Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 4 of 6

by : Laraine Anne Barker


Later means afterwards; latter is the second of two things.

"Later that day we went for a walk."

"We have two choices. The latter is the more reliable, but the former would be cheaper."


This pair confuses writers almost more than any other.

"He lay on his bed." Although this sentence is past tense, "laid" would be incorrect and suggests he was laying eggs.

"She sighed as she laid the visitors' book beside the pen and lay back wondering if she would ever make an entry in it again."

In present tense the sentence would read, "She sighs as she lays the visitors' book beside the pen and lies back, wondering if she will ever make an entry in it again." BUT "I sigh as I lay the visitors' book beside the pen and lie back, wondering if I will ever make an entry in it again."

(In practice, I would probably write I place/placed and she places/placed. It's so much less confusing, not to mention less repetitive!)

"It lay on the desk beside an open book." Present tense would read, "It lies on the desk beside an open book."

"Our hens lay every day."

"The hens laid ten eggs yesterday."


Lead (pronounced led) is a heavy metal or (pronounced leed) the present tense of led. So:

"He opens the door for me and I lead the guests upstairs to their rooms."

"He opened the door for me and I led the guests upstairs to their rooms."


Lend is a verb meaning to give something temporarily to someone; loan is a noun, meaning the temporary transfer of something to someone else. So, "Dad, can you loan me a few dollars until pay day?" is incorrect.


Lessen means to make less; lesson is something you learn.


Loathe always means hate or detest, and loath means reluctant or hesitant. It's that simple!

"I loathe the idea of complaining about such a small thing."

"I'm loath to complain about something so small."

These sentences may seem to say the same thing, but the speakers' feelings are different. It's nearly always "loathe" that is used when the writer means "loath", seldom the other way round.


Lose always means mislaying or dropping something and not being able to find it, while loose means slack or free:

"If the fastening on your wrist-watch is loose (slack) you may lose your watch."


Another tricky one, best explained by demonstration:

"Maybe you could explain this to us a little clearer."

"It may be a good idea to give us a clearer explanation of this."


The two more often confused are meet and mete. Meet means to encounter (and can also mean fit or suitable); mete means to

allot, apportion or distribute; meat refers to flesh as food.


Strange that these two should get confused, but they do. No is always the opposite of yes; know is to be certain (that you know the difference!)


It baffles me that people get these mixed up, but they do. Overdo means to exaggerate or carry something too far; overdue is what your bills are when you forget to pay them!