Learning a new language is always tough, and one thing that makes matters even more complicated is homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced, but have different meanings. They are often a source of confusion in the English language, and even native speakers make mistakes.
Struggling to distinguish between two or even more homophones? These tips can help you take control of this tricky English phenomenon:
- Write down and create your own personal dictionary of the homophones you come across in your new language. That way, you will have access to them when in doubt.
- Find online quizzes featuring homophones and test your knowledge on a regular basis.
- Use flashcards! These are a fun and effective method to remember homophones. There are plenty of apps to use for that very purpose, such as Memrise.
- Help yourself with mnemonic sentences such as: “We didn’t see the sea, but we did take a stroll through the city center.”
- Associate each homophone with a color, an object, or something to set it apart. For example, beat of the drum, but also red beet.
- Draw an image for each pair. Visual memory can be extremely powerful.
- Identify the position in the sentence that each homophone tends to come in. If it’s a verb, such as break, it usually comes after a noun, but if it’s after “the”, it’s a noun, such as brake.
Let’s check some of the most common homophones, and how they’re used in a sentence:
Ad is short for ‘advertisement’, while add can mean anything from calculating a sum to joining two or more elements together.
Example: They didn’t want to add the ad to their marketing campaign.
Bee is an insect, to be is ‘to exist’.
Example: Instead of letting the bee be, he attacked it, and got stung.
Bear is either an animal or a verb meaning ‘to withstand’, and bare means ‘naked’, ‘basic’, or ‘to uncover’, if it’s a verb.
Example: The bear couldn’t bear the heat, so it hid bare inside the cave.
By is a preposition, buy means to purchase, and bye is greeting.
Example: I will stop by the produce section, and buy some tomatoes. OK, bye!
Board can be a long, thin piece of wood, or to ‘get on’ a plane or ship, in case it’s a verb, while bored means ‘disinterested’ or ‘weary’.
Example: When you board the plane for a long flight, you get bored, because there is nothing to do.
Blew – past simple of ‘blow’, while blue is a color.
Example: That blue Ferrari blew right past us.
Break means to destroy, brake means to stop (a car).
Example: He had to brake suddenly in order not to break the car.
Dear means loved, cherished, while a deer is an animal
Example: Dear, I photographed a deer today.
To die means to ‘cease living’, while dye is related to painting something (hair) in a different color.
Example: I had to dye my hair, because the hairdresser did such a poor job, I thought I was going to die.
For is a preposition, four is a number.
Example: Name four reasons for leaving the country.
Here refers to a location, while hear means ‘to perceive sound’.
Example: Hear me out before we get out of here.
Hour is a time interval, while our is a possessive pronoun.
Example: Our hour has expired.
Know means ‘to be aware’, and no is a negation.
Example: No, I didn’t know that.
A lie is the opposite of truth, while lye is a synonym for caustic soda.
Example: Lye can be dangerous, and that’s not a lie.
Male refers to gender, while mail refers to letters and messages.
Example: Every male is to be notified by mail.
Made – past simple of make, maid is female servant.
Example: Our new maid made all the necessary changes.
Meet – ‘to become acquainted’, meat – animal flesh
Example: Meet our new butcher, he’s going to prepare all the meat for the celebration.
Piece – part or a section, peace – state of tranquility or the opposite of war.
Example: They had to defend their country, piece by piece, in order to fight for peace.
Right – correct, or the opposite of left, write – to note down words on a piece of paper.
Example: If you do this right, I will write you a glowing recommendation.
See – to perceive something visually, sea – an expanse of salt water.
Example: We couldn’t see the sea from our balcony.
Sun – celestial body, son – male offspring.
Example: Son, don’t go out into the son, it’s too hot.
There – location, their – possessive pronoun.
Example: Their car wasn’t there.
too – also, two – number.
Example: They too brought two presents for me.
Wait – to postpone or delay, weight – body’s relative mass.
Example: Wait a bit before you start introducing more weight into your workouts.
Wear – to put on clothes, where – location.
Example: Where did you wear that outfit to?
Week – seven days, weak – the opposite of strong.
Example: The performance was weak during their first week, but they gained momentum later.
Would – past of will, wood – material.
Example: He would have ordered the best kind of wood, but the suppliers failed to deliver.
This list is a great place to start if you are serious about learning the ins and outs of the English language. Practice and you will master them in no time!
Sophia Anderson is an English language tutor and a freelance writer at AU Essaysontime. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, self-improvement and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or LinkedIn.