Already or all ready

Already (adjective) – used for saying something happened before now.  e.g.  We want a dog, but we already have a cat.  I have seen her already this morning.

All ready – all prepared.  We are all ready to go!


All of us are ready – e.g. We are all ready to go out (all five of us).

Affect or effect

Affect (verb) – to influence or change. e.g. Inflation always affects our level of income;  the divorce affected her very badly.

Effect (verb) – to bring about or cause.  e.g. The Internet has effected a complete change in the way we do business.

Effect (noun):  the result of some action.  The computer has had a profound effect on our lives. The effect of painting with light colours is that the room looks bigger.


To lend and to lean

How confusing is this?

To lend – to let someone borrow something for a period of time. e.g. The library lends books to the public.

I lend (present simple)   I lent (past simple)  I have lent (past participle)

To lean – to move towards something or someone. e.g. I lean against the tree while I am reading my book.

I lean (present simple) I leant (past simple)  I have leant (past participle)

Pronunciation: lent and leant sound exactly the same!


Have and have got

I have a new mobile phone.

I have got a new mobile phone.

In these sentences, have and have got tell us that something is mine. It belongs to me. 
(When we are talking informally, we often use have got.)

We use have and have got when we talk about:

  • Sickness – I have / I’ve got the flu. I have / I’ve got a cold.
  • Our relationships with other people: We have / We’ve got four children.

To lie and to lay

It’s very confusing for foreign speakers because many English people use the verb ‘to lay’ instead of the verb ‘to lie’.

Let’s explain:

To lie (verb): (1) to be horizontal on a bed or floor, e.g. I was lying in bed; I lie on the floor when I do exercise.

Past tense of ‘lie’ is (unfortunately) ‘lay’. e.g. I lay on the bed yesterday. Present perfect: I have lain on the bed for hours. (This is not often used these days though.)

To lie (verb): (2) to tell an untruth. Past tense: ‘lied’. I lied when I told you I had gone to London.

To lay (verb):

(1) to put something down. e.g. I decided to lay the flowers down on the ground.

(2) To set a table: Would you please lay the table (put the knives and forks on the table)?

(3) To lay an egg – what a chicken does.

(4) To lay a woman – have sex with her.

(5) It can also mean the same as ‘to lie’ e.g. I want to lay down on the bed.

Past tense: ‘laid’. e.g. I laid the table yesterday, I gently laid the flowers on the ground.
Present perfect: I have laid the sheets out in the garden.

One word – two pronunciations

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
I would like to present you with a present when you are present.

Did you pronounce/read them right the first time? Or did you have to think about them? English can be very confusing but look closely and you will see some are verbs, others are nouns, and some are adjectives. They have different phonetics and stress as well.

wound (verb) = wownd; while wound (noun) = woond
produce (verb) = PRO (as in oh); while produce (noun) = PROD (as in prod)
invalid (adjective) = inVALid; invalid (noun) = inverlid
present (verb) = preSENT; or present (noun or adjective) = PRESent

Its and it’s


First tip:

So what’s the difference between its and it’s. Don’t rely on a British person to get it right, because they frequently get it wrong.

It’s = it is
Its = possessive e.g. The cat is sitting in its basket – the basket that belongs to the cat.

The American way

There is a lot of confusion for British people about spelling the English English way and the American English way.

Here are some examples:

practice and licence, nouns spelt in English English with a ‘c’
(In American they are practise and license)

In English:

to practise and to license verbs are both spelt with an ‘s’ (which is the same in American)

Some other examples:
colour (English): color (American)
honour (English): honor (American)
specialisation (English): specialization (American)