Humanities › English 200 Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs A List of Easily Confused Words With Practice Exercises Share Flipboard Email Print A bare bear. GeoStock/Getty Images English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated July 16, 2019 Homonyms are two or more words that have the same sound or spelling but differ in meaning. Homophones—which means "same sounds" in Latin—are two or more words, such as knew and new or meat and meet, that are pronounced the same but differ in meaning, origin, and often spelling. Homographs, meanwhile, are words that have the same spelling but differ in origin, meaning, and sometimes pronunciation, such as the verb bear (to carry or endure) and the noun bear (the animal with a shaggy coat). Words that fall under any of these three categories often confuse readers and writers alike. But they need not perplex you: Understanding the meaning of these three grammatical terms and, especially, being able to recognize them can help clear up any confusion. A list of some of the most common homonyms, homophones, and homographs can help any writer use these words correctly and any reader or listener recognize them when they occur. Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs Here is a listing of some the most common homonyms, homophones, and homographs. The first column contains homonyms in alphabetical order, while the second and third columns list the corresponding homonym, homophone, or homograph as applicable. accept - take in except - other than ad - advertisement add - join, combine advice - guidance advise - recommend aid - assist, assistance aide - one who gives assistance ail - to suffer poor health ale - a beverage air - atmosphere ere - before heir - one who inherits property aisle - a passage I'll - contraction of I will isle - island allusion - an indirect reference illusion - false appearance altar - table in a church alter - to change ate - past tense of eat eight - the number 8 bail - to clear water bail - release of a prisoner bale - a large bundle band - a ring, something that binds band - a group banned - prohibited bare - uncovered bear - large animal bear - support, yield bases - starting points bases - four stations on a baseball field basis - a basic principle beat - to strike, overcome beat - exhausted beet - a plant with red roots blew - past tense of blow blue - the color bread - baked food item bred - produced buy - purchase by - near, through bye - goodbye capital - punishable by death capital - chief city capitol - building where legislature meets ceiling - top of a room sealing - setting, fastening cell - compartment sell - vend cent - penny coin scent - an odor sent - past tense of send cereal - breakfast food serial - sequential chews - gnaws with teeth choose - to select Chile- country in South America chili - bean stew chilly - frosty chord - musical tone cord - rope cite - quote site - location sight - view close - opposite of open clothes - clothing coarse - rough course - path, procedure complement – enhance; go together compliment - praise conduct - behavior conduct - to lead council - committee counsel - guidance creak - squeak creek - stream of water crews - gangs cruise - ride on a boat days - plural of day daze - stun dear - darling deer- woodland animal desert - to abandon desert - dry land dessert - after-dinner treat dew - morning mist do - operate due - payable die - cease to exist dye - color discreet - tactful discrete - distinct doe - female dear dough - uncooked bread dual - double duel - battle elicit - draw out illicit - illegal eminent - distinguished imminent - soon ewe - female sheep you - second-person personal pronoun eye - sight organ I - first-person personal pronoun facts - true things fax - a document transmitted via telephone fair - equal fare - price fairy - elflike creature with wings ferry - boat faze - impact phase - stage feat - achievement feet - plural of foot find - to discover fined - charged a penalty fir - type of tree fur - animal hair flea - small biting insect flee - run flew - did fly flu - illness flour - powdery, ground up grain flower - blooming plant for - on behalf of fore - front four - three plus one forth - onward fourth - number four foreword - introduction to a book forward - advancing gene - a chromosome jean - fabric; pants gorilla - big ape guerrilla - warrior grease - fat Greece - country in Europe groan - moan grown - form of grow hair - head covering hare - rabbit-like animal hall - passageway haul - tow halve - cut in two parts have - possess hay - animal food hey - interjection to get attention heal - mend heel - back of foot hear - to listen here - at this place hi - hello high - up far hoarse - croaky horse - riding animal hole - opening whole - entire holey - full of holes holy - divine wholly - entirely hoarse - rough voice horse - animal hour - sixty minutes our - belonging to us knead - massage need - desire knew - did know new - not old knight - feudal horseman night - evening knot - tied rope not - negative know - have knowledge no - opposite of yes lead - metal led - was the leader leased - past tense of lease least - the minimum lessen - make smaller lesson - class loan - lend lone - solitary made - did make maid - servant mail - postage male - opposite of female marry - to wedmaterial merry - very happymateriel meat - animal protein meet - encounter mince - to chop finely mints - type of sweet morning - a.m. mourning - remember the dead none - not any nun - woman who takes special vows oar - boat paddle or - otherwise ore - mineral oh - expression of surprise or awe owe - be obligated one - single won - did win overdo - do too much overdue - past due date pail - bucket pale - not bright pain - hurt pane - window glass peace - calm piece - segment peak – highest point peek - glance patience - being willing to wait patients - person treated in a hospital or by a doctor pear - a type of fruit pair - two (usually matching) plain - ordinary plane - flight machine plane; flat surface pole - post poll - survey poor - not rich pour - make flow pray - implore God prey - quarry principal - most important principle - belief rain – water from sky rein - bridle rap - tap wrap - drape around read - past tense of the verb to read red - color real - factual reel - roll right - correct; not left write - scribble ring - encircle wring - squeeze road - street rode - past tense of ride role - function roll - rotate rose - flower rows - lines sail - move by wind power sale - bargain price scene - landscape seen - viewed sea - ocean segment see - observe with eyes seam - joining edge seem - appear sew - connect with thread so - as a result sow - plant soar - ascend sore - hurt place sole - single soul - essence son - male child sun - the star that lights the solar system some - a few sum - amount stair - step stare - to look at steadily steal - swipe steel - alloy suite - large room in a hotel sweet - the opposite of sour tail - animal’s appendage tale - story their - belonging to them there - at that place they’re - they are threw - past tense of throw through - passing from one place to another to - toward too - also two - the number 2 toe - foot appendage tow - pull along vary - differ very - wail - howl wail - howl whale - huge sea mammal waist - area below ribs waste - squander wait – kill time weight - measurable load war - battle wore - did wear warn - caution worn - used way - path weigh - measure mass we - us wee - tiny weak - not strong week - seven days wear - to don attire where - question word weather - climate whether - if which - that witch - sorcerer wood - material coming from trees would - conditional auxiliary your - belonging to you you’re - you are Practice Using Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs Complete each of the following sentences by filling in the blank with the correct word. You'll find the answers at the end of the exercise. To heighten interest, all of the sentences are quotes from various authors' writings in books and magazine articles published over the years. Feel free to use the previous table to help you if you get stumped. “He simply sat down on the ledge and forgot everything _____ [accept or except] the marvelous mystery.”— Lawrence Sargent Hall"I live in the Oakland Hills in a tiny house on a street so windy you can’t drive more than ten miles per hour. I rented it because the _____ [ad or add] said this: 'Small house in the trees with a garden and a fireplace. Dogs welcome, of course.'"— Pam Houston"Francis wondered what _____ [advice or advise] a psychiatrist would have for him."— John Cheever"The _____ [aid or aide] gets out of the way, picking her skirt out of the rubble of children at her feet."— Rosellen Brown"He seemed to want to recapture the cosseted feeling he'd had when he'd been sick as a child and she would serve him flat ginger _____ [ail or ale], and toast soaked in cream, and play endless card games with him, using his blanket-covered legs as a table."— Alice Elliott Dark"He sat down and leaned forward, pulling the chair's rear legs into the _____ [air, ere, or heir] so that the waitress could get by."— Stanley Elkins"[T]he stewardess was moving down the _____ [aisle, I'll, or isle], like a trained nurse taking temperatures in a hospital ward, to see that they were all properly strapped in for the take-off."— Martha Gellhorn"Mrs. Parmenter laughed at his _____ [allusion or illusion] to their summer at Mrs. Sterrett's, in Rome, and gave him her coat to hold."— Willa Cather"In the long years between, she had fashioned many fine dresses—gowned gay girls for their conquests and robed fair brides for the _____ [altar or alter]."— Mary Lerner"On a Saturday morning soon after he came to live with her, he turned over her garbage while she was at the grocery store and _____ [ate or eight] rancid bacon drippings out of a small Crisco can."— Pam Durban"The barn was bigger than a church, and the fall's fresh hay _____ [bails or bales] were stacked to the roof in the side mows."— John Updike"Her two spare dresses were gone, her comb was gone, her checkered coat was gone, and so was the mauve hair-_____ [band or banned] with a mauve bow that had been her hat."— Vladimir Nabokov"Without the shelter of those trees, there is a great exposure—back yards, clotheslines, woodpiles, patchy sheds and barns and privies—all _____ [bare or bear], exposed, provisional looking."— Alice Munro"This was the time when outfields were larger than they are today and well-hit balls would roll for a long time, giving runners ample time to round the _____ [bases or basis] for a home run."— Deidre Silva and Jackie Koney"The conductor had his knotted signal cord to pull, and the motorman _____ [beat or beet] the foot gong with his mad heel."— Saul Bellow"Nancy held the cup to her mouth and _____ [blew or blue] into the cup."— William Faulkner"A pigeon landed nearby. It hopped on its little red feet and pecked into something that might have been a dirty piece of stale _____ [bread or bred] or dried mud."— Isaac Bashevis Singer"He was wearing a new hat of a pretty biscuit shade, for it never occurred to him to _____ [buy, by, or bye] anything of a practical color; he had put it on for the first time and the rain was spoiling it."— Katherine Anne Porter Answers to the Exercise 1. except 2. ad 3. advice 4. aide 5. ale 6. air 7. aisle 8. allusion 9. altar 10. ate 11. bales 12. band 13. bare 14. bases 15. beat 16. blew 17. bread 18. buy Sources Hall, Lawrence Sargent. "The Ledge." The Hudson Review, 1960.Houston, Pam. "Waltzing the Cat." Washington Square Press, 1999, New York.Cheever, John. "The Country Husband." The New Yorker, 1955.Brown, Rosellen. "How to Win." The Massachusetts Review, 1975.Dark, Alice Elliott. "In the Gloaming." The New Yorker. 1994.Elkins, Stanley. "Criers and Kibitzers, Kibitzers and Criers." Perspective, 1962.Gellhorn, Martha. "Miami-New York." The Atlantic Monthly, 1948.Cather, Willa. "Double Birthday." "Uncle Valentine and Other Stories." University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Neb., 1986.Lerner, Mary. "Little Selves." The Atlantic Monthly, 1915.Durban, Pam. "Soon." The Southern Review, 1997.Updike, John. "My Father's Tears and Other Stories." Knopf, 2009, New York.Nabokov, Vladimir "That in Aleppo Once..." The Atlantic Monthly, 1944.Munro, Alice. "Meneseteung." The New Yorker, 1989.Silva, Deidre, and Koney, Jackie. "It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls' Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball." Skyhorse, 2008, New York.Bellow, Saul. "A Silver Dish." The New Yorker, 1979.Faulkner, William. "That Evening Sun Go Down." The American Mercury, 1931.Singer, Isaac Bashevis. "The Key." "A Friend of Kafka." Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979, New York.Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft." 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