different meaning, okay? So a quick episode for you today just to help clarify these words that have similar meaning or similar pronunciation, similar spelling with different meaning okay? so let’s have a look at the first list what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna  turn out to my computer and have a look 

Altogether vs. All together


So, the first word is altogether which means completely, altogether, so it is spelt A-L-T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R, so altogether and it means completely, whereas if you spell all together separately so A-L-L T-O-G-E-T-H-E-R it means a group of things or people in one place. 

Effect vs. Affect

The next word is E-F-F-E-C-T so effect now bring about or make which as a verb is to bring about or make something happen or result as a noun that’s important because it’s very similar to the word affect which is spelt A-F-F-E-C-T so these two words are commonly, commonly confused and even by native people you will see them confused and even by native people you’ll see them confused in writing so affect which is spelt AFF ECT this means to have an effect on something okay so effect is bring about or make happen and affect is to have an effect on something. 

Lose vs. Loose


The next word is lose so if you LOSE something that’s a verb to lose is perder, so foul to have or find, however it is very close in spelling to loose which is L00SE and loose means that it is not tight so, suelto o no muy ajustado. They very closely spell to lose is LOSE and LOOSE. 

Specially vs. Especially


Okay let’s look then at the next word which is also commonly confused and that is specially so specially is SPECIALLY is for a special purpose okay so specially for a special purpose whereas ESPECIALLY this is something in particular so especially something in particular though very similar and often commonly confused 

Stationary vs. Stationery


Next one is a noun which is STATIONARY okay stationary we hear that a lot stationary is STATIONERY okay and that is actually referring to paper or envelopes or Post-it notes or you know all of that stuff at lovely stuff that we buy for the office okay and whereas the verb sorry the adjective stationary which is STATIONARY, stationary means it’s not moving okay and is used formally for vehicles so the car was stationary at the front of the police station for example 

Principle vs. Principal


So, what you’ll also notice with the next one is also commonly confused principle so that is PRINCIPLE so principle and principle well it mostly means it’s the general truth or a standard okay so are the general principle of this argument is whereas the principle of the school is PRINCIPAL  so principal is your headmaster or the head of the college okay and that’s a very common word used to describe the headmaster at school in Australia as well so those are some words which are varies have very similar spelling but actually mean different things and you know you really need to have clear those because they are commonly confused. 

Allowed vs. Aloud


As I said in the introduction in the second part of the episode going to be looking at words which have the same or very similar pronunciation but different spelling and meaning okay so let’s start with these words at the first one is allowed and allowed okay so you might be confusing aloud which is ALLOWED that means you know you are permitted you have permission to I am allowed to eat at this chocolate cake today whereas aloud which is spelt ALOUD it means you know it en voz alta, something that is said out loud or aloud okay so very different meaning from allowed which is to permitted again so that that’s a very common confusing sound okay because those two sound exactly the same.

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Bear vs. Bare


Another one that’s also commonly confused is bear and bare okay so a bear is probably most of you know it is an animal, it’s an oso and a bear is spelt BEAR however bear which is also like there’s nudo or something that is very sparse so for example if you have no food in your cupboard you could say my cupboards are bare and that is BA RE so bearing means that something is very sparsely populated or there’s nothing covering it okay so very different from the animal bear but those two words sound exactly the same as well.


The next one is FAIR and FARE, okay so fair is the adjective you know to be fair justo and it’s FAIR okay so and you know if it’s fair our trade fair as a noun at the trade fair that those are and that those are similar in in in pronunciation to fear like the train fare know your train fare is that the fee or the money that you pay to purchase a ticket to ride on the train so train fare would be FARE so very different in meaning but exactly the same pronunciation.


Now the next ones are very commonly confused well the exact same sound hair and hare. So, hair as most people would think of is what we have on our head, so el pelo is HAIR however it has the exact same pronunciation as HARE, which is in fact are an animal it’s like a large rabbit okay it’s very similar to a rabbit that little bit larger okay and are often hunted in the forest so hare is different from hair that we have on our head.


Then you got the fruit PEAR which is PEAR una pera and that is different from una pareja, una pareja is PAIR, so the fruit and as a noun have exactly the same pronunciation pear and pair okay, so a little bit confusing.


The next one is piece and peace okay? So, a piece of chocolate cake is un trozo and also peace is PEACE la paz so we have piece and peace with exactly the same spelling however, sorry exactly the same pronunciation but completely different spelling so that’s also commonly confused.


So, the next is also very commonly confused especially by native people and often is very difficult to detect it when you are making this mistake because of the spelling, it is very similar and the pronunciation is exactly the same, so when we refer to practice the noun which is to practice, football practice which is entrenamiento then it’s PRACTICE. So, practice and when we want to talk about the verb so to practice something then the spelling is almost the same but it finishes differently PRACTISE. Okay so that’s a very common mistake you got practise and practice at football practice and to practice playing the piano so one is a noun one is a verb.


Another one that is also commonly confused stair and stare, stairs as most people would imagine is what we climb, climb stairs so las escaleras so stair is STAIR however the, the verb is pronounced exactly the same as you got the verb to stare which is fijar en algo and that is STARE okay so to stair and ehm... those two can be confused a little as well because the pronunciation is exactly the same.


Another one this one is that the second last one for today’s episode, however this pair of words are very commonly confused as well and you have got the word their and there okay so their was a possessive adjective so their car is spelt THEIR however you’ve also got THERE which is for example over there allá or there is a car hay un coche so there is spelt THERE so they both have exactly the same pronunciation however ahm... they are spelt differently and honestly have different meanings.


The last one for today’s episode is weather and whether so you’ve got weather, which is el tiempo today there is really nice weather whereas you’ve also got whether which is like if. "I’m not sure whether I will go to the party.", which is similar to, "I’m not sure if I will go to the party.", and that is actually spelt WHETHER so very similar practically the same the pronunciation but the meaning is completely different again so those are some very commonly confused words that I want to share with you guys because you know sometimes at the level of pronunciation it is very difficult to know which one people are referring to obviously most things are context and I also want to share with you because when you’re writing many, many people make mistakes with their writing with these types of words so if you do have any questions regarding these types words then please let me known. I’ll be more than happy to help you.


That’s basically all I have time for today. Hope you loving the content this year. I hope you’re enjoying what we have been providing for you since January 2019, basically I'm having a great time been working on a lot of stuff. I’ve been trying to provide as much valuable content as possible but if you do have anything that you would like me to specifically work on or explain for you then please send me an email. You can do that by sending an email to [email protected] and I will be more than happy to work on putting together some content for you making sure that you guys get exactly what you need, okay well that’s pretty much all we have time for today if you would like to watch the video obviously you can at our website and I will be putting that up soon and also you know if you guys would like to improve your vocabulary and your collocations then please feel free to grab a copy of our 500 business English collocations for everyday use it’s a fantastic book and shortly will have the pronunciation accompanying that so you know it’s sort of like an e-book as well as an audiobook that you can listen to which will help you to improve your pronunciation. Well my friends as always I hope you have a great week that’s all I have time for you today and I look forward to hearing your comments and getting feedback so take care- by for now.




Altogether – completely

All together – A group of things or people in one place

Effect – bring about/make (v); result (noun)

Affect – have an effect on

Lose – fail to have or find

Loose – not tight

Specially – for a special purpose

Especially – particularly

Stationery – paper, envelopes, etc.

Stationary – not moving (used formally of vehicles)

Principle – general truth or standard

Principal – head of college or school










Practice (n) – practise (v)




By accident
Sin querer
By bus/car/plane/etc.
En autobús/coche/avión
By chance
Por casualidad
By cheque
Pagar con cheque
By day/night
De día/noche
By far
Por lejos
By hand
A mano
By heart
De memoria
By land/sea/air
Por tierra/mar/aire
By all means
Por supuesto
By means of
Por medio de
By mistake
Por error
By yourself
Por ti mismo
By (25)%
By phone/post/fax
Por teléfono/correos/fax
By return of
Contestar inmediatamente
By sight
De vista
(take) by surprise
Tomar por supresa
by yourself
bit by bit/one by one, etc.
Poco a poco/uno por uno


“By” + noun combinations in use

OK, so there you have the list of 20 common combination with the preposition “by”. As promised, now I am going to give you some example sentences in context.

Example sentence
By accident
Kim bumped into John by accident.
By bus/car/plane/etc.
I prefer to travel by train than car whenever possible.
By chance
Do you have any spare change by chance? I need to wash the car.
By cheque
Can we pay by bankers’ cheque?
By day/night
John Works as a waiter by night and a painter by day.
By far
This is by far the most stressful day I have had in weeks.
By hand
These models are made by hand, that is why they are more expensive.
By heart
You will need to learn this material by heart if you want to work effectively.
By land/sea/air
Send this parcel to Buenos Aires by air. It will arrive faster.
By all means
Can I come to your party?
By all means, it will be a pleasure having you.
By means of
The company was saved by means of a new credit line and restructuring of debt.
By mistake
I think I ate your lunch by mistake.
By yourself
Did you complete this work by yourself, or did you get someone to help you?
By (25)%
We will be reducing our costs by 15% in the coming quarter.
By phone/post/fax
It is best to contact us directly by mail if you would like fast service.
By return of
Please reply by return of email within 24 hours.
By sight
I don’t think I know John by sight as we have never met in person.
(take) by surprise
The team was taken by surprise when the bossed walked in when he was meant to be on holiday.
by yourself
What are you doing here in the office all by yourself?
bit by bit/one by one, etc.
We have grown the company bit by bit, and now we are confident it will grow by leaps and bounds.


There you have it my friends, as you can see, just as with last week’s episode I have tried to add in some additional vocabulary and expressions for those who are motivated and wish to look up the meaning.

Remember if you are an AOBE member you can get access to the transcript, which is a great study tool.

Final thoughts

Well, that brings us to the end of another episode here today. I hope you are finding this mini-series on preposition and noun combinations very useful. If you need some motivation to study, then I recommend you make an effort to learn 20 of these expressions per week. Then you will be ready for the next week. Learning and internalising them is pretty straight forward, all you need to do is write out 5 at a time, and then create some example sentences. Secondly, you can take a list with you to work and pop them into some emails or presentations that you are preparing.

So, that is it for me today. It’s been a pleasure having you here, don’t forget to head over to the AOBE website and sign up to get your copy of the transcript and your free weekly coaching sessions. Perfect for busy professionals who want access to a professional team of business English trainer.

Until next week, take care, by for now. 

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Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

​Andrew James Ambrosius

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