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Synonyms, in English, are words that have very similar meanings yet slightly different functions.

So, for example, instead of saying, “your brother is funny,” you could substitute the word funny for words like hysterical, comical, or hilarious to add more variety to your English vocabulary.

Using a thesaurus is a great way to identify words with similar meanings and will help expand your vocabulary immensely. If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this excellent visual thesaurus tool which allows you to see the connections between words and their related concepts on a word map.


Homonyms are words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings.

Take, for example, the word “bail,” which can mean either to clear water or to release a prisoner from incarceration. Or the word conduct can refer to one’s behaviour or lead something. Whereas the word “band” can refer to both a ring that one might wear on their finger or a group of musicians.


Homophones, on the other hand, are two or more words that may or may not have identical spelling but have the same pronunciation and different meanings.

For example, the word “flu” is a virus infection but “flew” is the past tense of the verb “to fly.” Or higher is the comparison of the word “high,” but the word “hire” means to employ someone or to rent something. Also consider the word “mousse,” a soft and creamy food, and “moose”—an animal related to the deer family which can be found in the northern region of the United States and throughout Canada.

But how can you tell the difference between homophones and when to use them correctly?

It is often useful to create clues within the word to help you remember its meaning.

For example, the noun clique refers to a small group of people who spend time together and are often reluctant to let others into the group. At the same time, a click means selecting an option on a computer by pressing a button on your mouse. To help tell them apart, you can imagine the “q” in the word clique referring to a “queue” of people. Or the verb sell which means to give a product to someone in exchange for money, vs. the noun cell, which is a small room in which a prisoner is locked up in jail. Shops usually “sell” things so that you can think of the “s” in sell relating to the “s” in “shop.”


Homographs are words that have the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings.

For example, the “bass” is a musical instrument and is pronounced with a long vowel sound, whereas “sea bass” is a fish and is pronounced with a short vowel sound. Another example is the word “live,” which can mean to make one’s home in a particular place and is pronounced with a short “i” vowel sound, or it can relate to a musical performance at a concert which is not a recording and is pronounced with a long “i” vowel sound.

So, in English, there is a lot of variation between words that may sound the same but have very different uses and functions and words that may look identical but have distinct meanings and pronunciations. The most assured way to navigate yourself through the linguistic maze is to use a dictionary, as this will act as your best friend when learning English!

EnglishEnglish Grammar