5 Seemingly Interchangeable Words But Are Really Not

Just as how confusing your toothbrush with that of someone else is probably the most embarrassing blunder you can make, mistaking one word for another is something you and your audience will not forget anytime soon—albeit less disgusting.

Here are five things that people often get wrong but, sadly, they don’t even notice.

1. Everyday vs. Every day

Mainly because they are said the same way, people often don’t know the difference between these two—or don’t even know there are two ways to spell this term. To avoid confusion, remember this: everyday is an adjective, while every day is both an adjective (every) and a noun (day).

Example:
Washing the dishes is one of her everyday tasks.
She washes the dishes every day.

2. e.g. vs. i.e.

Although not commonly used in daily conversations, it pays to know this when it comes to formal writing. e.g. means “that is” or “in other words,” while i.e. means “for example.” In short, you use i.e. to provide further explanation, and you use e.g. when you want to provide examples.

Example:
Pokémon Go, i.e., the app that’s currently taking over the world, is Jobelle’s favorite game.
Jobelle is a fan of many games, e.g., Pokémon Go, Notice Me Senpai, and Baking Story.

3. Historic vs. Historical

Was World War II historic or historical? The answer is both, but that doesn’t mean there’s no difference. Historic means “important in history,” while historical means anything from the past, important or not. So while your birthday is historical, it may or may not be historic. It probably isn’t.

Example:
Hidilyn Diaz’s win was a historic moment for her country.
The play had a historical theme.

4. Which vs. That

To differentiate these two, simply remember: that is used for important information, and which is used for information you can make do without. Technically speaking, that is used for restrictive clauses, while which is used for nonrestrictive clauses; which also requires to be set off from the main sentence with commas.

Example:
Mathematics, which is Jobelle’s favorite subject, is considered difficult by most students.
The subject that Jobelle likes the most is mathematics.

5. Who vs. Whom

This has to be the most difficult item to remember out of the five. There’s a simple trick to it though: who is the subject of the verb, and whom is never the subject of the verb.

Example:
Who saw Loreen yesterday? -> Here, who is the subject of “saw” (see).
Margaret saw whom yesterday? -> Here, Margaret is the subject, and whom is not.

It is important to note, however, that if a preposition is used before the word, whom should always be used.

Example:
To whom would you dedicate this song?
With whom did you go on a date with?

You can pretty much get away with not knowing all this as people don’t really give it much thought. But in formal writing, it pays to be correct as it makes all the difference. Plus, it’s a nice feeling to see that even the smartest people we know can make these mistakes—it gets even nicer when we get to correct them.