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Homophone:: Words that sounds alike but are spelled differently.

A homophone is a word that is pronounced the same (to varying extent) as another word but differs in meaning. A homophone may also differ in spelling. The two words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, and carrot, or to, two, and too. The term “homophone” may also apply to units longer or shorter than words, such as phrases, letters, or groups of letters which are pronounced the same as another phrase, letter, or group of letters. Any unit with this property is said to be “homophonous”.

As mentioned above, sets of words like “you’re” and “your” are called homophones. The root of that word, homo-, means “same,” and the rootphone- means “sound.” Homophones are two words that sound the same, but have different meanings. So the words “two” and “to” are homophones, as are “ate” and “eight.”

There’s another word that begins with homo-,which native speakers often confuse with homophone: homonym. Again, the root homo- means “same,” but –nym means “name.”A homonym is a single word (with one spelling) that has more than one meaning.

An example of a homonym is the word “bear.” You probably know about the animal called a “bear,” but the word “bear” can also be a verb that means to tolerate.

For example, “I’m so nervous about watching this game, I can’t bear to watch the last minute!” But today we’ll just focus on homophones.

Few of English Homophones

Depending on how long you’ve been learning English, you may know a lot of these already.

1. ate, eight

ate (verb): This is the simple past tense of the verb “to eat.”

I ate an entire pizza and now I’m really full and tired.

eight (noun): The number after seven and before nine.

Charles will wake up at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.

2. bare, bear

bare (adjective): If something is bare, it means that it’s not covered or not decorated.

Tom likes to walk around his house in barefeet. He says it’s more comfortable than wearing shoes.

bear (noun): A large mammal.

When you go camping, you should be careful to not leave any food or anything with a scent in your tent because they can attract bears.

Interesting note: Bears are often popular characters in stories and cartoons.

3. buy, by, bye

to buy (verb): A synonym of “to purchase.” It’s probably one of the first verbs you learned.

I forgot my money at home. Do you think you could buy me lunch and I’ll pay you back tomorrow?

by (preposition): This can be used in many different ways. It’s commonly used to mean “next to” or “near” when describing a location.

It can also indicate who created something.

My favorite autobiography is “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” It’s written byMalcolm X and Alex Haley. 

bye (exclamation): This is a shortening of “goodbye.”

I’ve got to go now, so bye! See you on Sunday!

4. cell, sell

cell (noun): A cell is a small area or room, usually in a prison. A cell can also be one of the smallest divisions of a living organism.

The prisoner spent 10 years in his cell.

to sell (verb): To exchange a product or service for money. Like “buy,” it was probably one of the first verbs you learned.

5. dew, do, due

dew (noun): Dew is the name for small drops of water that accumulate (gather) on plants and other objects outside during the night.

When I went outside early in the morning, thedew on the grass made my shoes wet.

to do (verb): This common verb is used to indicate an action. It can also be an auxiliary verb.

What do you usually do on Friday nights?

due (adjective): This is used to indicate the deadline (final day) that something can happen.

It’s also used to indicate when a baby will probably be born.

My friend is pregnant. Her baby is due in October.

Interesting note: The soft drink company Mountain Dew played with this homophone set with its motto “Do the Dew.”

6. eye, I

eye (noun): The part of your body that you use to see.

My eyes hurt when I read. I think I need a pair of glasses.

I (pronoun): A first person singular subject pronoun.

I really hope you know what this word means.

Interesting note: This can actually be a three-word homophone if you include the word “aye.” That’s an old-fashioned way of saying “yes.” You might hear people on boats show that they’re following an order by saying “Aye-aye, captain!” And there’s a strange-looking animal called an “aye-aye,” also. I learned that just a minute ago, so even native speakers learn new words every day!

7. fairy, ferry

fairy (noun): A mythical creature that can often do magic.

There is a fairy named Tinkerbell in the story “Peter Pan.”

ferry (noun): A ferry is a boat that moves passengers and vehicles across water. It’s used for long distances or places where there are no bridges.

The ferry in Costa Rica is really hot and incredibly badly organized. At least the trip only takes an hour.

8. flour, flower

flour (noun): This is the main ingredient in bread. It’s a powder made from ground grains.

Tony wanted to make a cake, but he didn’t have any flour, so he couldn’t.

flower (noun): The decorative, colorful part of a plant.

If you want to give flowers to somebody you love, avoid white roses. They are often given when someone dies.

9. for, four

for (preposition): This preposition is usually used to indicate a person who receives something, or to indicate a purpose.

We wanted to buy a chocolate cake forCheryl’s birthday. The bakery didn’t have any chocolate cakes for sale, though, so we got vanilla instead.

four (noun): The number after three and before five.

The Beatles, one of the most famous bands ever, had four members: George, John, Paul and Ringo.

10. hear, here

to hear (verb): This is the action that you do with your ears. The sense is called “hearing.”

I can’t hear the TV. Can you please turn up the volume?

here (adverb): “Here” indicates the place where you are at any moment. It’s the opposite of “there,” basically.

Can you set the boxes down over here please?Yes, right here next to the door.

11. hour, our

hour (noun): A period of time that lasts 60 minutes.

It takes about six 

hours to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

our (pronoun): This is the possessive pronoun form of “we.”

We should study for our exams.

12. know, no

to know (verb): To have knowledge or understanding about something.

Reggie knows how to speak French.

no (determiner): This indicates a negation or something that’s not true.

There is no good reason to listen to Justin Bieber.

13. knight, night

knight (noun): A man given a special honor (or rank) by a king or queen. Their title is usually “Sir.”

One popular English legend talks about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

night (noun): The period of time when it’s dark and most people sleep.

I prefer to work at night, since it’s quieter and not as hot. I can concentrate better.

14. mail, male

(to) mail (verb or noun): As a noun, this is a collective noun for letters and packages. As a verb, this means to send something to somebody. Email also comes from this word.

I haven’t gotten the mail yet today, but I was expecting a letter from grandma. Can you please check the mailbox?

male (adjective or noun): An adjective (or noun) indicating that something is masculine or has masculine reproductive organs.

People always ask if our cat is pregnant. I tell them he can’t be, since he’s a male. He’s just fat.

15. marry, merry

to marry (verb): The action when two people have a wedding; also called “to get married.”

My grandpa told me to be sure to marry a good woman.

merry (adjective): A synonym for “happy,” but less common in modern English. Mostly used in phrases like “Merry Christmas!”

I don’t like to go shopping in December because the song “We Wish You a MerryChristmas” always gets stuck in my head.

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