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, addad
Adam, atomAD-um
air, err, heirair
aisle, isle, I’llAI-ull
aloud, alloweduh-LOUD
altar, alterALL-ter
ant, auntant
assent, ascentuh-SENT
ate, eightate
bail, balebale
ball, bawlbawl
band, bannedband
bazaar, bizarrebuh-ZAR
bare, bearbare (rhymes with “air”)
base, bassbase (rhymes with “ace”)
be, beebee
beat, beetbeet
berry, buryberry
bin, beenbin
billed, buildbild
bite, bytebyte
blew, bluebloo
board, boredbord
brake, breakbrake
buy, by, byeby
carrot, karatKARE-ut
cell, sellsell
cent, sent, scentsent
cereal, serialserial
chili, chilly, Chilechill-ee
chews, choosechooz
cite, site, sightsite
close, clotheskloz
core, corpskor
course, coarsekorss
creek, creakcreek
cue, queuekyoo
days, dazedaze
deer, deardeer
die, dyedye
do, due, dewdoo
fair, farefare
faze, phasefaze
finish, Finnishfinish
find, finedfind
feudal, futileFYU-dul
flea, fleeflee
feat, feetfeet
flower, flourFLOW-er (“flow” rhymes with “cow”)
for, fourfor
fowl, foulFOW-ul
great, grategrate
groan, growngrone
Greece, greasegrees
guest, guessedgest (rhymes with “best”)
gym, Jimjim
hair, harehair
hall, haulhawl
heal, heelheel
hear, hereheer
heed, he’dheed
herd, heardherd
him, hymnhim
hire, higherhi-er
hole, wholehol
horse, hoarsehorse
hostel, hostileHAHST-ul
hurts, hertzherts
I, eyeAI
in, innin
intense, intentsintense
jewels, joulesjoolz
lessen, lessonless-in
maid, mademade
mail, malemale
manner, manormanner
meat, meetmeet
metal, medal, meddleMED-ul
need, kneadneed
new, knewnoo
no, knowno
nose, knowsnoz
not, knotnot
nun, nonenun
oh, oweoh
one, wonwun
or, oaror
our, hourow-er
pail, palepale
pair, pare, pearpare
past, passedpast
peace, piecepeese
peer, pierpeer
plane, plainplane
poll, polepoll
pour, porepore
prince, printsprins
principal, principlePRINCE-i-pul
profit, prophetPRAH-fit
rain, rein, reignrane
rap, wraprap
red, readred
right, write, rite, wrightrite
ring, wringring
road, rode, rowedrode
roll, roleroll
root, routeroot
sail, salesale
sea, seesee
seam, seemseem
seas, sees, seizeseez
seen, sceneseen
seller, cellarseller
side, sighedside
so, sow, sewso
sole, soulsole
some, sumsum
son, sunsun
stair, starestare
steal, steelsteel
sweet, suitesweet
sword, soaredsord
tail, taletale
taught, tauttawt
tear (meaning: drop of water), tierteer
tear (meaning: rip), taretair
tense, tentstense
there, their, they’rethair
threw, throughthrew
thrown, thronethrone
tie, Thaitye
to, too, twotoo
tow, toetoe
vain, veinvain
way, weighway
wait, weightwait
weather, whetherwether
week, weakweek
where, wear, wareware
which, witchwitch
whose, who’shooz
will, we’llwill
wood, wouldwood
wore, warwore
worn, warnworn
your, you’reyer

 

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