10 Commonly Misused, Confused Words: Wrong Verb Usage and More Incorrect Grammar
Ten Often Misspoken Words
As an English major, hearing words used incorrectly drives me crazy. I'm not really a grammar snob, as I do realize that grammar isn’t everyone’s thing—and far from it, actually! I admit that I'm the weird one, also known as "Grammar Geek," my self-proclaimed name.
I’ve put together ten of the most misused words that I hear on a frequent basis. It is my hope that this little grammar lesson will be helpful to many.
Let’s start with the verb tenses that are commonly used incorrectly.
Incorrect Verb Usage
1. Was vs. Were
Was matches a singular subject, such as I, he, she, or it. Were matches a plural subject, such as we or they. Just remember that since “you” can be singular or plural, it takes the plural verb.
I was planning to go to the concert this weekend.
You were? (Not “You was?”) Saying “You was?” is to me like hearing fingernails scraping across a blackboard.
Review: I was, he was, she was, it was, you were, we were, they were
2. Doesn’t vs. Don’t
“Doesn’t” goes with a singular subject, as explained above, as "don’t” goes with a plural subject. However, as is true in English, there are exceptions, as “I” goes with “don’t” instead of “doesn’t,” even though "I" is singular. But I’ve never heard anybody say, “I doesn’t,” anyway.
Sadly, the entertainment world pounds the wrong verb tense into our heads. Consider country singer, Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress me Much.” The grammatically correct title should be, “That Doesn’t Impress me Much.” Of course, that’s a lot of words to get into the song as that line is phrased. I’m sure there are many more examples of the entertainment world using these verbs incorrectly.
I hear “He don’t” and “She don’t” all the time. To many people, the word “doesn’t” doesn’t (haha) exist.
Correct Example: He doesn’t want to go, does he? Do we care? No, we don’t.
Review: I don’t, he doesn’t, she doesn’t, it doesn’t, you don’t, we don’t, they don’t
3. Saw vs. Seen
Saw is simply a past tense verb for ALL subjects, while seen is a participle. To put it simply, ALWAYS use “saw” in past tense. “Seen” is only used with “have,” “has,” or “had.”
I cringe when I hear “I seen it” or “We seen it” or that anybody “seen it.”
Correct Example: I saw the stock market report yesterday. Have you seen it?
Review: I saw, he saw, she saw, it saw, you saw, we saw, they saw…
Then there’s I have seen, he has seen, she has seen, you have seen, we have seen, they have seen.
With had, all would have the same form: I had seen, he had seen, she had seen, you had seen, we had seen, they had seen.
Can you tell I’m using repetition to drive home the lesson? Yes, I am! Maybe it will help to drive home the point.
4. Went vs. Gone
I also cringe when I hear “I had went.” Really? Where do people hear that? This one is just like saw and seen, a case of simple past tense and past participle.
Correct Example: I went there yesterday; have you gone there before? Had they ever been there?
Review: I went, she went, he went, you went, we went, they went
Plus: I have gone, he has gone, she has gone, we have gone, they have gone.
With had: Just put in the place of have or has with every subject.
Misused and Confused Verbs
Now for some more verbs whose meanings get confused….
5. Imply vs. Infer
I hear these words mixed up a lot. “Imply” is stemming from the speaker as in:
“I didn’t mean to imply that you’re doing a bad job.”
Infer is something that the listener does:
“From what he said, I inferred that he thinks I’m doing a bad job."
6. Peruse vs. Skim
These are other words that are confused. Actually, some people think they mean the same thing, while they actually mean the opposite of each other. Peruse is a word that actually means to really look into something, while skim means to just scan something over quickly. I often hear people say that they’ll “peruse” something when actually they’re planning on skimming it.
Finally, some miscellaneous confused words:
Bonus Grammar Lesson: Fewer vs. Less
Miscellaneous Confused Words
7. Farther vs. Further
There’s an easy way to remember this one. Use farther when you are talking about distance. Think about it this way: “farther” can be broken down to “far,” which measures distance. “Further” relates to going into more depth—not physical distance.
How much farther do you want to go down this road? (physically measurable)
Do you want to further explore this subject?
8. Me vs. Myself
Me is an object, while myself is a reflexive pronoun. Most of the time, you will use “me” over “myself.
Here’s something I hear that’s incorrect: “Have them contact the instructor or myself.” No—that is wrong. A good way to check it is to leave out the other object—instructor in this case. “Have them contact myself.” Does that make sense? No, it should be, “Have them contact me.”
Use me for an object of the verb. Example: "He hit me." "The teacher spoke to Herman and me." Only use myself if it is reflexive, that is, repeating the subject. For example, “I did it myself.” Myself reflects "I."
9. Lose v. Loose
This is just one to memorize if you have trouble with this one.
Lose is used in sentences such as “I need to lose weight.”
Loose is used in sentences as in “I have a lot of loose ends to tie up.” “Loose” rhymes with “moose.”
And remember that a person is “loser,” not a “loose,” which would rhyme with “mooser,” and who says that?
10. Irregardless vs. Regardless
This one is easy, since “irregardless” isn’t even a word. So, never, never, never, use irregardless. ALWAYS use “regardless.”
Incorrect Example: “Irregardless of what he thinks, I’m not going to do what he wants.”
Correct Example: “Regardless of what he thinks, I’m not going to do what he wants.”
Hey, I know you’re thinking that’s enough grammar for one sitting. I agree. Stay tuned for more, though!
Questions & Answers
What about the correct use of being and been, are these also commonly misused words?
"Being" and "been" aren't words that are often confused. "Being" is used in sentences such as "Mike is being nice to his little sister." "Been" is used with a past participle such as in "Mike has been nice to his little sister lately." Replacing one of those words with the other one wouldn't make sense.Helpful 2