Writing tip: What is a homonym, homophone and homograph?
English can be a very confusing language, even for the native speaker but it must be equally confusing for those learning English as a foreign language. Words spelt the same but with different meanings, words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings…it’s easy to see why it can be so confusing!
Understanding what is a homonym, homophone and homograph will help you use them correctly in your writing. Creating the right impression is so important in all your communication so ditch the spellcheck to avoid making simple grammar and spelling mistakes.
So what is a homonym, homophone and homograph and what do they have in common?
Homonyms, homophones and homographs are terms used to describe words that sound alike but have different meanings, spelling or pronunciation. They have in common the root homo, which means “the same”. So for each of these words, something is the same – the spelling or the pronunciation.
Homonyms or multiple meaning words, are words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings
Homophones, also known as sound alike words, are words that are pronounced identically but have different spellings and meanings
Homographs are words that are spelt the same but have different meanings and pronunciations
Homophones probably cause the most frustration for writers because it can be difficult to remember different spellings for words that sound alike but have different meanings. And when using a spell checker, mistakes may not be found because alternative spellings are legitimate. This makes it even more important to check your work for meaning to catch any homophones that may have fallen foul of a spell check.
Here are some examples that illustrate the differences between Homonyms, Homophones and Homographs:-
HOMONYMS: (words that are spelt and pronounced the same but have different meanings)
Fair (eg: I’m going to the fair to buy some candyfloss/it’s not fair that you’re not sharing your food)
Lead (eg: I’m going to lead the group to the park/Put the lead on the dog before taking it for a walk)
Bank (eg: put your money in the bank to keep it safe/he sat on the grassy bank and threw a fishing line into the water)
Bow (eg: You must bow when you meet the queen/Go to the bow of the ship to see the dolphins in the sea)
Lean (eg: Don’t lean against the fence it might break!/The dog appears a bit lean, maybe it needs feeding)
HOMOPHONES: (words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings)
They’re and their (eg: I wonder if they’re sharing their lollybags today?)
You’re and your (eg: You’re so lucky to have your own bedroom)
The above two examples are the most commonly used in writing, particularly social media where people spend less time getting their spelling right and more time in getting their message across quickly!
Weather and whether (eg: I’m not sure what the weather is doing today so I don’t know whether to take an umbrella to school)
Allowed and aloud (eg: Are we allowed to speak aloud when the teacher is talking?)
Write and right (eg: You’re right! I really must write a letter to my Mum tonight)
HOMOGRAPHS: (words that are spelt the same but have different pronunciations and meanings)
Close (eg: Close the door!/the thunderstorm is getting close)
Desert (eg: Don’t desert me, I need you!/It hasn’t rained in the desert for years)
Wind (eg: The wind is getting strong in the bay/Please wind up the toy for your sister)
Tear (eg: The tear in my pants is getting bigger/She shed a tear when her mother left home)
Produce (eg: I’m going to produce a dish that will amaze you!/The market is full of fresh produce)
It’s important to always check your writing before you submit it so that you can read what you have written to make sure the content makes sense. This gives you the chance to pick up and rectify and mistakes you may have made.