John Larrysson Column: Words Commonly Confused in Hong Kong

I want to add something extra to this weekly column. At the end of the column each week I will add a few words that get commonly confused in Hong Kong. At the bottom of this article is the first part. Over nearly two decades of correcting students’ work in Hong Kong I have made an alphabetical list of words they often get wrong. I have also added to that list some words that English teachers (local and NET), English panel heads, head teachers, government officials, politicians and other important people also got wrong. This list is of both written and spoken mistakes.

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Many English words can be puzzling, since sometimes they are similar, in sound or spelling, to other words. Some are spelled the same way but have different meanings. Then there are words that are spelled the same way but differ in pronunciation. Often there are some words that should not sound the same, but are often confused and mispronounced by Hong Kong students. So these words are useful to note.

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This list should help to deal with the confusion many people commonly have and to provide good ideas for improving one's English. Some of these words are commonly confused by native speakers and others are only confused by Hong Kong students. When too many native speakers are getting a word wrong it is likely that the word's meaning will have to change in the future. This usually happens when two words have a similar spelling and pronunciation and have similar, but slightly different meanings. For example: the verb affect and the noun effect may change meaning eventually. However until the meaning does change these are words that will cause problems.

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by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.