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Homophones, Homographs, and Homonyms: the Hecklers of the English Language

If English petrifies you, this article could be what the doctor said you need.

Grazia Spano
Grazia Spano
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If English petrifies you, this article could be what the doctor said you need. Since globalization has taken place in our lives, this language has become an indispensable tool that you need to master to face better any situation in your social and work life. But, it is known that this foreign language is not easier, and there are few reasons to believe it, especially if you are not a native speaker. In fact, if writing in English could be a slice of cake, this is not the same as listening or reading it. If you are still wondering why you continue to misuse some words probably, the reason is that they are homophones, homographs, or homonyms.

What are Homophones?

In the sentences “ My favourite cereal is riceand “Rose is too scared of her boss to ask him for a rise,” the words “rice” and “rise” sound alike, but their meaning is completely different. Imagine if you were one the most seasoned journalist and you had to write the last stinging piece; what if you had forgotten the way you spell a word that sounds alike to another one?

Congrats, you have just bumped into a homophone case. His Greek roots homo and phono mean the same sound. Homophones are words you spell differently but sound alike.

You are probably shivering, but I would like to reassure you by suggesting some tips you can use against the enemy, that is, pick up your ears! It seems that the only way to distinguish homophones is to consider the context. If you are in a work contest, it would be more logical to refer to a rise as growth than a cereal.

What are Homographs?

However, there are more surprises in store. You are driving home when suddenly you come across a message on a billboard. “It incenses me when you call me names.” I am more than certain that immediately the aromatic biotic material that releases fragrant smoke when burnt came to your mind, but unfortunately, the word refers to a verb and means “to infuriate.” This time the word in question is clearly a homograph. It happens when two words are spelled the same, but they have different sounds and meanings.

What are Homonyms?

Wait before you leave, please, because it never rains, it pours. Homonyms must come full circle. Last but not least, a homonym is a word that is spelled the same and sounds the same as another word but has a different meaning, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”). You’ve come to a point in the story where even a mother tongue would get confused. Homonyms are common English words speakers use in everyday conversation.

Certainly, English homonyms are easy to remember because they have the same spelling, but you need to be careful when you use them in spoken English, given the meaning.

Homophones, homographs, and homonyms make English more challenging. Learning to distinguish them will help you to keep a better conversation, become more self-confident and make you appear like a native.

EnglishEnglish Grammar

Grazia Spano

Hi, my name is Grazia. I am an Italian and English native speaker. I have a Master's degree in International Politics. I work in Aviation as a teacher. I will be happy to help you in learning.

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Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

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