If you have taken our first Big Quiz on Commonly Confused Words, you know all about confusables--words that are frequently mixed up because they look and sound alike. This big quiz will test your familiarity with 50 fresh sets of confusables.
Select the word in each set that completes the sentence accurately and appropriately. (If you're not sure of the correct answer, follow the links to our Glossary of Usage for explanations and examples.) When you have completed the quiz, compare your responses with the answers on page two.
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- Afterward(s) or Afterword
"Is it really so difficult to tell a good action from a bad one? I think one usually knows right away or a moment _____, in a horrid flash of regret."
- Angel or Angle
"He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of _____ food."
- Anonymous or Unanimous
"The National Academy of Sciences would be unable to give a _____ decision if asked whether the sun would rise tomorrow."
- Ardent or Arduous
"Peace is not only better than war but infinitely more _____."
(George Bernard Shaw)
- Ascent or Assent
"That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane human being has ever given his _____."
- Band or Banned
"The first modern jazz _____ ever heard in New York, or, perhaps anywhere, was organized at The Marshall."
(James Weldon Johnson, "The Making of Harlem")
- Bolder or Boulder
"There is a giant sandstone _____ about a mile north of Old Laguna, on the road to Paguate. It is ten feet tall and twenty feet in circumference."
(Leslie Marmon Silko, "Legend of the Yellow Woman and the Giant")
- Brake or Break
"You can _____ every grammatical and syntactical rule consciously when, and only when, you have rendered yourself incapable of _____ing them unconsciously."
- Canvas or Canvass
Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you. You are just a machine, an imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a _____ into a beautiful masterpiece?
(Will Smith as Detective Del Spooner in I, Robot)
- Chafe or Chaff
Human males are unique. Fathers continue to regard their sons as children even into adulthood, and sons continue to _____ against what they perceive as their fathers' expectations of them.
(Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation)
- Childish or Childlike
The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a good non-specific symptom; I'm a big believer in it. . . . You fake a stomach cramp, and when you're bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little _____ and stupid, but then, so is high school.
(Matthew Broderick as Ferris in Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
- Deprecate or Depreciate
"Those who profess to favor freedom, yet _____ agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground."
- Diagnosis or Prognosis
"Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple _____ of the world's ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all."
(John W. Gardner)
- Emigrate or Immigrate
In their benevolence, the Federation allowed them to _____ to the Outer Worlds. Like your family, they were executed on arrival.
(Robert Beatty as Bran Foster in Blake's 7)
- Evoke or Invoke
"Good writing is supposed to _____ sensation in the reader--not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon."
- Exhort or Extort
"Carmine, I don't think it's right that you should _____ money from the college."
(John Vernon as Dean Vernon Wormer in Animal House)
- Garner or Garnish
"We _____ our treasures, our jewels so bright, and we worship our idols of clay."
(H. Clay Preuss)
- Grisly or Grizzly
Mexico's famous Day of the Dead festival, with its _____ yet comic cavortings of the dead, recalls the skull motifs and sacrifices of the lost world of Moctezuma.
- Heard or Herd
"Like the _____ animals we are, we sniff warily at the strange one among us."
- Hoarse or Horse
Miss Raswani walked straight as a ramrod, her sari always severely pinned and pleated, her thick white hair pulled back in a tight bun. Her pupils had a white rim around them. She had a loud, _____ voice that terrorized the whole entire school.
(Nayana Currimbhoy, Miss Timmins' School for Girls)
- Hole or Whole
What happened down in the dungeon between you and Professor Quirrell is a complete secret. So, naturally, the _____ school knows.
(Richard Harris as Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)
- Incidence or Incidents
"No hunter stalking his prey is more alert to the presence of his quarry than a writer looking for small _____ that cast a strong light on human behavior."
- Incite or Insight
"A bad writer is a writer who always says more than he thinks. A good writer--and here we must be careful if we wish to arrive at any real _____--is a writer who does not say more than he thinks."
- Manner or Manor
Somewhere in the English countryside, in a stately _____ home, Madonna is weeping!
(Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester in Glee)
- Medal, Metal, or Mettle
"I can sum it all up in just one word: courage, dedication, daring, pride, pluck, spirit, grit, _____, and g-u-t-s--guts."
(Lloyd Bridges as Steven McCroskey in Airplane II: The Sequel)
- Media, Medium, or Mediums
You know, maybe the Japanese didn't really know they were making a film per se. Maybe they thought there were working in a different _____, like fabric sculpture or something.
(Crow T. Robot commenting on Invasion of the Neptune Men)
- Naval or Navel
At the checkout counter, Keelie's eyes immediately zeroed in on a tiny oak-leaf _____ ring in a display of silver body jewelry. It was perfect for her, even though she didn't have a pierced _____.
(Gillian Summers, Into the Wildewood)
- Nutritional or Nutritious
"Bless this highly _____, microwavable macaroni-and-cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen."
(Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister in Home Alone)
- Patience or Patients
"How do you have _____ for people who claim they love America but clearly can't stand Americans?"
(Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade in The American President)
- Perpetrates or Perpetuates
"This whole baby thing baffles me, I mean you have it, you raise it, you inevitably screw it up, it resents you, feels guilty for resenting you and then it has a baby, which only _____ the vicious cycle."
(Demi Moore as Samantha Albertson in Now and Then)
- Pray or Prey
"[E]xperience declares that man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general _____ of the rich on the poor."
- Precedence or Precedents
I dedicated my life to the preservation and the protection of the Federation. This duty, which I carried out to the best of my ability, took _____ over everything else--my parents, my wife, my children.
(William Sadler as Sloan in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
- Prodigy or Protégé
"Everybody hates a _____, detests an old head on young shoulders."
- Prophecy or Prophesy
"[I]t is a much better policy to _____ after the event has already taken place."
- Rack or Wrack
What did it look like? Who cares what it looked like? It was just a _____ of computer equipment.
(Lena Headey as Sarah Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
- Raise, Raze, or Rise
"I have a dream that one day this nation will _____ up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"
(Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream")
- Rapt or Wrapped
"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand _____ in awe is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
- Right, Rite, Wright, or Write
"Everybody has a _____ to pronounce foreign names as he chooses."
- Ring or Wring
"Having failed to _____ a confession from you, they lock you in a cell, and leave you there all night."
(H.L. Mencken, "The Nature of Liberty")
- Risky or Risqué
"Dirty dancing" and the lambada were considered too _____ by many when they became popular. In the present day, many high schools ban freaking, grinding, and other dances that simulate the sex act. Some schools have equipped chaperones with flashlights to expose inappropriate movements.
(Mark Knowles, The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances)
- Scene or Seen
"Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of _____."
- Sole or Soul
"In practice nobody cares whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the _____ thing demanded is that it shall be profitable."
- Straight or Strait
"You can't trust water: even a _____ stick turns crooked in it."
- Taught or Taut
"Each of their faces was as clear to me as in the moment of actual vision--the man's fat shiny bewildered face; the _____ white face of the woman, the hard red line of her mouth, the eyes that were not flashing, but positively dull, with rage."
(Max Beerbohm, "A Relic")
- Threw, Through, or Thru
Please, try to understand. I don't have the background for this. I mean, the high school I went to, they asked a kid to prove the law of gravity, he _____ the teacher out the window!
(Rodney Dangerfield as Thornton Melon in Back to School)
- Throes or Throws
"A place in the _____ of an energy boom isn't so different from a person in the _____ of addiction: there's the denial that things are out of control; there's the sleeplessness and the moral carelessness, and the fact that you are doing something that you know isn't good for you but you just can't stop."
- Torpid or Torrid
"[N]ovels so often provide an anodyne and not an antidote, glide one into _____ slumbers instead of rousing one with a burning brand."
- Urban or Urbane
"He wore eye-glasses of the pince-nez variety, and they dangled in a fashionable manner from a black silk cord: it was better than going to a show to see him put them on, his manner was so _____, casual, and distinguished when he did so."
- Wait or Weight
"I finally told Ross, late in the summer, that I was losing _____, my grip, and possibly my mind."
- Way or Weigh
"I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one _____."