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How to Use Homophones Correctly in English

English Language - Homophones

Written by Meryem Kennedy

Meryem has worked with students of all ages from all over the world. As a teacher for over 25 years, she has taught at high schools, universities, colleges, and language institutions, in addition to private tutoring. Her education includes three university degrees: English Teaching, Applied Linguistics, and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Added Challenge to Spelling in English

Spelling in English is challenging all on its own. When we consider words with the same pronunciation but with different spellings, we face a bigger challenge. These words are called homophones. Same sounding words with different spellings. So how do we overcome this difficulty?

Here is an example:

I knew that the new house would be expensive.

The bolded words both make the sound, \nü\. As you well know, “knew” is the past form of the verb “know,” and “new” means not old.

We need to figure out the context of the sentence and decide which spelling of \nü\ to use in the correct place.

Here are two more sets of homophones:

Homophone Set 1

“To err is human, to forgive divine” whispered the heir to the throne with an air of annoyance.

Here are the words with the same pronunciation \er\: “air,” “err,” and “heir.”

“Air” in this sentence means “attitude,” not the “air” we breathe in.

“Heir” is a person who inherits something, and

“To err” is to make a mistake. 

Again, to know which spelling is the right one, we need to guess the meaning from the words around the homophones.

Homophone Set 2

 

I’ll look for you when I walk down the aisle of the church located in the center of the isle.

 The words “isle,” “aisle,” or “I’ll” make the sound \ī(ə)l\.

I’ll as in “I’ll send you a postcard when I get there!”

Aisle as in “Which aisle is bread located?”

Isle as in “After retirement, she decided to settle on an isle in the middle of the Pacific.”

There are many more homophones in English. Just search for the word “homophones” online and you will find plenty of them. For those of us who love to have printed resources, you can also find books on homophones. 

Happy learning!

 

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