This week’s Monday Microscope question pertains to homophones. Our reader Urmi asks:
I get very confused when it comes to certain words which seem similar- and I often end up using the wrong one. Please clarify how these words are to be used. ~Urmi
Homophones are words that sound the same but are not only spelled differently but mean entirely dissimilar things!
The five homophone examples Urmi sent us were indeed confusing. These five are not all either. In fact, there are a humongous bunch of of them in the English language, lying in wait for the unwary user!
Many of us, for whom English is the second or third language, end up using the wrong word in our writing. It makes sense to strengthen your writing skills in you want to be maintain your credibility and be taken seriously.
Lose vs. Loose
Lose – Present tense of lost… as in to be deprived of something or cease to have something; to cause someone to be deprived of something.
Incorrect: Loose that untidy hair by tomorrow or loose your chance to go with us to the swanky club!
Correct: Lose that untidy hair by tomorrow or lose your chance to go with us to the swanky club!
Loose – Not firmly or tightly fixed in place- like a loose bolt; to release or set free.
Incorrect: The dog’s collar was lose, so Bob tightened it.
Correct: The dog’s collar was loose, so Bob tightened it.
Its vs. It’s
Its – Possessive pronoun of an animal or something of a neutral gender.
Incorrect: This knife is useless; it’s blade is blunt.
Correct: This knife is useless; its blade is blunt.
It’s – Contraction of it is or it has.
Incorrect: Jimmy never misses his morning walk. Its his favorite part of the day.
Correct: Jimmy never misses his morning walk. It’s his favorite part of the day.
Your vs. You’re
Your – Possessive form of you (typically used before a noun).
Incorrect: You’re skirt is so beautiful!
Correct: Your skirt is so beautiful!
You’re – Contraction of you are.
Incorrect: Your a wonderful writer!
Correct: You’re a wonderful writer!
Their vs. They’re vs. There
Their – Possessive adjective indicating that something belongs to a group of two or more people.
Incorrect: Our team is highly motivated. They are determined to do there best in the competition tomorrow!
Correct: Our team is highly motivated. They are determined to do their best in the competition tomorrow!
They’re – Contraction of they are.
Incorrect: Where have they gone? Their at the mall.
Correct: Where have they gone? They’re at the mall.
There – Reference to the existence of something; a place or position.
Incorrect: Their is heavy rain in Mumbai today.
Correct: There is heavy rain in Mumbai today.
Affect vs. Effect
Affect – To have an effect on; make a difference to; an emotion or desire.
Incorrect: My hunger effects my behavior.
Correct: My hunger affects my behavior.
Effect – To bring about; to cause something to happen; a change that is a result of an action or cause.
Incorrect: Her presence has an incredible affect on him.
Correct: Her presence has an incredible effect on him.
This is hardly a comprehensive list. There are plenty of other homophones which are as confusing as the five above. There are many exhaustive lists available online that Google can pull up for you in a jiffy.
Homophones are definitely challenging. You may look up the meaning and usage today- and understand it perfectly well. But a week later, there you are, as confused as ever. It is most annoying.
Are there any homophones you’ve tripped over too?
This week’s question has been answered by one of our core team members, Dagny, who is a passionate bibliophile. Her love for the written word is deep and enduring. The combination of language skills and love of books make her an efficient editor.