Confusing words in English

Let’s continue our journey through the World of alphabets and learn some special set of words.

They are 1) Homophones 2) Homonyms 3) Homographs and 4) Heteronyms.


1) Homophones

Homophones are pairs of words that are pronounced alike, but have distinctly different meanings and different spellings. Homophones occur in English because there are multiple ways to spell the same sound.

Understanding homophones is an essential part of mastering English language, both for vocabulary building and spelling.

Examples :

Pair  /pɛː/  (couple)                    Pear  /pɛː/   (fruit)

See  /siː/   (with your eyes)                  Sea  /siː/  (the ocean)

Lead  /lɛd/  (metal)                    Led  /lɛd/  (guided)

Deer  /dɪə/   (animal)                 Dear  /dɪə/   (expensive)

Flour   /ˈflaʊə/  (grinded grains)                    Flower  /ˈflaʊə/  (of a plant)


2) Homonyms

Homonyms are words that are pronounced the same and spelled the same, but have different meanings.

Example :

Current  /ˈkʌr(ə)nt/  :         flow of water / which is up-to-date

Kind   /kʌɪnd/  :      Caring / a type of

Right   /rʌɪt/  :         opposite of left / correct

Spring   /sprɪŋ/ :     a coiled metal / a season

Well /wɛl/  :           a source of water / in good health


3) Homographs

Homographsare words that are spelled the same, but different meanings and usually different pronunciation. 

Examples :

Tear  /tɪə/   (in the eye)             Tear   /tɛː/  (to rip apart)

Wind   /wɪnd/   (movement of air)                Wind /wʌɪnd/ (twisted or coiled)

Bow  /bəʊ/   (type of knot)                Bow /baʊ/ (bend the head)

Conduct   /ˈkɒndʌkt/   (person’s behavior)             Conduct /kənˈdʌkt/  (organize)

Minute   /ˈmɪnɪt/   (time period)                    Minute /mʌɪˈnjuːt/ (Extremely small)


4) Heteronyms

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically but have different meanings when pronounced differently. Many heteronyms are the result of one pronunciation being a verb and another being a noun.

Example :

Desert   /dɪˈzəːt/   (to abandon)             Desert   /ˈdɛzət/  (waterless area of land)

Affect   /ˈafɛkt/   (emotion)                  Affect   /əˈfɛkt/  (make a difference)

Present   /ˈprɛz(ə)nt/   (gift)                   Present  /ˈprɛz(ə)nt/   (presentation)

Produce  /prəˈdjuːs/   (to manufacture)   Produce /ˈprɒdjuːs/(agricultural product)

Close  /kləʊz/  (to shut)              Close  /kləʊs/  (nearby)

So we can conclude this topic by understanding the differences between words that look or sound the same. Repeatedly going through common examples of homonyms, homophones, and homographs and remembering the difference between the words themselves (phone – meaning “sound”, graph meaning “writing” and nym meaning “name”) will help to a great extent in this regard.


Sajina Biju

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