What are homophones? How do you comfort a distraught grammar teacher? You say, there, their, they’re! This old joke is an example of a homophone.
In speaking, we seldom need to worry about homophone mistakes because the person you are speaking to understands what you are saying due to the context of the conversation. It is with writing that homophone confusion makes a difference because, with identically sounding words, it is easy to use the wrong word. To help untangle the confusion, let’s look at some commonly confused homophones.
What is a Homophone?
Homophone definition: In English, a homophone is a word that is pronounced exactly or nearly the same as another word but differs in meaning and is spelled differently. A homophone is a linguistic situation in which two words have the same pronunciation but have different spellings and meanings. This can be confused with homographs and homonyms. Let’s define all three.
As we saw, homophones are words with different meanings that sound the same. A homograph is a group of words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings and usually have different pronunciations. A homonym, on the other hand, is a word in a group of words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same but have different meanings. This all can be confusing to know which word or spelling to use to convey the correct meaning. Adding to the potential confusion is that all homonyms are homophones because they are pronounced the same. But, not all homophones are homonyms because not all homophones are spelled the same.
Homophones are the most confusing words in the English language.
- Rode — Road
- Sauce — Source
- Scene — Seen
- See — Sea
- Side — Sighed
- Soar — Sore
- Sole — Soul
- Some — Sum
- Sort — Sought
- Stare — Stair
- Stationary — Stationery
- Steal — Steel
- Stile — Style
- Sun — Son
- Tail — Tale
Homophones examples illustrated with pictures – Image 1
Homophones examples illustrated with pictures – Image 2
|Brake||To brake is to slow something down||Use the parking brake to keep the car from rolling backward.|
|Break||To break is to shatter something into pieces||If you don’t hold the vase firmly you might drop it and it will break.|
|By||By is a preposition meaning next to||Come over and sit by me|
|Buy||Buy means to purchase||Use the money I gave you to buy the toy|
|Bye||Bye is the shortened version of goodbye||He said to her, “Bye for now!”|
|Carat||Carat is a unit of weight to measure the size of gemstones
(karat is a unit of measurement for the purity of gold)
|The man bought his lady a 2-carat diamond ring|
|Caret||Caret is a mark placed below the line to indicate an insertion in the text||Use a caret to show what you are adding to the sentence|
|Carrot||Carrot is a garden vegetable||Bugs Bunny is always munching on a carrot|
|For||For indicates purpose||I will do this for you|
|Four||Four is the word for the number after 3 and before 5||There are four possible solutions|
|Fore||Fore means in, toward, or near the front||The doors on the airplane are located fore and aft|
|Its||Its indicates ownership||It’s strange that the bird built its nest where it did|
|It’s||It’s is a contraction for it is|
|Know||Know is related to knowledge||Did you know I liked apple pie?|
|No||No is the opposite of yes||No, I did not|
|Our||Our indicates what belongs to or is associated with the speaker||Our child wants to study to be a doctor|
|Hour||Hour is a unit of time equaling sixty minutes||The conductor said we will arrive in about an hour|
|There||There means location||The group waiting is over there|
|Their||Their is possessive, referring to them or themselves||What is their reason for waiting?|
|They’re||They’re is a contraction for they are||They’re waiting to come in when the store opens|
|To||To is a preposition indicating motion or direction||I will come to your house|
|Too||Too means also||My friend will come too|
|Two||Two is the word for the number after 1 and before 3||This way, the two of us will be able to see you|
|Your||Your indicates what belongs to or is associated with the person or people the speaker is addressing||Is your child studying to be a doctor?|
|You’re||You’re is a contraction for you are||I bet you’re proud of them|
We’ve looked at some frequently confused homophones to distinguish how to tell them apart. This will help to use the correct word when writing. As always, the best way to use the correct word is with its context, based on the meaning you wish to convey.
List of Homophones with Examples
Ad —– Add
- We put an ad in the local paper.
- Do you want to add your name to the list?
Ail —– Ale
- Make a kind of grand tour on my own, take the waters and cure what ails me.
- Deglaze pan with nut-brown ale and reduce liquid by half.
Air —– Heir
- Let’s go out for some fresh air.
- John was the sole heir to a vast estate.
All —– Awl
- All horses are animals, but not all animals are horses.
- An awl is an iron instrument used for piercing leather, but the word has been in punning use since time immemorial.
Allowed —– Aloud
- Smoking is not allowed here.
- The pain made him cry aloud.
Alms —– Arms
- Parish priests were feeling the pinch through reduced income from alms and tithes.
- He had a pile of books in his arms.
Altar —– Alter
- The groom left the bride standing at the altar.
- I can’t alter the plans.
Ant —– Aunt
- Ants work hard all summer.
- My aunt lives in Canada.
Arc —– Ark
- The beach swept around in an arc.
- The ark is vast, designed to float, not sail – and there were no launching problems!
Ate —– Eight
- I ate three hot dogs.
- My parents died when I was eight.
Auger —– Augur
- These have parallel sides and an auger along which the excess wood escapes.
- Conflicts among the various groups do not augur well for the future of the peace talks.
Aural —– Oral
- The sound track gives us the aural before the visual cue; it is as if the thunder arrives before the lightning.
- Like our oral culture, our society is atomized, disparate and largely obsessed with trivia.
Baize —– Bays
- At the same time, away from the competitive baize, she was a loyal and warm-hearted personality.
- He just crouches on the corner at lunchtime and occasionally bays, like a wolf or coyote.
Bald —– Bawled
- He combed his hair and tried to hide his bald patch.
- If you didn’t, you were bawled out, and that took an awful lot of getting used to.
Ball —– Bawl
- Tom caught the ball with one hand
- I couldn’t help it, I just started bawling.
Band —– Banned
- They formed a band when they were still at school.
- Leaders of the banned party were arrested last night.
Bard —– Barred
- I can be a bard, a philosopher, an actor.
- The gates are barred, the grass grows long, the paint peels.
Bare —– Bear
- The trees are already bare.
- I am afraid of bears.
Baron —– Barren
- Hariri is not the first political baron to have risen without the benefit of family connections.
- Thousands of years ago the surface was barren desert.
Be —– Bee
- Be quiet!
- A bee is buzzing around.
Beach —– Beech
- It’s a nice day for going to the beach.
- Copses of beech and alder appeared, straggling along the banks with their roots lost in a tangle of briars and bracken.
Bean —– Been
- Tom doesn’t like green beans.
- I’ve never been to Japan.
Beer —– Bier
- He opened the fridge and got out a can of ice-cold beer.
- She made an effort to compose her mind to do just that, and kept her eyes firmly on the bier.
Berry —– Bury
- If you are determined to cultivate fruits, then the safest bets are berry bushes and nut trees.
- We hope to bury any speculation that there was a conspiracy.
Berth —– Birth
- You see them in dedicated lanes, hopefully being given a wide berth by cars.
- What’s your date of birth?
Billed —– Build
- You will be billed monthly for the service.
- They’re going to build on the site of the old power station.
Blue —– Blew
- They failed to put clear blue water between themselves and their competitors.
- She blew onto her coffee to cool it down.
Bored —– Board
- After a while, I got bored and left.
- The plan of the new building is displayed on a board at the back of the room.
Braid —– Brayed
- A worn braid feels rough and is best cut away and the line joined by a blood knot.
- The fisherman brayed laughter, pleased with his joke, and delighted to see the boy had composed himself.
Break —– Brake
- I need a break.
- She stopped with a squeal of the brakes.
Brews —– Bruise
- In the days when most types of beer were dark, wheat brews were seen as being relatively pale and often cloudy.
- Jenny looked as though she’d been crying, and there was a nasty bruise on her cheek.
Bridal —– Bridle
- She went to House of Design, a new Boston bridal house specializing in couture-quality gowns.
- The boy walked up to it and pulled its head up with the bridle, leading it out of the trees.
Broach —– Brooch
- He decided not to broach the subject of divorce until his wife had recovered from her illness.
- Mrs. or Mme Wyatt wore patent-leather shoes and a smart brownish suit with a gold brooch.
Buy —– By / Bye
- I want to buy a new coat.
- The telephone is by the window.
- Bye, Dave.
Homophones List – Image 1
Capital —– Capitol
- The government is eager to attract foreign capital.
- This same senator also once got lost in a Capitol Hill garden after leaving a conference committee on the House side.
Cellar —– Seller
- We don’t use our coal cellar anymore.
- She is a flower seller.
Census —– Sense
- A national census is taken every ten years.
- He felt an overwhelming sense of loss.
Cereal —– Serial
- Eaten with milk or cream, they made an acceptable breakfast cereal.
- Their letters of planning went back and forth like installments of a serial.
Chili —– Chilly
- The sauce needs more chili.
- I was feeling chilly.
Choral —– Coral
- The third and final section of the evening was choral.
- They spent $ 2 million on environmental measures, he said, and hired biologists to replant coral that would be damaged.
Cite —– Sight / Site
- He was cited for bravery.
- Anne’s sight is very good for someone of her age.
- A site has been chosen for the new school.
Coarse —– Course
- The coarse sand was hot.
- Andy’s doing a one-year journalism course.
Complement —– Compliment
- The dark red walls complement the red leather chairs.
- Being compared to Abba is a great compliment.
Council —– Counsel
- He sent a letter to the council to complain about the noise.
- The judge asked counsel for the defence to explain.
Deer —– Dear
- A deer makes tracks in the snow.
- Congratulations to you my dear brother on all your fine accomplishments in school.
Die —– Dye
- Do you believe in anything enough to die for it?
- Carbonless paper coated with chemicals and dye which will produce copies without carbon paper.
Discreet —– Discrete
- He assured her that he would be discreet.
- The change happens in a series of discrete steps.
Doe —– Dough
- Ezra waited for the doe to open its eyes and look at him.
- Mix lemon juice and milk; stir into flour mixture until dough leaves side of bowl and forms a ball.
Done —– Dun
- As soon as I’m done, I’ll give you a call.
- The claret dun nymph is at home in slow, peaty streams.
Draft —– Draught
- This is only the first draft of my speech.
- A cold draught of air blew in from the open window.
Dual —– Duel
- The piece of furniture serves a dual purpose as a cupboard and as a table.
- The officer challenged him to a duel.
Earn —– Urn
- He did all sorts of jobs to earn a living.
- The soup urn had a lonely look.
Ewe —– You
- He’s helping to drive in the ewes for a mass ante natal clinic
- I have some news for you.
Farther —– Father
- We decided not to go any farther.
- I love my father.
Faze —– Phase
- John was embarrassed, but it didn’t faze Mike a bit.
- The first phase of renovations should be finished by January.
File —– Phial
- Mendoza read over the file on the murders.
- The door irised open and he reached inside, drawing out the tiny phial before the door closed up again.
Find —– Fined
- I can’t find the car keys.
- The company was fined £20 000 for breaching safety regulations.
Fir —– Fur
- You always clear away the soft topsoil till you get a fir base.
- There was cat fur all over the chair.
Flaw —– Floor
- There is a fundamental flaw in Walton’s argument.
- We are located on the seventh floor of the building.
Flea —– Flee
- A water flea that is starving in a crowded pond is the victim not of food shortage but of competition.
- He gathered what money he had just in case Gallagher was forced to flee.
Flew —– Flu/ Flue
- A bird flew by and saw one of the half-eaten calves that I had dug up.
- Steven’s still in bed with flu.
- You may prefer central heating, and more controllable ventilation than permanently open flue.
Flex —– Flecks
- She watched him raise one hand to rub the nape of his neck, then flex his shoulder muscles.
- Only a few flecks of gray could be seen in his full head of hair.
Flour —– Flower
- Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
- What beautiful flowers!
For —– Four
- There’s a letter for you.p
- I choose number Four.
Foreword —– Forward
- He was asked if he would consider writing a foreword for her book.
- They ran forward to welcome her.
Fort —– Fought
- Just the three of you going to be holding the fort tonight.
- He fought many battles with the early Labor party in Lancaster and discrimination against socialist employees was alleged.
Foul —– Fowl
- He woke up with a foul taste in his mouth.
- Fish, fowl and meat, most with a decidedly Southwestern treatment, are represented on the menu.
Gait —– Gate
- He was round and fat, he had an energetic gait, a bright, lively face, and laughing eyes.
- We went through the gate into the orchard.
Gamble —– Gambol
- Their religion forbids them to drink or gamble.
- Now, at seventeen, I could gambol in the forbidden delights of Elysium with no one tugging at my hand.
Genes —– Jeans
- The actual number of human genes is still in dispute.
- Her hair looked dishevelled, as did the sweatshirt and jeans she was wearing.
Gored —– Gourd
- He was attacked and gored by a bull.
- I felt hollow, like a dried gourd, a few loose seeds shaking uselessly inside me.
Great —– Grate
- The movie was a great success.
- She took the two halves of the letter away, tore them in fragments, and burned them in her grate.
Groan —– Grown
- Richard’s jokes make you groan rather than laugh.
- He had been a grown man with a small but independent income when he had taken Minnie instead of her to wife.
Homophones List – Image 2
Hart —– Heart
- Whoever slew a hart or hind was to be blinded.
- Regular exercise is good for the heart.
Hear —– Here
- I could hear the sound of traffic.
- This switch here controls the lights.
Heel —– Heal
- The sergeant clicked his heels and walked out.
- This will help to heal your cuts and scratches.
Hi —– High
- Hi guys!
- The house has a high wall all the way round it.
Him —– Hymn
- He took the children with him.
- The service began with a rousing hymn.
Hoard —– Horde
- They dug up a hoard of Roman coins.
- The elves defeated a huge horde of goblins.
Hole —– Whole
- The bomb blew a huge hole in the ground.
- She wasn’t telling the whole truth.
Holy —– Wholly
- The priest puts some holy water on the child’s head.
- The report claimed that the disaster was wholly unavoidable.
Hour —– Our
- The interview lasted half an hour.
- We showed them some of our photos.
I —– Eye
- I moved to this city six years ago.
- Ow! I’ve got something in my eye!
Idle —– Idol
- I cannot afford to leave the land lying idle.
- She is the idol of countless teenagers.
Incite —– Insight
- Republicans have complained that Democrats are using Social Security scare tactics to incite seniors groups and others to oppose the constitutional amendment.
- The article gives us a real insight into the causes of the present economic crisis.
Knead —– Need
- On a lightly floured board, knead the dough for a couple of minutes.
- You don’t really need a car.
Knew —– New
- I wonder if he knew of the plan?
- The hardest part of this job is understanding the new technology.
Knight —– Night
- She’s still waiting for a knight in shining armor to come and rescue her.
- The accident happened on Friday night.
Knot —– Not
- Tie the two ropes together with a knot.
- She did not see him.
Know —– No
- I know people’s handwriting changes as they get older.
“It was Tony.”
- “‘No, you’re wrong. It was Ted.”
Leak —– Leek
- Water had started to leak into the cellar.
- For a first course, there is a potato leek soup.
Lessen —– Lesson
- They gave her an injection to lessen the pain.
- Our first lesson on Tuesdays is French.
Levee —– Levy
- The last four of these sub-deltas were formed by levee breaches in 1839,1860,1874 and 1891.
- If the government wishes to raise tax revenue in order to subsidize the poor, it should levy a tax on films.
Links —– Lynx
- A love of nature links the two poets.
- They may be eagle-eyed or watch like a lynx.
Loan —– Lone
- I had to take out a loan to buy my car.
- He was by no means a lone voice criticizing the government.
Loot —– Lute
- He refused to let his army enter and loot the city.
- Here too he started to write hymns which he would sing to his own accompaniment on a lute.
Homophones examples illustrated with pictures – Image 3
Homophones examples illustrated with pictures – Image 4
Made —– Maid
- The sky was clear and the sunlight had a brilliance and intensity that made her head reel.
- A maid pushed her cleaning cart down the path toward the cottages out back.
Mail —– Male
- He found a mountain of mail waiting for him.
- Many women earn less than their male colleagues.
Main —– Mane
- The main reason for living in Spain is the weather.
- She tossed back her mane of chestnut hair.
Manna —– Manner
- There is no mention in the story of the giving of water, or of food beyond the manna.
- I had hoped you would behave in a more responsible manner.
Marshal —– Martial
- Heston has been named grand marshal of the parade.
- He’d heard rumors that the military were planning to declare martial law.
Mask —– Masque
- Her sarcasm is a mask for her insecurity.
- Comus is a masque in which a young lady’s chastity is tried and not vanquished.
Maw —– More
- Millions of dollars were poured into the maw of defense spending.
- Children generally feel much more confident working in groups.
Medal —– Meddle
- She won a gold medal at the last Olympics.
- Church leaders shouldn’t meddle in politics.
Meet —– Meat
- Maybe we’ll meet again some time.
- I gave up eating meat a few months ago.
Might —– Mite
- I might be a few minutes late.
- Some teachers take everything a mite too serious.
Mist —– Missed
- We could just see the outline of the house through the mist.
- He missed 20 games after breaking a bone in his wrist.
Moose —– Mousse
- The team already knew that moose exposed to new predator populations are more vulnerable.
- She would bake a chocolate mousse torte.
Muscle —– Mussel
- Rooney has pulled a muscle in his thigh and won’t play tomorrow.
- You can also try beef heart, mussel, chicken, liver prawn and the like.
None —– Nun
- I wish I could offer you some cake but there’s none left.
- Georgiana later marries, and Eliza becomes a nun.
Oar —– Or
- We took one oar each and rowed quickly to the shore.
- It can be black, white or grey.
Overdo —– Overdue
- Don’t overdo the salt in the food.
- Her baby is two weeks overdue.
Pail —– Pale
- They filled their pail and container, and started the return journey.
- He looked very pale and drawn.
Pain —– Pane
- She felt a sharp pain in her leg.
- Omite peers through the pane, shakes her head and steps back.
Pair —– Pear
- She felt as if every pair of eyes in the room was on her.
- This pear smells nice.
Passed —– Past
- We passed a group of students outside the theatre.
- Study some past exam papers to get an idea of the questions.
Peace —– Piece
- I wish she would just leave me in peace.
- He broke off a piece of bread and gave it her.
Peak —– Peek
- Sales this month have reached a new peak.
- Shut your eyes and don’t peek!
Pedal —– Peddle
- She put her foot down on the accelerator pedal.
- Farmers come to Seoul to peddle rice.
Plane —– Plain
- She slept on the plane.
- The advantages were plain to see.
Principal —– Principle
- His principal reason for making the journey was to visit his family.
- The general principle is that education should be available to all children up to the age of 16.
Profit —– Prophet
- The shop’s daily profit is usually around $500.
- He sent for Teiresias, the old blind prophet, the most revered of Thebans.
Rain —– Reign
- There will be heavy rain in most parts of the country.
- A higher synthesis, one ushering in a new reign of peace and harmony, under a benign and ever just science.
Red —– Read
- We painted the door bright red.
- I was shocked when I read of his death.
Right —– Write
- Keep on the right side of the road.
- She had to write a report on the project.
Ring —– Wring
- She left a dirty ring around the bath.
- They are always trying to wring additional funds from the government.
Rode —– Road
- He rode away across the marshes.
- I ran down the road to see what was happening.
Role —– Roll
- They want to limit the role of government.
- I tried to roll him onto his side.
Rouse —– Rows
- We don’t want to rouse any suspicions.
- There were always rows when my dad got home.
Rung —– Wrung
- I have rung the world from these boxes and feel a great affection and gratitude towards them.
- Sally wrung out the socks and hung them on the towel rack.
Homophones List – Image 3
Sail —– Sale
- She always wanted to sail around the world.
- The use and sale of marijuana remains illegal.
Sauce —– Source
- Stir in fish sauce, coconut milk, sugar, and lime juice and bring to a simmer.
- Beans are a very good source of protein.
Scene —– Seen
- The police soon arrived at the scene of the crime.
- He crouched down so he couldn’t be seen.
Scull —– Skull
- You didn’t scull too badly today.
- Her skull was crammed with too many thoughts.
See —– Sea
- She looked for him but couldn’t see him in the crowd.
- The waste was dumped in the sea.
Shoe —– Shoo
- What’s your shoe size?
- You shoo the dog out of the kitchen.
Side —– Sighed
- They crossed from one side of London to the other.
- He sighed deeply at the thought.
Slay —– Sleigh
- Those old movies still slay me!
- Alternatives to skiing include a leisure pool, curling and skating on the nearby lake, indoor tennis and sleigh rides.
Soar —– Sore
- She watched the dove soar above the chestnut trees.
- I had a sore throat and aching limbs.
Sole —– Soul
- Griffiths is the sole survivor of the crash.
He is really quite a sensitive soul.
Some —– Sum
- I need some apples for this recipe.
- Bill wants to spend a large sum on modernizing the farm.
Sort —– Sought
- He wondered if Rosa was in some sort of trouble.
- He sought revenge against Surkov for separating him from his wife and son.
Staid —– Stayed
- The museum is trying to get rid of its staid image.
- She stayed at home while the children were young.
Stalk —– Stork
- He ate the apple, stalk and all.
- We always used to say the guys on the Ridge were lucky, the stork brought their babies.
Stare —– Stair
- It’s not polite to stare, you know.
- The second stair creaks when you step on it.
Stationary —– Stationery
- It is called a sinker because it sinks beneath you when you are stationary.
- You could say the same for luggage and stationery.
Steal —– Steel
- Inventors know that someone is always going to try to steal their designs.
- Sheffield is a major steel town.
Stile —– Style
- Continue on a clear path up the hillside to reach a stile on the ridge.
- The paintings are in an expressionistic style.
Sun —– Son
- The sun was shining and birds were singing.
- We have two daughters and a son.
Tail —– Tale
- The male has beautiful tail feathers.
- His latest book is a delightful children’s tale about talking animals.
Team —– Teem
- We have a team of eight working on product development.
- With luck, in a year the place should begin to teem with federal workers.
Than —– Then
- Natalie was prettier than her sister.
- I wish I had known then what I know now.
Their —– There
- They washed their faces and went to bed.
- We could go back to my cottage and have lunch there.
Throne —– Thrown
- Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952.
- The boat was thrown onto the rocks.
Tide —– Tied
- The body was washed up on the beach by the tide.
- She tied the newspapers in a bundle.
To —– Too / Two
- I walked to the office.
- The dress was too tight for me.
- I was in two minds about the book.
Toe —– Tow
- He kicked the earth with the toe of his boot.
- The car broke down and we had to get somebody to give us a tow.
Vain —– Vein
- She closed her eyes tightly in a vain attempt to hold back the tears.
- The nurse was having trouble finding a vein in his arm.
Vary —– Very
- Class numbers vary between 25 and 30.
- The new building has been very much admired.
Wail —– Whale
- Somewhere behind them a child began to wail.
- We saw a whale blowing a jet of spray high in the air.
Waste —– Waist
- Why waste money on clothes you don’t need?
- He put his arm around her waist.
Way —– Weigh
- I’m not happy with this way of working.
- The young birds weigh only a few grams.
Weak —– Week
- She is still weak after her illness.
- He comes to see us once a week.
Weather —– Whether
- The weather is very changeable at the moment.
- I asked him whether he had done it all himself or whether someone had helped him.
Where —– Wear
- I wonder where they will take us to.
- I always wear black.
Which —– Witch
- Which of the applicants has got the job?
- He wants me to be a witch.
Who’s —– Whose
- Who’s the money for?
- Whose house is that?
Won —– One
- Britain won five gold medals.
- There’s only room for one person.
Would —– Wood
- He said he would be here at eight o’clock.
- All the furniture was made of wood.
You’re —– Your
- You’re a good person.
- Dentists advise you to have your teeth checked every six months.
Homophones List | Images
Homophones List | Image 1
Useful Homophones List | Image 2
Homophones List | Image 3
Homophones | Illustrated with Pictures
Commonly Confused Homophones in English | Image 1
Confused Homophones in English | Image 2
Commonly Confused Homophones in English | Image 3
Confused Homophones in English | Image 4
Learn common homophones examples illustrated with pictures and pronunciation video.
Learn a list of homophones in English with pronunciation.
To conclude, let’s enjoy a homophonic limerick:
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather,
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.