Confusing Words: Parts of Speech

We are looking at confusing words. Last time we covered those pesky prefixes. Let’s take a look at:

Parts of Speech

Many confusing words can be differentiated by examining their use in the sentence. When presented with a difficult choice of words, ask yourself what part of speech you are looking for.

Do you need to choose a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, or another part of speech? Select your word accordingly, and, when in doubt, diagram the sentence.


Advice is a noun: “You gave me advice.”

Advise is a verb: “You advised me.”

A Lot/Alot

A lot is a noun preceded by an article: “We ate a lot of cake.”

Alot is not a word.

All Ready/Already

All ready is an indefinite pronoun followed by an adjective: “We are all ready over here.”

Already is an adverb: “We are already here.”

All Right/Alright

All right is an adverb modifying an adjective to show completeness: “Everything is all right now.”

Alright is not a word in American usage, although repeated misuse is granting it tolerance in Great Britain.


Cite is always a verb: “He cited several experts in his paper.” The use of cite as a noun is unacceptable in serious writing; citation is the proper word: “He included several citations in his paper.”

Site, on the other hand, can be used appropriately as either a noun or a verb: “He lost his paper somewhere near the site of the dog kennel,” or “The dog kennel was sited just outside the building where he lost his paper.”


Elicit is a verb: “The salesman elicits a purchase.”

Illicit is an adjective: “The salesman is offering illicit goods.”

Also note that elicit simply means “to draw forth,” while illicit means “wrong or unlawful.”


Good can be either a noun or an adjective: “This event may bring about good,” or “This may turn out to be a good event.”

Well (when not referring to a water supply) is typically an adverb: “This event may turn out well.”

Note, however, that well can also be used as an adjective when used to speak of a healthy or satisfactory condition: “He is not well today,” or, “All is well.”


Lay and lie are both verbs; however, the first is transitive (takes a direct object) and the second is intransitive (cannot take a direct object).

Note the direct object: “She laid a blanket across the couch.”

Note the absence of a direct object: “She was lying on the couch.”


Raise is a transitive verb: “They raised a new barn yesterday.”

Rise is an intransitive verb: “They could see the barn rising up over the horizon.”


Renown is a noun: “Charles Dickens is an author of renown.”

Renowned is an adjective: “Charles Dickens is a renowned author.”


The distinction between that and which is a distinction between types of clauses—restrictive and nonrestrictive.

A restrictive clause is of key importance to the sense of the sentence; it restricts the subject of conversation to one or several specified objects out of many. It is signaled by the word that: “The animals that were exposed to the disease have been quarantined.” Note that we are singling out a particular set of animals—those that were exposed to the disease. Hence the clause is restrictive.

A nonrestrictive clause, on the other hand, merely contains parenthetical details; it could be removed from the sentence without substantially changing the meaning. It is set off by commas and prefaced by the word which: “The animals, which were exposed to the disease, have been quarantined.” Note that this sentence implies that all of the animals were quarantined (and, by the way, were exposed to the disease).

  • Continue adding to your grammar notebook.
  • Title this part “Parts of Speech.”
  • Create a page for each pair of confusing words.
  • On the page you created, write:
    • The word.
    • A simple way to remember the differences between the pair of similar words.
    • A sample sentence using the word.
    • A sentence of your own using the word. (For an extra challenge, try creating a sentence that uses both words correctly.)
  • For an added memory boost, you may also enjoy illustrating the words.

Additional Resources

Diagramming Sentences
Refresher for those who need it.

10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #5 Grammar & Spelling

10 Ways to Use Notebooking: #5 Grammar & Spelling
Ideas and resources for creating a grammar notebook.

Drawing & Writing Notebooking Paper {Free Download}
Paper for creating your notebook.

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