Grate and Great

Commonly Confused Words

Full Frame Shot Of Metal Grate
Constantin Pappas / EyeEm / Getty Images

The words grate and great are homophones: they sound the same but have different meanings.


As a noun, grate means a fireplace or a framework of crossed bars. As a verb, grate means to grind, scrape, or irritate.

The adjective great means much more than average or ordinary in size, extent, volume, value, or importance.


  • "The chair was deep, and dry logs crackled in the grate, contrasting pleasantly with the patter of rain against the window."
    (Sylvia Townsend Warner, Winter in the Air and Other Stories, 1955)
  • Harvey's laughter made Aunt Karen grate her teeth.
  • "Anything is possible on a train: a great meal, a binge, a visit from card players, an intrigue, a good night's sleep, and strangers' monologues framed like Russian short stories."
    (Paul Theroux, The Great Railway Bazaar, 1975)
  • "I love my father, but it's a complicated love. He can be great, really great, and then he's suddenly a storm slowly building, a storm that finally tosses lawn furniture and garbage cans, knocks trees down onto roofs."
    (Deb Caletti, The Story of Us. Simon Pulse, 2012)
  • "Onto the high plains sifted the fine snow, delicately clouding the air, a rare dust, beautiful, he thought, silk gauze, but there was muscle in the wind rocking the heavy car, a great pulsing artery of the jet stream swooping down from the sky to touch the earth."
    (Annie Proulx, "The Half-Skinned Steer." The Atlantic Monthly, 1998)
  • "I toasted the grated cheese besides the great grate on the great fire that was in the great hall at my great-grandfather's mansion."
    (J. Jonathan Gabay, Gabay's Copywriters' Compendium: The Definitive Professional Writer's Guide. Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007)

Idiom Alerts

  • The expression to grate on (someone) or to grate on (someone's) nerves means to annoy or bother a person.
    "ReiIly's genuine sympathy and nice-guy attitude were starting to grate on my nerves. People just weren't that kind."
    (Kelly Meding, Another Kind of Dead. Bantam, 2011)
  • The expression great minds think alike (or simply, great minds) means that one person agrees with another on some issue.
    "Gabe laughed. . . . 'Maybe we can follow him and find out what he's up to.'
    "At this, Abby couldn't help but smile. 'I was actually thinking the same thing.'
    "Gabe smiled at her, so openly that her stomach flipped. Why did he have to keep doing that? 'Great minds,' he said. 'I'll see you at practice. We'll figure out our plan of attack then.'"
    (Cassandra Dunn, The Art of Adapting. Thorndike, 2014)


(a) Moby Dick, the _____ white whale, was a symbol of the world's evils to Captain Ahab.
(b) "Carefully she tore the letter into narrow strips and touched a lighted match to them in the coal _____."
(Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft." The Gyroscope, 1930)
(c) Harold's first _____ mistake was attempting to cheat on the exam.

Answers to Practice Exercises

Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words

200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Answers to Practice Exercises: Grate and Great

(a) Moby Dick, the great white whale, was a symbol of the world's evils to Captain Ahab.
(b) "Carefully she tore the letter into narrow strips and touched a lighted match to them in the coal grate."
(Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft." The Gyroscope, 1930)
(c) Harold's first great mistake was attempting to cheat on the exam.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Grate and Great." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). Grate and Great. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Grate and Great." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 5, 2023).