Three Sets of Troublesome Words


penProbably everyone who ever wrote anything has some words they find troublesome. Here are a few that many people struggle with.

  1.  passed or past

Passed is used when you mean the past tense of the verb to pass (go by, or beyond something).

Past refers to a time that has gone by.


I passed a car that was traveling too slowly on the highway.

My great-grandmother passed away when I was a baby (in the past).

She passed (handed out) the exams papers to the students. We all hoped we had passed the exam (passed  beyond the required grade).

Neither of us wanted to talk about our past (time gone by).

It was already past the hour (the time) when we usually went to sleep. We hadn’t realized how quickly the time had passed (gone by).

It does get tricky. You can be in a car that has passed a bicycle. That means you have gone past the bicycle. Yikes!!! Hang in there. It does make sense. Your car did the action of passing the bicycle and you went past the bicycle (to a point beyond it).

That was a tricky one. The next ones should be easier.

2. advice or advise, and

3. affect or effect

Advice is the noun and advise is the verb. I will also add the use of affect (a verb) and effect (usually a noun, but can be used as a verb).


Long ago when the Captain and I were in a pub and a couple at the next table invited us to play shuffleboard with them, I said I had never played it before. The man came over to me, draped his arm over my shoulder and placed his hand on the back of my hand as I held one of the “pucks,” meaning to guide my hand as I slid the puck.

“Let me give you some advice (noun),” he said.

At this point the captain came over and said to the man, “I advise (verb) you to take your hands off her.”

This had the desired effect (noun) and the man moved away. How did this affect (verb) the rest of the game? Not at all. If you want to effect (here it is a verb) change, sometimes you have to speak up to get the effect (noun) you want. It need not affect (verb) the mood in the room at all.

Whew! That was hard work. I think I need to go LIE (not LAY) down.






14 thoughts on “Three Sets of Troublesome Words

  1. I agonize over affect and effect! From what you have written here, probably when effect is acting as a verb. Grammar was never my strong suit. I was one of those weird girls that was better at math than English. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Think of “effect” when it’s a verb as meaning “to make something happen.” After that, you see what effect it has, and whether it has affected you. Don’t worry about being better at math than at grammar. At least you’ll always be able to “cownt yer munny.” 😉


  2. Affect is a verb. Yes, a person can seem affected (adjective). The room or the person can only have an effect (noun). Effect can also be used as a verb, but as far as I know, affect is a verb. It could be that the confusion comes from the way we pronounce the words not so carefully. Affect and effect sound very similar. (Affectionately = cute) 😉


  3. This is well described, Anneli. As a child, my Mom was rather strict with the way we wrote and completed our homework. I think I don’t misuse most of the four choices, passed and past is the easiest but the lie and lay is often misused by public broadcasting and frequently in books I read. I cringe!
    My teaching sixth graders Language Arts included grammar in the 80’s and word choices. The newspaper is supposed to meet sixth grade level reading/writing. We would circle with red markers mistakes! Last but not least, I have a signed photo of a very young Jay Leno whose agent sent out copies to those who would send in mistakes published in newspapers or magazines. I think one of my students also received his “reward” from Jay Leno. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Everyone makes mistakes, but my feeling is that if you’re going to put your writing out for the world to see (in newspapers, books, or even a grocery store sign for broccoli) you should make sure of your spelling and grammar to the best of your ability. If you’re unsure, hire Anneli for an inexpensive but thorough copy editor. LOL


      • Lol, I will keep this in mind, Anneli. Funny thing, my youngest daughter was writing up a short summary of her skills and educational background, so she took it up to my Mom’s. She gave her a typed copy and a red pen. Mom started crossing out words, using her own past teaching skills. She is “on the ball” earlier in the day, best of all. 🌞

        Liked by 1 person

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