HOMOPHONES are two or more words that sound alike, but have different meanings or spellings.
In the sentence below, for example, every word is spelled correctly but three words are the wrong words, and even a spellchecker will not flag one of them.
Can you spot the homophones in the sentence below?
I herd the reign ruined there picnic.
One great way to improve spelling skills is to learn the correct spellings and meanings of common sets of homophones.
A large percentage of spelling errors at High School are actually homophone usage errors.
Written correctly, the sentence should, of course, read:
I heard the rain ruined their picnic.
Included here are sets of commonly used and sometimes confused sets of homophones. To help you improve spelling skills, for each word listed, I have included the most common meanings focusing on:
- part of speech (sometimes)
- a very brief definition
- a sentence to test your understanding of the homophone word/s.
Please note that the following scenarios are the most commonly used cases; but as is quite common in our language, there are always exceptions!
- Use buy when purchasing an item.
- Use by as a preposition to indicate location.
Use bye in saying “goodbye” or when an athlete moves directly to the next round of a competition without playing.
Using the correct use of buy/by/bye, fill in the sentences:
- I do need to . . . new shoes for the kids.
- John was given a . . . after Tad had withdrawn from the competition.
- Use bear when referring to the large mammal or to indicate the act of holding or supporting.
- Use bare as an adjective indicating lack of clothing; uncovered.
Using the correct use of bear/bare, fill in the sentences:
- How did that brown . . . open the security gate at the campsite?
- The wagon can hardly . . . the weight of the load.
- His . . . neck burned in the direct sunlight.
- Use brake as a verb meaning to stop or as a noun when referring to a device used to stop or slow motion:
- Use break to indicate smashing or shattering or to take a recess OR
- Use break as a noun to indicate a rest or pause.
Using the correct use of brake/break, fill in the sentences:
- We took a water . . . after our first set of drills.
- The bike’s . . . failed, which is why he toppled town the hill.
- My back will . . . if we put one more thing in this backpack.
- Breath is a noun; it’s the air that goes in and out of your lungs:
- Breathe is a verb; it means to exhale or inhale:
Using the correct use of breath/breathe, fill in the sentences:
- Chad held his . . . while Larry skateboarded down the stairs.
- After Shona’s spectacular landing, Holy had to remind herself to . . . again.
- Balmy means pleasantly warm; soothing.
- Barmy is being foolish, crazy.
Using the correct use of balmy/barmy, fill in the sentences:
- I thought I was going . . . at first.
- We always enjoy the . . . days of late summer in Heysham.
- Bated means in great suspense, very anxiously or excitedly
- A bait is food attached or inserted as a decoy to lure
Using the correct use of bated/baited, fill in the sentences:
- The fish let go of the . . . .
- He waited for a reply to his offer with . . . breath.
- Bazzar is a Middle Eastern market; a fundraising sale of goods
- Bizarre means strange or unusual
Using the correct use of bazaar/bizarre, fill in the sentences:
- They went to the Turkish bazaar to buy items.
- We found ourselves in a . . . situation.
- Berth is a bunk in a ship, train, etc.
- Birth is the emergence of a baby from the womb.
Using the correct use of berth/birth, fill in the sentences:
- I will sleep in the upper . . . .
- The . . . of his son was a turning point.
- Breach is to break through, or break a rule; a gap
- Breech is the back part of a gun barrel; in birth, feet coming out first
Using the correct use of breach/breech, fill in the sentences:
- The way he acted was a . . . of confidence on Sarah’s trust.
- She has had a . . . birth of her first born son.
- Broach to raise a difficult subject for discussion; pierce
- Brooch is a piece of jewellery
Using the correct use of broach/brooch, fill in the sentences:
- He . . . the topic he had been avoiding all evening.
- Ted enjoys wearing an emerald . . . .
- Beside means next to.
- Besides means in addition.
Using the correct use of beside/besides, fill in the sentences:
- He sat . . . me.
- I love ice cream . . . chocolate.
- Capital has several meanings. It can refer to an uppercase letter, money, or a city where a seat of government is located.
- Capitol means the building where lawmakers meet.
Using the correct use of capital/capitol, fill in the sentences:
- Peter visited the cafe in the basement of the . . . after watching a bill become a law.
- Basel visited Brasίlia, the . . . of Brazil.
- Coarse means rough, crude or harsh;
- Course (n.) a path or route to be taken;
Using the correct use of coarse/course, fill in the sentences:
- His . . . manners were very irritating.
- Now that you’ve lost your job, what is the first . . . of action to be taken?
- Choose means to select.
- Chose is the past tense of choose.
Using the correct use of choose/chose, fill in the sentences:
- I . . . my puppy last week.
- I . . . that puppy in the window.
- Conscience is your inner, moral guide.
- Conscious is being aware of; alive; being alert.
Using the correct use of conscience/conscious, fill in the sentences:
- He had a guilty . . . about his desires.
- Tad became . . . . of people talking in the hall.
So, how did you fair?
ANSWERS: #1. a) buy b) bye; #2. a) bear b) bear c) bare #3. a) break b) brake c) break #4. a) breath b) breathe; #5 a) barmy b) balmy; #6 a) bait b) bated; #7 a) bazaar b) bizarre #8 a) berth b) birth #9 a) breach b) breech addition #10 a) broached b) brooch #11 a) complement b) compliments #12 a) capitol b) capital #13 a) coarse b) course #14 a) chose b) choose #15 a) conscience b) conscious
ALWAYS make it a habit to edit your work to avoid committing the above mistakes.