10 Common False Friends & How to Use Them for IELTS

By | April 8, 2015

Here are 10 groups of words that can be confusing to students. These kinds of words are called false friends. Students use one word, but they should be using the other.

Know the difference between these false friends, so that you use the right word in your sentence. Using these words correctly in your writing will give you a higher score in grammar.

Try the 10 questions below,  to see if you know which word to use!

1 – The children ate _____ lunch at the park. (their, there, they’re)

A. their – possessive pronoun – belongs to them

John and Kim took their vacation early this year.

My parents sold their house in March.


B. there – noun – a place that is not here

Did you go to the store? Yes, I went there this morning.

I love visiting Turkey. I have been there many times.


C. they’re – they are

Where are Andy and John? They’re in the library.

ANSWER – their


2 – France is larger _____ Switzerland. (then, than)

A. then – adverb – use it to talk about the second thing

First, I went to the mall. Then, I went to my friend’s house.

First you boil water in a pot. Then, you put in the pasta to cook.


B. than – conjunction

China is much bigger than Malaysia.

My sister is taller than me.

ANSWER – than


3 – I am going to Italy for vacation. Really, I’m going to Italy _____! (two, too, to)

A. two – adjective – means 2

I use two eggs to make a cake.

I drink two cups of coffee in the morning.


B. too – adverb – also, more than enough

There is too much sugar in my tea.

John is going to Texas. Nina is going, too.


C. to – preposition

I am going to the mall this weekend.

It is important to brush your teeth everyday.

ANSWER – too

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4 – _____ very cold outside today! (its, it’s)

A. its – possessive pronoun – for a nonhuman or nonliving thing

The cat drank its milk.

The tree lost its leaves in November.


B. it’s – it is

Where is my coat? It’s in the closet.

What color is your car? It’s black.

ANSWER –  It’s

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5 – I’m sorry, but we don’t _____ credit cards. (accept, except)

A. accept – verb

Harvard University accepted me as a student.

My teacher does not accept gifts from students.


B. except – conjunction – all but

Everyone went to the football game except Sarah. She stayed home.

ANSWER –  accept


6 – The clothes you wear can _____ your mood. (affect, effect)

A. affect – verb

My grandmother’s death affected me greatly. I cried for two weeks afterwards.

A teacher’s mood affects students. If the teacher is cheerful, the students will be happier.


B. effect -noun

The new law on smoking had a real effect on the number of teenagers who smoke. The number went down buy 20% in only one year.

Air pollution causes breathing problems and other health problems. Air pollution has an effect on people’s health.

ANSWER – affect


7 – I didn’t know anyone at the party. I was so _____! (bored, boring)

A. bored – means not interested

I was bored at Fran’s house. There was nothing to do!

Kim was bored at the post office. The line was very long, and she had nothing to do while she waited.


B. boring – means it causing a person not to be interested

The movie was so boring! Nothing interesting happened to anyone.

Plane flights are boring because you have to sit in the same place for so long!

ANSWER – bored


8 – In the _____, people used to sew their clothes by hand. (passed, past)

A. passed – verb

I passed your house yesterday, on the way to school.

Carol passed her final exams with flying colors!

The teacher passed the exam papers to students when they first arrived.


B. past – before now

I used to take singing lessons, in the past.

The past is always more interesting than the present.

ANSWER – past


9 – I_____ do my homework after dinner. (always, all ways)

A. always – every time, forever

We always go to Cone Zone for ice cream cones, on the way home.


B. all ways – by every means or method

Tim tried all ways to fix the computer, but nothing worked.

Maria tried to help me in all ways possible.

ANSWER – always


10 – I _____ that everyone has a right to free education. (belief, believe)

A. belief – noun

It is my belief that people should be independent, and not depend on others.

Lee has a strange belief that lazy people are more intelligent than others.


B. believe – verb

I believe the President will pass a new law to help the economy.

Vegetarians believe that vegetables are more healthful than meat.

ANSWER – believe

How well did you do? Practice these words in your everyday writing. This will help you remember to use the right word at the right time.

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