This week’s topic is about homophones, homonyms and homographs.
Have you ever been confused about a word that looks like another word or sounds like another word but has a different meaning?
If the answer is YES, then try reading this sentence out loud. Did you notice anything strange?
“This mourning eye went too sea to friends. Won has long hare and the other won’s had there hare died blue.”
Well, if you say the sentence out loud, the sentence seems to make sense, but if you look at it in detail it is incorrect. This is because the sentence is full of words that have the same pronunciation of the words that should be there.
Can you find the others? Clue: There are 11 mistakes in total.
Words that have the SAME PRONUNCIATION but a DIFFERENT MEANING and SPELLING are called homophones.
Some examples are:
To, too, Two /tu:/
There, their, they’re /ðɛː/
Homophones are very common in English and you can find a full list here: singularis.ltd.uk
➢ Can (n) = a metal container for drinks like “a can of Coke”.
➢ Gum (n)= short for chewing gum or bubble gum
➢ Gum (n)= the soft pink flesh above your teeth
These types of words are called homonyms.
You can find a comprehensive list of homonyms here: english-for-students.com
Now, there is a third category of words called homographs. These are words that have THE SAME SPELLING but have DIFFERENT PRONUNCIATION and MEANING, depending on the context.
➢ object (N) /ˈɒbdʒɛkt/= a thing that can be seen and touched.
There are many objects on the shelf.
➢ object (V) /əbˈdʒɛkt/= say something to express one’s opposition to or disagreement with something
“We all wanted to have pizza, but my parents objected.”
➢ Polish (adj) /ˈpəʊlɪʃ/= relating to Poland, its inhabitants, or their language.
“Have you ever tried Polish food?”
➢ Polish(v) /ˈpɒlɪʃ/= to make the surface of (something) smooth and shiny by rubbing it.
“I need to polish the table. It’s looking a bit dull.”
➢ Bow(V) /baʊ/ = to bend the head or upper part of the body as a sign of respect or greeting.
My teacher bowed to the Queen when he met her.
➢Bow(n) / bəʊ/= a knot tied with two loops and two loose ends, used especially for tying shoelaces and decorative ribbons.
“I’ve never learned how to tie a bow in my shoelaces. I just knot them.”
➢ Bow (n) / bəʊ/= a weapon for shooting arrows, typically made of a curved piece of wood joined at both ends by a string.
“Robin Hood used a bow and arrow.”
A full list of homographs can be found here: List of English homographs.
So to summarise, here is a table that will help you understand the key differences:
Now I think you are ready for a bit of practice!
Look at the poem below and choose the correct alternative:
Wear/Where were you yesterday
Who were you meating/meeting?
I saw poor /pour John waiting
Out there in the reign/rain
I know/no you were busy
And had not much time/thyme,
Sow/So now I’m going to give you
A peace/piece of my mind!