A kitchen in my chicken – and other confusing English words

Updated: Nov 22

There are many words in English that are confusing, mainly because they are spelt similarly. As a result, they are used incorrectly; the meanings are completely different. There is no other way around it; they must be learnt to use them correctly.

In this article I will show you a selection of the most confusing examples.

Let me get the first one from the title of this article out of the way first.

Chicken – Kitchen

I think the confusion here stems from the sounds of ‘ch’ and ‘k’ – which can both be pronounced as K – as in the word ‘lichen’ (pronounced: liken) - and furthermore, both are in each word - to add to the confusion.

Next, is:

Bought – Brought

You need to understand that ‘bought’ is the past tense of ‘buy’ and ‘brought’ is the past tense of ‘bring’ - different meanings entirely. The important (and confusing) letter to note is the R.

“I bought it from the shop yesterday.”

“I brought it to class this morning.”

Passed – Past

Again, passed is the past tense of pass as in ‘not failing’ but it also means to go by something.

“She passed the exam with flying colours.”

Or “He passed the note to his friend.”

Or “We passed all the other cars in the race and won.”

Past is used this way: “We went past all the other cars in the race and won.”

Or “In the past, that was how it was done.”

There – their - they’re

These three are a major source of confusion for English students.

Look at this sentence which should clear up the confusion:

They’re saying that their books have always been there on the desk.”

Compliment – Complement

A compliment can be a noun as well as a verb.

As a noun: “By telling me I had done a great job, she paid me the highest compliment.” Here, compliment means praise.

As a verb: “I must compliment you on your extremely well-written essay.”

A ‘complement’ means something that completes something else or makes it better. It also refers to the crew of a ship. In grammar, a complement is a word or group of words added to a sentence to make it complete.

It can be used as a verb or a noun.

As a verb: “Your shiny shoes really complement your suit. They make you a complete star.”

As a noun (relating to a ship’s crew): “Half the complement of the ship was drowned when it sank.”

As a noun (used in grammar): “In grammar, a complement is a word, phrase, or clause that is necessary to complete the meaning of a given expression.”

Accept – Except

While ‘accept’ means to take something from someone else, such as a compliment, or to believe a point of view, ‘except’ means everything or anyone but.

Examples will help overcome the confusion.

“I’m sorry but I don’t accept that what you are telling me is true.”

“Everyone went to the party except Sally.”

Advice – Advise

This is easier to explain: advice is the noun, advise is the verb. Both have the same root meaning.

An easy way to remember the difference is "C for the noun, S for the verb."

“He always gives me great advice!”

“I must advise you against taking that course of action.”

Licence – License

Again, one is a verb while the other is a noun. In US English ‘license’ is both a verb and a noun.

For other English-speaking countries, the same rule for remembering which one is which applies: “C for the noun, S for the verb”.

“I got my driver’s licence today!”

“Now I am licensed to drive a car.”

I should mention that ‘practice’ (noun) and ‘practise’ (verb)