The 10 surprising words that make smart people look dumb.

And they’re not the words you might think.

The people of the internet ‘literally’ died when Jessica Simpson asked, “Is this chicken or is this fish?” Celebrity watchers everywhere declared that Blake Lively’s baby name was ‘very’ unique.

And we all (well, hopefully) can recognise the obvious grammatical errors in the sentences above. But according to, there are a whole lot of other words that intelligent people think they’re using correctly but that even the brainiest of us stumble over.

1. Accept vs. Except

Let’s start off with an easy one.

Accept means to collect something willingly: “I accept you invitation with pleasure”. Whereas, except implies exclusion: “I can have dinner out each night this week, except on Monday”.

2. Lie vs Lay

Ok, so we all know that to lie means to speak untruthfully. But lie may also mean to lounge, rest or sprawl. For example, “why don’t you lie down after that green smoothie?” Whereas, lay refers to an object: “why don’t you lay that kale on the bench top?”

But WAIT, let’s complicate things further.

The past tense of lie is, well, lay: “I lay down after my green smoothie.” And remember this bit if you want to sound really brainy – the past tense of lay is laid: “I laid the kale on the bench top.”

3. Bring vs. Take

This one is pretty easy to wrap your head around. Especially when we use George Clooney to illustrate. uses this quick and dirty tip: “If the movement is toward you, use bring; if the movement is away from you, use take.”

So, “Please bring George Clooney into my open arms, then take Amal Alamuddin away with you.” Simple.

4. Affect vs. Effect

Now this is a trickier one, which we all stumble over regularly (maybe we should just scrap these words from the dictionary entirely?)

When we’re using these words as a VERB, affect means to sway or alter something or someone. For example, “the Kylie Jenner lip challenge affected her deeply.” And effect means to produce a result, “Kylie Jenner said the lip challenge was designed to effect the fullness of your lips”.

These two sneaky words can also be used as NOUNS.

As a noun, affect almost exclusively refers to an emotional state. For example, “after trying the lip challenge, her affect was flat and the result horrible.” Whereas an effect is the result of something: “The lip challenge had a huge effect on her self-esteem.”

5. Ironic vs. Coincidental

I’m sure we’ve all used these words incorrectly at some point. If you lose Internet connection just before the finale of Grey’s Anatomy, that’s not ironic, it’s coincidental (and heart crushingly sad, we might add).

On the other hand, it would be ironic if Derek Sheppard also lost his Internet connection.

We feel smarter already.