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Accept, except Accept is a verb meaning "to receive." Except is usually a preposition meaning "excluding." I will accept all the boxes except the ones with dents on the sides. Except is also a verb meaning "to exclude." Please except that candidate from the rules.

Affect, effect Affect is usually a verb meaning "to influence." Effect is usually a noun meaning "result." The drug did not affect the disease, and it had several adverse side effects. Effect can also be used as a verb meaning "to bring about." Not many people can effect such dramatic change in such a short period of time. Affect can also be a noun meaning a person's manner: He had a peculiar affect that made us feel he was always insincere.

Complement, compliment Complement is a verb meaning "to go with or complete" or a noun meaning "something that completes"; note that it begins with "comple" just like complete. Compliment as a verb means "to flatter"; as a noun it means "flattering remark." DeJuan’s skill at blocking complements Mekhi’s skill at running the football. The overpowering attack offense that the team employs earns the coach many compliments.

Continual, continuous Continual means "repeated regularly and frequently." She grew weary of the continual telephone calls. Continuous means "extended or prolonged without interruption." The continuous roar of the crowd made it difficult for the opposing team to hear their coach yelling on the sideline.

Disinterested, uninterested Disinterested means "impartial, objective"; uninterested means "not interested." We sought the advice of a disinterested counselor to help us solve our problem. He was uninterested in anyone’s opinion but his own.

Elicit, illicit Elicit is a verb meaning "to bring out" or "to evoke." Illicit is an adjective meaning "unlawful." The detective was unable to elicit any pertinent information from the suspect about his involvement in illicit drug trafficking.

Eminent, imminent Eminent means "outstanding" or "distinguished." We met an eminent puppeteer. Imminent means "about to happen." His resignation is imminent.

Explicit, implicit Explicit means "expressed directly" or "clearly defined"; implicit means "implied, unstated." I gave Bokeem explicit instructions not to cross the street. Shantelle’s silence indicated her implicit approval.

Fewer, less Fewer refers to items that can be counted; less refers to general amounts. Fewer people are taking break-dancing lessons this year. Please put less mayonnaise on my sandwich.

Hanged, hung Hanged is the past-tense and past-participle form of the verb hang meaning "to execute." The convict was hanged. Hung is the past-tense and past-participle form of the verb hang meaning "to fasten or suspend." The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

Imply, infer Imply means "to suggest or state indirectly"; infer means "to draw a conclusion." Achmed implied that he knew all about computers, but the interviewer inferred that Achmed was inexperienced.

Its, It’s Its is the possessive form of the word "it." It’s is the contraction of the words "it" and "is." The llama got mad when the zoo keeper took its ball away and gave it to the snakes. It’s weird when a zoo keeper takes a ball away from a llama and gives it to a snake.

Lie, lay Lie is a verb that does not take an object, meaning "to recline or rest on a surface." Its principal parts are lie, lay, lain. Lay is a verb that takes an object meaning "to put or place." Its principal parts are lay, laid, laid. After I lay down my book, I lie down to go to sleep.

Precede, proceed Precede means "to come before." Proceed means "to go forward." As we proceeded up the mountain, we noticed fresh tracks in the mud, evidence that a group of hikers had preceded us.

Respectfully, respectively Respectfully means "showing or marked by respect." Kimchee respectfully submitted his opinion to the judge. Respectively means "each in the order given." Tshmunga, Akizi, and Kenyatta were a butcher, a baker, and a lawyer, respectively.

Who’s, whose Who’s is a contraction of who is; whose is a possessive pronoun. Who’s ready for more cinnamon toast? Whose glow-in-the-dark inflatable vegetable is this?

Your, you’re Your is a possessive pronoun; you’re is a contraction of you are. Is that your new motorcycle? You’re on the list of winners.

Selected information taken from:
Hacker, Diane. A Writer’s Reference. 3rd Ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1995.

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