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Homophones: English’s most confusing words

Homophones: English’s most confusing words

Homophones are any number of words have the same pronunciation but different meanings, spelling, or origins. 

The pronunciation of English can be very strange. If you have studied English (even for a short time) you may have noticed that.

Perhaps you were surprised to discover that “two” is pronounced the same as “to”. Or maybe you thought it was strange that “dear” was pronounced the same as “deer”. Believe it or not, this also seems strange to native English speakers, so you’re not alone.

There are many words like those ones in the English language (and many believe that their only function is to add more to the confusion, but we swear it’s not like that); that’s why it is so common that the words “you’re” and “your” are confused. Words that sound alike, but have different meanings are known as homophones. In this article, you will learn more than 25 pairs of homophonic words that you will definitely need in your life. However, we will begin by explaining in detail what a “homophone” is.

The root of the word, “homo,” means “the same,” while the particle “phone” means “sound.” Homophonic words are those that have the same sound, but have different meanings.

As you might have already noticed, homophones are confusing words, but also an important part of speech. That is why it is very important that we know them and know how they are written.

There are some books that specialise in explaining homophonic words in a fun way. Two popular texts are A Chocolate Moose for Dinner and The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne. Another good book is Dear Deer by Gene Barretta.

List of homophones you have to know

Depending on the time you have been studying English, you may already know some. However, you may find some new and interesting words on this list.

Most of these homophones apply to all dialects of English. However, due to small pronunciation differences, some words may be homophonic in American English, but not in British, and vice versa. Similarly, there are some homophones that are more common in American English than in British, and vice versa. Don’t worry if it sounds complicated. Today we will focus only on clear homophones and commonly confused homophones.

1. ate, eight

Ate (verb): this is the past tense of the verb “to eat”.

Eight (noun): the number that goes after 7 and before 9.

2. bare, bear

Bare (adjective): this word means naked, uncovered or undecorated.

Bear (noun): a bear.

3. buy, by, bye

To buy (verb): purchasing. This is perhaps one of the first verbs you learned.

By (preposition): this word has several uses. For example, it can mean “next to” or “near,” when talking about a location. You can also indicate the author of a work.

Bye (exclamation): an abbreviation of the word “good bye”

4. cell, sell

Cell (noun): prison cells for example, or the basic units that make up living beings (cells).

To sell (verb)

5. dew, do, due

Dew (noun)

To do (verb)

Due (adjective): a word that indicates the term in which an event will occur.

6. eye, I

Eye (noun)

I (pronoun)

7. fairy, ferry

Fairy (noun): small imaginary being of human form that has magical powers.

Ferry (noun): A ferry is a ship that carries passengers and vehicles through the water.

8. flour, flower

Flour (noun): a powder made from ground grains used for bakery.

Flower (noun): the colourful part of a plant.

9. for, four

For (preposition): is a word that usually serves to refer to a person who receives something, or to indicate a purpose.

Four (noun): is the number that goes after 3 and before 5.

10 . hear, here

To hear (verb): is the act of listening to sounds. “Hearing” is the word to describe the meaning of listening.

Here (adverb): “Here” refers to where you are. Basically, it’s the opposite of “there”

11. hour, our

Hour (noun): a period of 60 minutes.

Our (pronoun): Means “ours.” It is the possessive form of the pronoun “we”.

12. know, no

To know (verb): It means knowing or understanding something.

No (determiner): Indicates a denial or that something is not true.

13. knight, night

Knight (noun): a man who receives an honour or special rank from a king or queen. They usually receive the title “Sir.”

Night (noun): the time of day when the sun goes down and most people sleep.

14. mail, male

To mail (verb or noun): as a noun, they are the letters and packages that you send by correspondence. On the other hand, as a verb means to send something by mail. The word “E-mail” comes from this term.

Male (adjective or noun): an adjective (or noun) that indicates that something is masculine or has male reproductive organs.

Interesting note: In British English, the word for mail is not “mail,” but “post.”

15. marry, merry

To marry (verb).

Merry (adjective): a synonym for “happy”, although uncommon in modern English. This term is commonly used in phrases like “Merry Christmas!”

16. meat, meet

Meat (noun): the edible meat of animals.

To meet (verb): means to meet or meet with a person.

Interesting note: In English, you can only meet people, but not places. If you want to talk about a place that you want to know, you can say: “I want to see Paris”, “I want to go to Paris” or “I want to visit Paris.”

17. pair, pear

Pair (noun): is a set of two things.

Pear (noun): a fruit.

18. right, write

Right (adjective): something being correct.

To write (verb): the action of writing words.

19. sight, site, cite

Sight (noun): is the sense of sight.

Site (noun): it is a synonym for “place”.

Cite: Term that is commonly used to talk about bibliographic citations in academic writings.

20. son, sun

Son (noun): a male child.

Sun (noun): the star in the centre of our solar system.

21. their, there, they’re

Their (pronoun): the possessive pronoun of “they”.

There (adverb): do you remember the word “here” from a while ago? Well, this is the opposite. “There” refers to any place you are not at.

They’re (contraction): this is a contraction of the phrase “they are”.

22. to, too, two

To (Preposition): usually indicates a location to which something moves.

Too (adverb): this is a synonym for “also”. It also serves to indicate that there is an excess of something.

Two (noun): is the number that goes after 1 and before 3.

23. one, won

One (noun): the number after 0 and before 2.

Won (verb): the past simple and past participle of the verb “to win”.

24. wait, weight

To wait (verb): means to wait in a place or anticipate something.

Weight (noun): A measure of how heavy something is.

25. wear, where

To wear (verb): put on clothes or accessories.

Where (Question): A word to ask about a place.

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