This is the second blog post in a three-part series on the relationships between the pronunciation of English words and their spellings. Follow the links for part one of the series on Silent Letters and part three on the Sound System of American English.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, it often happens that the spelling of an English word doesn’t match up well with its pronunciation. There’s another category of word that can also cause confusion; these are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. These words are called “homophones”. If you memorize the most common homophones in English, then you will avoid a lot of potential confusion in your communications. An added bonus of memorizing common homophones is that you will be able to easily understand many jokes, puns, and plays on words that you encounter (or even spice up your conversations by creating such plays on words yourself!)

Without further ado, here is a chart of some of the most common sets of homophones in English. Remember, all of the words in the left column are pronounced the same way. That is, if you say “ate, eight” out loud, then it should sound exactly the same as if you said “ate, ate” or “eight, eight”.

 

Spelling: Pronounced:
ad, add ad
Adam, atom AD-um
air, err, heir air
aisle, isle, I’ll AI-ull
aloud, allowed uh-LOUD
altar, alter ALL-ter
ant, aunt ant
assent, ascent uh-SENT
ate, eight ate
bail, bale bale
ball, bawl bawl
band, banned band
bazaar, bizarre buh-ZAR
bare, bear bare (rhymes with “air”)
base, bass base (rhymes with “ace”)
be, bee bee
beat, beet beet
berry, bury berry
bin, been bin
billed, build bild
bite, byte byte
blew, blue bloo
board, bored bord
brake, break brake
buy, by, bye by
carrot, karat KARE-ut
cell, sell sell
cent, sent, scent sent
cereal, serial serial
chili, chilly, Chile chill-ee
chews, choose chooz
cite, site, sight site
close, clothes kloz
core, corps kor
course, coarse korss
creek, creak creek
cue, queue kyoo
days, daze daze
deer, dear deer
die, dye dye
do, due, dew doo
fair, fare fare
faze, phase faze
finish, Finnish finish
find, fined find
feudal, futile FYU-dul
flea, flee flee
feat, feet feet
flower, flour FLOW-er (“flow” rhymes with “cow”)
for, four for
fowl, foul FOW-ul
great, grate grate
groan, grown grone
Greece, grease grees
guest, guessed gest (rhymes with “best”)
gym, Jim jim
hair, hare hair
hall, haul hawl
heal, heel heel
hear, here heer
heed, he’d heed
herd, heard herd
him, hymn him
hire, higher hi-er
hole, whole hol
horse, hoarse horse
hostel, hostile HAHST-ul
hurts, hertz herts
I, eye AI
in, inn in
intense, intents intense
jewels, joules joolz
lessen, lesson less-in
maid, made made
mail, male male
manner, manor manner
meat, meet meet
metal, medal, meddle MED-ul
need, knead need
new, knew noo
no, know no
nose, knows noz
not, knot not
nun, none nun
oh, owe oh
one, won wun
or, oar or
our, hour ow-er
pail, pale pale
pair, pare, pear pare
past, passed past
peace, piece peese
peer, pier peer
plane, plain plane
poll, pole poll
pour, pore pore
prince, prints prins
principal, principle PRINCE-i-pul
profit, prophet PRAH-fit
rain, rein, reign rane
rap, wrap rap
red, read red
right, write, rite, wright rite
ring, wring ring
road, rode, rowed rode
roll, role roll
root, route root
sail, sale sale
sea, see see
seam, seem seem
seas, sees, seize seez
seen, scene seen
seller, cellar seller
side, sighed side
so, sow, sew so
sole, soul sole
some, sum sum
son, sun sun
stair, stare stare
steal, steel steel
sweet, suite sweet
sword, soared sord
tail, tale tale
taught, taut tawt
tear (meaning: drop of water), tier teer
tear (meaning: rip), tare tair
tense, tents tense
there, their, they’re thair
threw, through threw
thrown, throne throne
tie, Thai tye
to, too, two too
tow, toe toe
vain, vein vain
way, weigh way
wait, weight wait
weather, whether wether
week, weak week
where, wear, ware ware
which, witch witch
whose, who’s hooz
will, we’ll will
wood, would wood
wore, war wore
worn, warn worn
your, you’re yer

 

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