Flew, Flu, and Flue

Commonly Confused Words

flew, flu, and flue
(Ger Bosma/Getty Images)

The words flew, flu, and flue are homophones: they sound the same but their meanings are different.

Definitions

Flew is the simple past form of the verb fly, which means to move through the air, to travel by aircraft, or to move quickly or suddenly.

The noun flu (a shortened form of influenza) refers to a contagious viral infection.

The noun flue refers to a duct or channel in a chimney or in any enclosed passageway.

Examples

  • Wire, briar, limber, lock
    Three geese in a flock.
    One flew east, one flew west,
    One flew over the cuckoo's nest.
    (Children's nursery rhyme, source of the title for Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1962) 
     
  • "The greatest aerialist of all time was a Mexican, Alfredo Cordona. In 1930, after years of practice, Cordona achieved what to the circus world had been an impossibility--no less than a triple somersault! It is estimated that, to achieve that feat, he flew through the air at sixty miles per hour."
    (Richard Lederer, The Word Circus: A Letter-Perfect Book. Merriam-Webster, 1998)
  • Millions are at risk of going without the flu vaccine this year.
     
  • "Although the media called the 1918 pandemic the 'Spanish Flu'—because about 80 percent of the Spanish population caught the flu, and it was widely reported in the Spanish press—the actual source of the pandemic is unknown."
    (Joan R. Callahan, Emerging Biological Threats. ABC-CLIO, 2010) 
  • Customers have been told that expensive flue work is required to bring their homes up to modern standards.
     
  • "The stove was plugged into the flue of the marble fireplace, and there were parquet floors and Axminster carpets and cranberry-colored tufted Victorian upholstery, and a kind of Chinese étagère, inside a cabinet, lined with mirrors and containing silver pitchers, trophies won by Skoglund cows, fancy sugar tongs and cut-glass pitchers and goblets."
    (Saul Bellow, "A Silver Dish." The New Yorker, 1979)
     

    Usage Note: Flew Out or Flied Out?

    "[In the game of baseball,] when a batter has hit a fly ball which is then caught, the past tense of his action is 'flied out.' The only time 'flew out' would be correct is if the batter dropped his bat, flapped his arms, and soared out of the stadium, thereby earning himself the frothiest head in the Guinness Book of World Records."
    (William Safire, On Language. Avon Books, 1981)
     

    Practice

    (a) "He was a big, raw man, with too much strength, whose delight in winter was to hunt the sea ducks that _____ in to feed by the outer ledges, bare at low tide."
    (Lawrence Sargent Hall, "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960)

    (b) If you have a working chimney, you should have the _____ checked regularly by a professional.

    (c) About every 30 years, there is a major change in the genetics of the _____ virus.

    Answers to Practice Exercises

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

    200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs​

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Flew, Flu, and Flue

    (a) "He was a big, raw man, with too much strength, whose delight in winter was to hunt the sea ducks that flew in to feed by the outer ledges, bare at low tide."
    (Lawrence Sargent Hall, "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960)

    (b) If you have a working chimney, you should have the flue checked regularly by a professional.

    (c) About every 30 years, there is a major change in the genetics of the flu virus.

    Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

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    Your Citation
    Nordquist, Richard. "Flew, Flu, and Flue." ThoughtCo, May. 11, 2016, thoughtco.com/flew-flu-and-flue-1689393. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, May 11). Flew, Flu, and Flue. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/flew-flu-and-flue-1689393 Nordquist, Richard. "Flew, Flu, and Flue." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/flew-flu-and-flue-1689393 (accessed January 19, 2018).