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Homonyms: Words We Often Misuse

Updated on March 27, 2013
Cardisa profile image

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.


Homonyms: Homophones and Homographs

Homonyms are both homophones and homographs.

Homophones: Are two or more words with the same pronunciation. However these words have different spellings and totally different meanings.

Homophone examples:

  • There - their
  • Sent - scent
  • Aloud - allowed

Homographs: Are two or more words with the same spelling but not necessarily the same pronunciation and definitely not the same meaning or origin.

Homographs examples:

  • Saw - (1) Past tense of see (2) a cutting tool
  • Bass - (1) a deep voice (2) a type of fish
  • Contract - (1) an agreement (2) to shorten or withdraw; opposite of expand

A note to writers and freelancers - including myself

I do it, you do it and so do many other writers. However, it's not okay. As writers the onus is on us to make sure were study our words. Look up the meanings if we are unsure and use the correct words when needed.

Misused words can cause many freelance contractors to;

  1. lose out on repeat jobs
  2. gain negative feedback
  3. build bad reputations.

When we write independently and publish our work on sites such as Hubpages, or publish our own blogs or websites, we don't have the privilege of a client asking us to redo or edit. What we publish is what our audiences will read. It is left to us to make sure that we send the right message to our readers that we have a good command of the English language and that we know what we are talking about.

Bad language or incorrect word usage can cause confusion in the mind of the reader. In some cases the phrase, sentence or passage will take on a totally new meaning if interpreted a certain way.

Writers and freelance workers, please let us pay attention to our word usage and help each other out when possible. Don't be afraid to let someone know they have misused a word. Please let me know whenever I mess up!

Use a dictionary and check your spelling and word meaning when you are unsure. Even if you are sure, it cannot hurt to double check.

I must clarify this article was written to myself as well. If I write an article such as this I draw attention to my own writing; and then so, I must pay extra attention to my own work. I am no genius with the English language and I too struggle with words and meanings.

What I do when writing online is bring up an extra tab with Websters or Oxford's online dictionary to double check words I am not sure about; whether it be the meaning or spelling.


Popularly misused homophones

We see these words used many times and we may bypass them as just simple mistakes on the writer's part. But should we follow these writers we may find them commonplace. I believe many of us honestly do not know the difference in meaning and so we innocently use them incorrectly.

  • Your and you're. I have seen your used in place of you're (you are) so many times that I just know these writers have no clue.

An incorrect example sentence would be: "when you're done making the calls, come see me." The correct sentence should read: "when you're (you are) done making the calls, come see me."

Your implies ownership in the second person and should be used when referring to a subject and an object. Example: "Your mother called and left a message." Your mother is the subject and the message is the object. The sentence also includes the subject performing an action.

You're is the contraction for you are and should only be used in such cases. Example: "You're beautiful and charming." If after writing the sentence it cannot be read with the original two words, then the word is used incorrectly.

  • There, their and they're. I have come to realize that many people will use their instead of they're. Maybe they don't know that the contraction they're exists as it is rarely used nowadays.

Their implies ownership in the third person and should be used when talking about a subject and an object such as: "Their parents were late picking them up."

They're is the contraction for "they are" and should be used accordingly, example: "They're playing in the back yard now." The only way you could used their in that sentence is to imply that the action of them playing has caused a reaction of some sort, example "Their playing in the back yard has caused the neighbors to complain, so we called them in."

There is an adverb that denotes a place, region, area. It is also used in exclamation. Example sentence for a place: "There used to be a hole right here." (The place is actually here but the use of "there" is in the past whereas "here" is in the present. The two words are opposite and used in the same sentence which implies a comparison). Example exclamatory sentence: "There, you see what's you've done!" The sentence does not call for an answer so an exclamation sign is used instead of a question mark.

Popular Homophones To Look Out For

Here - An adverb denoting a place. Used also to get someone's attention.
Hear - a perception of sound that resonates in the ear. Verb - to hear
Hair - a threadlike outgrowth from the skin of mammals
Hare - an animal related to the rabbit
Heir - a predecessor or person acquiring an inheritance
There - an Adverb denoting a place: opposite of here
Their - possessive pronoun third person
They're - contraction of two words "they are"
Your - possessive pronoun in the second person
You're - a contraction of two words "you are"
Beer - an ale
Bear - (1) a animal (2) to carry
Bare - to be naked
Deer - an animal
Dare - to challenge. Eg. "I dare you".
Dear - (1) a form of address (2) and endearment (3) to cherish (4) can be used as a form of exclamation: "Oh dear me!"
Scene - a place or location
Seen - past participle of see
Site - a location
Sight - the ability to see
Meet - to come together
Meat - animal carcass
Mete - to share or alot
Fear - to be afraid
Fair - to be just
Fare - (1) the fee charged for transit (2) the outcome of a situation "ball fared well given the economic conditions"
Some - a portion of an amount
Sum - the total of things added together

There are so many more words....

I knew there were lots more words out there so have decided to keep adding as I remember or come across them. So here is another list. Thanks for the reminder Will.

  • It's - contraction for "it is"; its - possessive pronoun usually used for animal, place or thing
  • Aloud - not silent; allowed - past tense of allow (to let or give permission)
  • Break - to come apart; brake - to stop short as in the brake in a car
  • Weak - to lack strength; week - a seven day period
  • Shore - the edge of the sea, usually the sandy area near the beach; sure - to be certain
  • Plain - (1) void of beauty, ordinary, (2) a flat area of land usually void of trees; plane - an aircraft, the short for aeroplane.
  • Feat - an achievement of great skill and strength; feet - that area below the ankle where we use to walk or stand on.
  • Sore - tender, achy; soar - to ascend
  • Boar - male pig, usually a wild one; bore - (1) to make a hole in something (2) to make someone feel dull and disinterested. Also used as a noun for (1) the hollow part o the gun barrel (2) A very strong high wave cause by the meeting of two tides (3) a dull person

Will keep adding to this list.


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    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Susi10, have a nice day.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 

      6 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      This is an excellent hub. Well Done!!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks Ruby. IO have seen their, thy're and there misused one too many times.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Richert 

      6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I think we all are guilty of using improper use of words. I think the worst is their and they're. This is a great, useful hub that will help many...

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi there Will, gosh, can't believe I left that one out and you are absolutely correct. I have misused those two quite a bit myself. After writing the hub I realized I needed to add so many more words which I am compiling so it's and its will be on the list. Thanks Will.

      I agree. and sometimes once is just not enough. I can't tell you how many times I think an article is okay then I go through it several time and I find mistakes every time.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi TurtleDog, thanks. Its advice. There are words so many that I can't remember all of

    • WillStarr profile image


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      It's...a contraction of it is.

      Its...belonging to it.

      I think that's the most common mistake of all, because we think the apostrophe is needed for the possessive sense, but not with the pronoun 'its'

      And the list goes on.

      BTW, I sometimes type 'they're' when I mean 'their' and I know the difference. It's funny how our brains and fingers are not always on the same page. That's why we must proofread.

    • TurtleDog profile image


      6 years ago

      Thanks for the advise ... or should I say advice? lol. Seriously, nice post. Voted up interesting. Good tips to remember.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Livingsta. Glad you liked it.

    • livingsta profile image


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is a very useful hub and will help many with the usage of words.

      Voting up and sharing!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Hunbbel, nice seeing you. Thanks so much for the complement. :))

      Homonyms can be quite confusing for many individuals. So true.

    • Hunbbel Meer profile image

      Syed Hunbbel Meer 

      6 years ago from Karachi, Pakistan.

      I always like reading about such words. Homonyms can indeed by very confusing for many people. Thanks for writing a comprehensive hub on the topic.

      P.S: I liked the idea of using a table. It is very neat and understandable. Congratulations!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Thank you Lovedoctor926, Homonyms can be confusing for many people, I realize. thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Useful information, great presentation. Homonyms are essential in the English language. voted up!

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi PaisleeGal, One os my homophone issues is fair and fare. I keep thinking that I am going to the I think at some point most of us come face to face with a couple of these words and get

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Billy, I honestly believe these problem areas are even more prevalent in schools today.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Carol, thank you so much. As writers we need to pay more attention to our grammar.

    • PaisleeGal profile image

      Pat Materna 

      6 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Cardisa ...good and useful hub. Hopefully, all will read it and learn from it. These common mistakes are repeated so often on HP and everywhere else on the internet. A mistake I often make is where and were. I'm aware of this and do my best to catch my mistakes. The 3 "there, they're, their" are some that bug me when people misuse. Voted up and useful

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great help to many. When I was a teacher, most of my grading of papers was spent correcting these mistakes.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      6 years ago from Arizona

      Interesting and all so true. Love all of this and it is a good reminder for all of the writers to take the time to have well formed and punctuated sentences. Voting up and pinning.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hello Europewalker, many of us make mistakes in the English language. For years I had spelling issues with the words: believe, conceive and perceive etc. Words with "ie" or "ei" gives me a hard time so I practice to use a thesaurus when writing. When it come to writing commercially or for the public we need to use those reference guides.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Jonny, I agree with about the English language needs to flow a certain way. I also want to thank you for pointing out my errors. Thanks.

    • europewalker profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting hub. I think that a refresher course in grammar would definitely be helpful to writers. I know I have been guilty of using incorrect grammar myself and have had to use references when I wasn't sure about something. Voted up and useful.

    • jonnycomelately profile image


      6 years ago from Tasmania

      Cardisa, well put together and very timely Hub.... thank you. The English language needs to be explicit and correct, also to follow a proper context, in order to be quickly understood, without interrupting the flow.

      Just to comply with your wishes to have anomalies pointed out:

      In your Hub, ..."the sentence also include the subject performing an action......" needs to be "includes" I think.

      And..... you have not defined and explained the word "there."

      Wishing you lots of happy and successful writing hours!

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      You are quite welcome. Big hugs to you too.

    • Cardisa profile imageAUTHOR

      Carolee Samuda 

      6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Gmwilliams, I agree with you. But many people who are now writing/publishing on the internet (1) are non native English speakers (2) hire someone they don't even know to write their articles (3) they never took the time to refresh their English vocab. I am definitively no exert but I find these mistakes quite often even on highly successful blogs and websites.

      Thanks for stopping by

      Big hugs ~~~

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      6 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Informative hub. However, there is no excuse for this simple grammatical rule. This grammatical faux pas has become more evident, especially on the internet, when people say to instead of two and their instead of there e.g. there parents instead of their parents. This rule of grammar should have been learned thoroughly in elementary school. There is no excuse for this grammatical faux pas. Even those who are highly educated are guilty of this grammatical mortal sin. Again, excellent hub Cardisa, voted up.


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