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Due to the size of the English language – the number of words exceeds 800,000 – it is quite easy to confuse the meanings of and misuse so many of the words that sound or appear the same. This is particularly true if English is not your native tongue.

In addition, there are numerous words used by lawyers – legal and otherwise – that must be used precisely, particularly in the legal context where ambiguity and misunderstanding are not welcome.

Below is a list of commonly confused terms used in Legal English.

accede to adhere to an agreement; become party to a contract
exceed to go beyond; surpass

accept to receive
except to exclude

accord to agree; an agreement
according in accordance with

accounting maintaining and auditing financial records and reports
bookkeeping recording of transactions

adherence compliance with
adhesion (contracts) one-sided agreement

administrator person distributing assets of an estate appointed by a court
executor person distributing assets of an estate named in a will

adverse contrary to
averse disinclined; unwilling

advise verb
advice noun

affect to influence, to change
effect to accomplish (verb); a result (noun)

allege declaring something to be true before proven
contend state of position

allot to give out
a lot many

all ready entirely ready or finished
already something has occurred

all right the correct form
alright no such spelling

all together forming a group
altogether entirely

allude to suggest indirectly
elude avoid or escape

allusion indirect mention
illusion a deception

alternately in turn; one after the other
alternatively on the other hand

amend to add to or modify
emend to make corrections

amount the total referring to number
number refers to things counted
quantity refers to things measured

ascent climb
assent agreement

attain accomplish
obtain to acquire

benefactor one providing a gift
beneficiary one who receives a gift

beside next to something
besides in addition to

biannual twice a year, semi-annual
biennial every two years

capital the seat of government, money invested in a business
capitol a building in which a legislative body meets

casual by chance/informal
causal relating to cause

cede to give up
secede withdrawal from

censure criticise
censor forbid public distribution

cession to give up
session a meeting

cite to summon, to quote, to refer
sight a view;something seen
site a place

collaborate co-operate with
corroborate to confirm

complement to complete
compliment to praise

condemn pass judgment
contemn show contempt

confident to be assured
confidant a person in whom one confides

connote suggests
denotes means

contemporary belonging to the present
contemporaneous occurring at the same time

continual recurring
continuous ongoing

counsel advisor
council an organisation

device noun
devise verb

discrete a separate part
discreet modest or restrained

disinterested neutral
uninterested not interested

disqualify exclude; to render unfit
unqualified without qualifications

disperse scatter
disburse pay out

economic pertaining to money
economical good value for one’s money; inexpensive

emerge to rise from; to come into view
immerge to plunge into; to immerse

emigration moving from a country
immigration moving into a country

eminent famous or respected
immanent inherent or intrinsic
imminent about to take place

envelop to put a covering about; surround
envelope a wrapper

evoke call forth
invoke cite as an authority or ask for help

explicit detailed
implicit in the nature of something

forbear to refrain
forebear ancestor

forgo to waive
forego to go before

guarantor person liable upon the default of the principal
surety person liable on par with the principal

hypothesise forming hypothesis
hypothecate pledge

immoral evil
amoral without morals

imply to mean or suggest (a speaker implies)
infer to conclude or assume (a hearer infers)

incidence rate of occurrence
incident event

ingenious inventive; clever
ingenuous trusting; frank, naïve

instance a case or example of something
instants moments of time

interment burial
internment confinement

lay to set down
lie to recline

libel printed falsehood
slander spoken falsehood

malfeasance wrongful
misfeasance incorrect

observation perception
observance adherence to

ordinance a law
ordnance military supplies

overdo to do too much
overdue past due; late

partially to some degree
partly in part

personal Individual; private
personnel the staff of an organization

persecute oppress
prosecute bring criminal charges

practical convenient; sensible, not theoretical
practicable capable of being done

precede to go before or in front of
proceed to begin

precedent guidance
precedence priority

prescribe to order
proscribe to forbid

regardless without regard
irregardless not a word

stationary not moving
stationery writing material

tantamount equivalent to value, meaning, or effect