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 spellchecker will not flag even 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!
- Diffuse is to spread over a wide area; lacking clarity
- Defuse is to make a situation less tense
Using the correct use of defuse/diffuse, fill in the sentences:
- Mr Jones . . . the prevailing tension among the villagers.
- The . . . community centred around the church.
- Desert is a waterless, empty area; to abandon someone.
- Dessert is the sweet course of a meal.
Using the correct use of desert/dessert, fill in the sentences:
- How did that car get over the Egyptian . . . .
- They enjoyed their . . . after the main meal.
- Discreet means being careful not to attract attention.
- Discrete means separate and distinct.
Using the correct use of discreet/discrete, fill in the sentences:
- We made some . . . inquiries about the issue.
- Speech sounds are produced as a continuous sound signal rather than . . . units.
- Disinterested means impartial; unbiased, uninvolved.
- Uninterested means bored or not wanting to be involved with something:
Using the correct use of disinterested/uninterested, fill in the sentences:
- A panel of . . . judges who had never met the contestants before judged the singing contest.
- Marwa was . . . in attending Hilda’s singing class.
- Die means to pass away; dying could also mean you are eager for something.
- Dye (n.) coloring.
Using the correct use of die/dye, fill in the sentences:
- The animal will . . . without proper nourishment.
- We used four kinds of . . . to color our Easter eggs.
- Does is a form of do.
- Dose is quantity of medicine.
Using the correct use of does/dose, fill in the sentences:
- It . . no good to complain.
- Take a . . . of aspirin for your headache.
- Use here as an adverb to indicate location.
- Use hear as a verb to indicate listening.
Using the correct use of hear/here, fill in the sentences:
- Please come back . . . and put your shoes away!
- Can you . . . the birds’ beautiful singing outside?
- Use lie to indicate the act of reclining:
- Use lay to indicate the placement of something:
Lay is a transitive verb, which means it always needs an object! Something is always being put down; lie, on the other hand, will never have an object because it is an intransitive verb.
- to lie: lie(s), lay, lain, lying
- to lay: lay(s), laid, laid, laying
Using the correct use of lie/lay, fill in the sentences:
- I am tired just watching the dog . . in the warm sunlight.
- Please . . . the paper on the table.
- Emigrate means to move away from a city or country to live somewhere else.
- Immigrate means to move into a country from somewhere else.
Using the correct use of emigrate/immigrate, fill in the sentences:
- Pearl’s grandfather . . . from Canada sixty years ago.
- Tad’s sister . . . to Ireland in 2004.
These two Latin abbreviations are often mixed up, but e.g. means “for example,” while i.e. means “that is.”
- Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective or feelings.
- Sympathy is a feeling of sorrow for someone else’s suffering.
- A sympathizer is someone who agrees with a particular ideal or cause.
Using the correct use of empathy/sympathy, fill in the sentences:
- My . . . for Liz is fairly limited.
- She has a higher level of . . . in helping others.
- Loose is usually an adjective:
- Lose is always a verb. It means to misplace something or to be unvictorious in a game or contest.
- Lost is the past tense of lose.
Using the correct use of loose/lose/lost, fill in the sentences:
- Nancy was careful not to . . . her ticket.
- Peter discovered that the cows were . . . .
- It’s is the contraction for it is.
- Its is the possessive form (“possessive” means belongs to) of it.
Using the correct use of it’s/its, fill in the sentences:
- The cat is licking . . . paws.
- . . . raining today, so the baseball game will be cancelled.
- Use weather when referring to the state of the atmosphere:
- Use whether as a conjunction to introduce choices:
Using the correct use of weather/whether fill in the sentences:
- The constantly changing springtime . . . is driving us crazy.
- Please tell us . . . you would prefer steak or salmon for dinner.
NB: There is no such word as wheather!
- their (pron.) belong to them;
- there (adv.) at that place;
- they’re is the contraction for they are.
Using the correct use of there/their/they’re, fill in the sentences:
- . . . house is always clean and tidy.
- Please put the groceries over . . . .
- . . . going to Paris for vacation.
So, how did you fair?
ANSWERS: #1. a) defused b) diffuse; #2. a) desert b) dessert #3. a) discreet b) discrete #4. a) disinterested b) uninterested; #5 a) die b) dye; #6 a) does b) dose #7 a) here b) hear #8 a) lie b) lay #9 a) emigrated b) immigrated #11 a) sympathy b) empathy #12 a) lose b) lose/lost #13 a) its b) It’s #14 a) weather b) whether #15 a) Their b) there c) They’re
ALWAYS make it a habit to edit your work to avoid committing the above mistakes.