There are many words that either sound or are spelt similarly in the English language, which leads to great confusion among the students of the language. However, if you study or listen carefully to the sentence you will receive clues as to which meaning is the sentence referring to.
There are broadly three major categories of similar words; they are based on the word’s meaning, pronunciation and spelling-
These are the words that are spelt the same way but have different meanings. These words may or may not have the same pronunciation. If the words have a different pronunciation, they are called Heteronyms which are a type of Homographs.
They only had a minute left before the bell rang.
Here, minute means 60 seconds of time or a small amount of time and it is pronounced as minit.
There was a minute difference between the two.
Here, minute means something very small or tiny and is pronounced my-nyoot.
Hence, we can see that the word minute is a homograph/heteronym.
Further examples of homographs are -
Live - being alive (liv) - Live - a performance in person/ broadcasting something as it happens (lie-eev)
Number - numeral describing quantity (num-bur) - Number comparative form of the word numb (nummer)
Bow - A kind of knot - Bow - An instrument used for shooting arrows - Bow - bend forward at the waist
Rose - A flower of the rose bush - Rose - simple past tense of ‘rise’
Here is an exercise to test your understanding of Homographs. Find the word that can be used in both blanks.
FILL IN THE BLANKS - Homographs
1. I ________ to this! This ______ does not prove my client’s guilt.
2.He placed ________ in the race, coming in only half a ________ after the winner.
3. Because of the high _______, the shopkeepers were forced to _______ up their business early.
4. He will _______ them to the alchemist who can turn _______ into gold.
Homophones are those words which are pronounced the same but have different meanings. They may or may not have the same spelling.
Every language and accent has their own examples of this category as accents also influence words. Some words which may sound similar in your native accent may not do so in a different accent or in an accent neutralized voice.
She had a carrot for a snack.
Here, the word carrot means an orange root vegetable.
She had a 3 carat ring.
Here, the word carat is a unit of measurement for gemstones.
Both the words are pronounced the same way and thus they are homophones and not homographs as they are spelled differently. More examples of homophones are -
Aisle - A passage between rows of seats or shelves of goods - Isle - A small island or peninsula
Ate - Past tense of ‘eat’ - Eight - The number 8
Rain - Condensed moisture falling from the sky - Reign - Rule of king or queen
Two - The number 2 - Too - Very/ Higher degree than normal
Here is an activity on Homophones. Fill in the blanks and check your answers at the bottom.
FILL IN THE BLANKS-Homophones
1. I ____ at ____ (Eight/Ate)
2. Do you ____ if she said yes or ____?(No/Know)
3. I’m too ____ to step out this ____(weak/week)
4. Are you going ____ watch a movie? May I come ____?(too/to)
5. They are over ____ in ____ new car. (their/there)
6. I don’t think the ____ of us can carry these ____ suitcases ____the bus stop. Maybe he should come along ____. (too/to/two)
Homonyms are words that are spelt the same and also have the same pronunciation but have completely different meanings. Thus, Homonyms are the words that are both homographs and homophones.
She can make a cake.
Here, can is a verb which means ‘being able’
She opened the can of flour.
Here, can is a word meaning ‘a metal container that is cylindrical in shape’
Hence, the words are pronounced the same and also spelt the same. More examples of homonyms are-
Tie - Something made of fabric that is knotted when worn - Tie - To fasten or attach by knotting
Row - To move a boat using oars - Row - Objects arranged in a straight line
Dear - Someone precious or loved - Dear - Severe or very sore
Fine - A fee levied instead of punishment - Fine - All right/Very well
FILL IN THE BLANKS - Homographs
FILL IN THE BLANKS - Homophones
1. I ate at eight.
2. Do you know if she said yes or no?
3. I’m too weak to step out this week.
4. Are you going to watch a movie? May I come too?
5. They are over there in their new car
6. I don’t think the two of us can carry these two suitcases to the bus stop. Maybe he should come along too.