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economic / economical
economic - about the economy
economical - to be careful of the use of, sparingly
His parents reacted to the current economic crisis by the economical use of their tightened family budget: no movies, no cable TV, only hand-me-down clothes, brown bag lunches on day old bread, entertainment using an ancient and incomplete Scrabble game, and bedtime stories from a tattered copy of Moby Dick they found on a bus.
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emigration / immigration
emigration - to leave a country where you have lived
immigration - to enter a country, with intention to live there
Throughout the past two centuries, emigration from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America was followed by immigration to the United States by millions of people seeking a better life.
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exacerbate / exasperate
exacerbate - to make a problem worse
exasperate - to frustrate or exhaust
The pompous teacher knew the student was trying to exasperate him with snide comments meant to exacerbate the students fuming over their latest grades in the back of the room.
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flout / flaunt
flout - to refuse to obey, in an obvious way
flaunt - to exhibit, make sure is noticed
The hippies mean to flout convention when they flaunt the painted peace signs on their nude bodies at the sit-in on the Pentagon lawn in front of press cameras from around the world.
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hangar / hanger
hangar - a shelter for aircraft
hanger - a place to hang something, a piece of wire shaped to hold clothing, someone who hangs things
The pilot left the hangar after putting her flight jacket on the hanger in the closet.
The wall paper hanger put pre-pasted paper with mauve cabbage roses on it over the interior of the stealth bomber hangar.
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hoard / horde
hoard - to keep to oneself, to store up
horde - a mass of people, a large sometimes unruly group
The horde of dwarves removed every piece of gold from the dragon's hoard as soon as it flew north.
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inherent / inherit
inherent - inseparably part of
inherit - to receive a bequest, to pass down a generation
An ability to see ghosts was inherent in the sixth sense she might inherit from her grandmother's genes.
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its / it's
its - belonging to it (third person neuter singular possessive determiner)
it's - contraction of it is, it has
It's come to my attention that the peacock lost its tail feathers from plucking, not feather mites.
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lay / lie
lay - to place something, to put something down
lie* - to go to a prone position, to recline
*lie also means to not tell the truth, but that meaning is usually evident from context and not confused with lay
She would lay her uniform across the dresser before she would lie in bed at night.
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loose / lose
loose - to to let go, to make not tight
lose - not win, cannot find
If the hook is too loose, you will lose your flying fish before you pull it aboard the boat.
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mitigate / militate
mitigate - to make less strong, to lessen
militate - to fight or pressure someone
The priest tried to militate the harsh restrictions which the Inquisition forced on unbelievers, but he could not mitigate the punishments they ordered.
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Many of these words were listed in the Wikipedia article on commonly misused words. Others were selected from experience.
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Additional WordsIf you have some words which regularly confuse you when you try to use them, or you feel should be included, let me know in comments, and I will include them in a future article.
Commonly Misused Words with Meanings and Examples of Correct Use: From E to M
English is a language with many homonyms, as well as words that look similar but have entirely different meanings. In this series we look at a number of the words that are regularly misused because people are confused about which word they should use. We give meanings and examples in a sentence.