Learning English Homophones
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.
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
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 / 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.
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.