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Learning English Homophones

6 min read
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28 January, 2021
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The English language has many words that share the same pronunciation, but mean completely different things. They are easier to spot when written, since they are spelled differently. Once you know the difference between them, you can make your writing much clearer. In grammar, we call these words homophones (homo – same; phone – sound). There is more than one type of homophone, but this post will focus on those that are spelled differently.

 

Homophone examples

Here are some common sets of homophones in English:

Break or brake 

break: (v.) to separate because of a blow, shock or strain
brake: (v.) to make a moving vehicle slow down or stop

Heal or heel

heal: (v.) to become healthy again
heel: (n.)  the back part of a foot or shoe below the ankle

Through or threw

through: (prep.) into one side and out the other side of something
threw: (v.) past tense of ‘throw’

They’re or their or there

they’re: contraction of ‘they are’
their: (pro.) belonging to more than one person, animal or thing
there: (adj.) in another place

Waste or waist

waste: (n.) garbage, unwanted leftovers; or (v.) the unnecessary loss of something valuable
waist: (n.) the middle part of the body between the hips and chest

Effect or affect

effect: (n) The outcome or result of an action; (v) "to bring about," "to cause," or "to achieve".
affect: (v) touch the feelings of; move emotionally

Bored or board

bored: (adj.) to lack interesting things to do
board: (n.) a long, flat piece of wood; (v.) to get onto an airplane or ship

Hire or higher

hire: (v.) to give someone a job
higher: (adj.)  far above; more above something else

To or too or two

to: (prep.) an indication of a verb in the infinitive form
too: (adv.) also
two: (noun) the number 2

 

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Write or right

write: (v.) to form letters or numbers on a surface with a pencil or pen
right: (adj.) to be correct; a direction, the opposite of left; (n.) behavior that is morally good or correct

One or won

One:  (n.) a single unit or thing, a number
Won: (v.) the past tense and past participial of “to win”

Weather or weather

Weather: the state of the atmosphere at a particular place and time as regards heat, cloudiness, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc.
Whether (conj.): expressing a doubt or choice between alternatives.

Knight or night

Knight: (n.) (in the Middle Ages) a man who served his sovereign or lord as a mounted soldier in armour.
Night: (n.) the period from sunset to sunrise in each twenty-four hours.

Bawled or bald

Bawled: (v.) when someone cries aggressively
Bald: (v.) the state in which someone has no hair
(Don’t confuse this with “bold”, which you would use to describe someone who is brave or daring)  

Current or currant

Current: (adj.) passing in time; belonging to the time actually passing:
Currant: a small, seedless raisin

Peak, pique or peek

Peek: (n.) the pointed top of a mountain, the highest level of something, or the best point of an activity.
Pique: (v.)  a curiosity or interest. It can also represent a sudden feeling of annoyance or anger.
Peek: (n.)  the act of looking at something secretly. You can also use the term to refer to something that shows only partially, or is slightly visible.

Hear or here

here (adv.): in, at or toward this place or position
to hear (verb): to be aware of sound through the ear; to be told something
[past tense: heard]

Breath or Breathe

Breath is a noun, and is the actual air that you take in when you breathe. It is the object.
To breathe is a verb that means to take air into your lungs and then expel it. It is the action of doing so.

 

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Tip:

If you look at the word “hear”, you can see that it’s actually “ear” with the letter “h” in front of it.

This should help you remember that HEAR means to listen with your EAR.

We hope this helps you to spot the difference between these words, and how to use them. 

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