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Homophones - Commonly Confused Words and Tips to Help
First, what are homophones? Homophones are words that sound the same but sound differently. When you are speaking, the difference doesn't matter. When you sit down to write, however, that is a different story.
I have included a short list of some commonly confused homonyms. I have also included a short explanation of each one and how you can tell them apart.
Homophones - Brian McKnight and Cleo the Lion
Two - Because this is a number, I think of this one as the odd one out. It's weird so it is spelled with a "w."
Too - This word is used for emphasize or "in addition" so it needs the extra "o." Another way to remember is "too" usually goes at the end of a sentence or before adjectives.
To - This is the most simple and straightforward (also the least misspelled). I don't have any cute suggestions for this one. Just remember, if it isn't a number or being used for emphasis then it is probably "to."
Two, Too, To
Two - 2 (as in the number): I read 2 newspapers, yesterday.
Too - also, more than enough: Julia is sick, too.
To - a preposition: I am going to the bookstore.
I have two books that I am taking to the bookstore, but I will be going to the store, too.
To Too Two Rap Song - For Additional Help
There - Because this speaking about a place, then it has the word "here" in it. So it is spelled t-h-e-r-e.
They're - This is one where you simply have to ask yourself "what am I saying?" If you are saying "they are," then it is the contraction.
Their - Again, nothing cute here. This is a process of elimination (is it there or they're) and is it used to show possession. These two things will help you determine that you want to use their, not the other two spellings.
There - in/at a place: She is going there tomorrow.
They're - contraction of they are: They're coming to the party.
Their - shows possession: Sara and Peter took their baby to the doctor.
They're going there for their check-up.
A Helpful Illustration
Hear - I love this one. Hear means to perceive sounds with the ear so the word "ear" is in the word hear. If you are using the word hear in context of listening to something, then make sure you spell it h-e-a-r.
Here - Simply put, if you aren't talking about perceiving sounds with the ear, then you will use this spelling. Also, remember, if you are talking about location then you want to use this spelling as well.
Hear - to perceive sounds with the ear: I couldn't hear him on the phone.
Here - in this place: The DVD you are looking for is right here.
I hear that you will come here before the party.
Nothing to Hear
Loose - If you are talking about something that isn't tight-fitting, then you need an extra "o." Also, this is one of the few homophones that actually does have a slight difference in sound. The "s" has a softer sound. Phonetically we call it a voiceless consonant, meaning you won't hear the /s/ sound in your head.
Lose - If you are talking about something being misplaced or defeated, then you can think that the second "o" got misplaced or defeated which is why there is only one "o." Sound wise, the "s" has more of a /z/ sound and is a voiced consonant, meaning you will hear the /z/ sound in your head.
Loose - not attached firmly, not tight-fitting: This shirt is loose.
Lose - to misplace, to be defeated: I hope our team doesn't lose the basketball game.
If his shoes are loose, he will lose the race.
Create Some of Your Own Sentences.
I have given you some homophones that are easy to develop tips for. If you remember which tip goes with which homophone, you will greatly improve your spelling with those homophones. However, the following are more difficult. I will discuss the difference and offer suggestions to help you remember, but most of you will probably just have to memorize.
While this one is difficult to give a tip for, it is a little easy. We tend to see "week" on a more regular basis. My guess is, if you misuse it, then you probably use "week" more than "weak." So here's what I suggest:
Remember, "week" is what we use when we are talking about days, periods of time, etc. "Weak" is what we use when we are talking about strength.
Weak - not strong: He felt weak after being sick for so long.
Week - the seven-day period from Sunday to Saturday: There are 52 weeks in a year.
He was weak after being sick for four weeks.
Weak vs Week
Another fun one. For me, it is easiest to remember that "weather" is used when talking about the temperature and conditions outside. Any other instance, it will most likely be "whether."
Weather - condition of the air or atmosphere: The weather here is nice in the summer.
Whether - shows choice; if: Tell me whether or not you want to go home.
Whether I come or not will depend on the weather.
A Fun Tongue Twister
Again, nothing cute. This is straight up memorization. When writing, just remember to ask yourself what are you saying? Are you using the word to indicate possession? Or are you simply contracting the words "who is"? If you can remember to ask yourself those questions, then it will greatly help you cut down on your mistakes.
Whose - possessive form of who: Whose car is this?
Who's - who is: Who's riding in my car with me?
Who's riding in whose car?
A Mystery Solved Using "Whose" and "Who's"
There you have it! This is not a comprehensive list by any means. These are simply some that I have encountered on a frequent basis in my own writing as well as mistakes I have observed in the writing of others. Each person has a specific set of homophones that particularly problematic. Mine are loose and lose. Try to identify which one or ones are yours and focus your energy are learning those. Even if you have found what you need here, I encourage you to search other websites and find more. This is simply scraping the surface of what you can find.