Learning the many different aspects and intricacies of a new language can be a challenge, and mastering homophones is just one more part of the English language puzzle for you to solve.
Learn more about homophones and how they affect your everyday English usage below, and if you want to improve your English ahead of a UK university application or for immigration purposes, visit the SI-UK Language Centre in Central London today.
What is a homophone?
The word “homophone” is used to describe a word that sounds the same as another word, but that has a different meaning. They can be two (or more) words that may be spelled differently, but can also be spelled the same; making these words both difficult for native and non-native speakers alike.
To add to the confusion, there are different Homophones with different words used to describe them. For example:
- Homophone – all words and phrases that sound the same but have different meanings
- Homograph – words that sound and are spelled the same but have different meanings
- Homonym – words that have the same spelling but a different meaning
- Heterograph – words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings
- Multinym – words that sound the same but have more than two different meanings and spellings
Examples of homophones
Here is an example of some of the more common homophones – the ones you are most likely to use in either day-to-day conversation or in your academic work. A lot of native English speakers also get confused by homophones, so don’t worry if you don’t pick it up straight away!
- To, two, too
- To – used in the infinitive form of a verb, such as “to walk”, and also to mean “towards”.
- Too – this means “as well” or “also”; for example, “me too”.
- Two – this is the number; for example, “two days ago”.
- There, their, they’re
- There – this refers to a place that is not here; for instance, “over there”. It can also be used to state something, such as “There is an argument to suggest…”.
- Their – this indicates possession: something belonging to them. For example, “we could use their boat”.
- They’re – this is a shortening of “they are”. For example, “They’re going to be here at 12pm”.
- One of the most commonly confused aspects of the English language.
- Your – this is the second person possessive form, indicating something belonging to you. For example, “This is your decision.”
- You’re – short for “you are”, as in “You’re amazing.”
- By – this preposition refers to something beside, near or through. For example, “There’s an ice cream van over there by that tree.”
- Buy – this is a verb meaning to purchase something. For instance, “let’s go and buy a car.”
- Bye – short for “goodbye”, this is an expression used to bid someone farewell. Here is a big grammar rule.
One letter makes a big difference and can completely alter the meaning of a word. Words can have the same letters, but in a different order.
- Stationary – this word is used to describe something that is motionless (not moving). For example, “the cars were stationary in the traffic jam.”
- Stationery – pens, pencils and other things you write with or on, for use in the office or when studying.
Same letters; different order
- Brake – this spelling refers to the brakes on a car or other vehicle, and in a wider sense to slowing down. For example, “He applied the brakes to slow the car down.”
- Break – confusingly, this spelling this has several meanings.
As a verb, “to break” means to separate something into parts. For example, “I’m going to break this chocolate bar into three so we can share.” As a noun, it can be used to signify a pause or stop, such as “a break in the schedule”, or you can “take a break”, meaning have some time off.
You’ll find a cunning way to remember the difference between these two under the definition for “hear” below.
- Here – this refers to something being in one’s current location – for example, “There is a strange smell here”.
- Hear – this means to detect a sound.
- Peace – this is the absence of war. The word also refers more generally to a feeling of contentment, for example “The woods were very peaceful.”
- Piece – spelled this way, the word means a unit or portion of something, such as “a piece of cake”. To “say your piece” means to state your opinion about something.
Two words with almost entirely opposite meanings. The W is silent.
- Whole – this means “complete” or “entire” – used as in “the whole story”.
- Hole – a “hole” indicates a lack of something, as in an opening. For example, the hole in a ring doughnut is the missing bit in the middle.
- Know – “to know” means “to be aware of something”; for example, “I know he is afraid.” The K is silent.
- No – the opposite of “yes”, used to indicate the negative. “No.” – with a full stop after it – can be used to abbreviate the word “number”. For example, “No. of pages: 150.”
Improve your English
Why not improve your English at IELTS classes in Central London? Our IELTS Preparation Centre offers low cost IELTS courses with a Practice Test included to test your current level! Get in touch with our IELTS team today to learn more.