Lookalikes – How Good a Grammar Detective Are You?

We’re used to seeing lookalikes–in fact, there are over seven million Google entries related to visual comparisons between similar objects, such as a spaceship and a thermos bottle. There are another two and a half million entries for “separated at birth” lookalikes, such as Don Knotts and Mick Jagger.


And, of course, there are verbal lookalikes–more than 6000 such pairs. How skilled are you at choosing the right word when you need it? Here’s a way to find out. Choose the correct word for each sentence below and then score yourself.

1. He ran the (gantlet, gauntlet) and survived!

2. He threw down the (gantlet, gauntlet), symbolically speaking, and issued a challenge.

3. The fog will no doubt (envelop, envelope) the town this evening.

4. His retirement had quite an (affect, effect) on staff morale.

5. He went (past, passed) the exit because he’d been thinking about his upcoming tax audit.

6. Were you (affected/effected) by the layoffs?

7. Sociopaths are often described as having a “flat” (affect, effect).

8. Houdini was a great (allusionist, illusionist).

9. Her (allusions, illusions) to her former boss were often acerbic.

10. Albany is the (capital, capitol) of New York State.

11. You need (capital, capitol) to start your own business.

12. That scarf really (complements, compliments) your outfit.

13. The lamps she chose (complemented, complimented) the modern d├ęcor.

14. The director paid his secretary quite a (complement, compliment).

15. He gave her (complementary, complimentary) tickets to the theatre.

16. The Russian (emigrant, immigrant) decided he would seek citizenship when he reached his new country.

17. (Emigrants, immigrants) continue to seek their dreams in America.

18. The (eminent, imminent) meteorologist has his own television show.

19. They say a merger is (eminent, imminent).

20. It’s not the money–it’s the (principal, principle) of the matter.

21. The (principal, principle) reason for his reluctance was shyness.

22. The politicians spoke to (there, their, they’re) staff members this week about the new law.

23. Place the carton (beside/besides) the cabinet.

24. The company announced (it’s, its) decision to give bonuses to all employees.

25. I don’t know why he feels he can (flaunt, flout) the rules.


Here are the answers.

1. gauntlet (While “gantlet” is an alternative, less common spelling of this word, a gantlet is actually a railroad track construction.)

2. gauntlet

3. envelop

4. effect

5. past

6. affected

7. affect

8. illusionist

9. allusions

10. capital

11. capital

12. complements

13. complemented

14. compliment

15. complimented

16. emigrant

17. immigrants

18. eminent

19. imminent

20. principle

21. principal

22. their

23. beside

24. its

25. flout


Author Isabel Allende’s beautiful sentiment–“I tend to see the similarities in people and not the differences”–can certainly help a divided people. But, when it comes to making word choices, it’s best to understand the differences.

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