25 Homophones People Confuse All the Time
Homophones are two words that have the same pronunciation but different definitions and spellings. Read on to ensure that you never confuse them again.
Affect and Effect
Use affect when you want to indicate influence: The girl did not let other people’s opinions affect her decision to get a black cat.
Use effect as a noun; it is the result of a change: The effect of Hurricane Sandy was devastating.
If you confuse a lot of these homophones you're probably also saying these words and phrases all wrong.
Which and Witch
Which is used as a pronoun: I love the color blue, which is why I bought a blue car.
Witch is used to describe a scary person: The Wicked Witch of the West has green skin in The Wizard of Oz.
Are and Our
Are is a verb: We are traveling to Hawaii this summer.
Our is an adjective: We bought our house in July.
Weather and Whether
The weather is the state of the atmosphere: The weather for Friday is not looking very good.
Whether is a conjunction to show two choices: I don’t know whether to order chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Confusing these homophones can make you look dumb, so you should also avoid these words and phrases that make you sound stupid.
There and Their and They’re
There is a part of speech, most commonly a pronoun or adverb: There will be a lot of important people at the event tonight.
Their is a pronoun: The parents picked up their child from school.
They’re is a conjunction of they and are: They’re not happy with the number of potholes that haven’t been fixed on their road.
Brake and Break
Use brake as a verb: If you see red lights on the cars in front of you, you need to brake.
Use break to indicate that something broke, or as a noun to indicate a rest: On my lunch break, I am going to run some errands. I hope I don’t break my back carrying back the heavy bags.
Here and Hear
Here is an adverb that indicates a location: Come sit over here so that you’re in the shade.
Hear is a verb: I can’t hear what you’re saying, can you please speak up.
Buy and By
Use buy when you purchase an item: I have to go to the store to buy a gift for Father’s Day.
Use by as a preposition: Please leave your completed tests by the chalkboard.
It’s and Its
It’s is a conjunction of it is: It’s really hot out today.
Its is the possessive form of it: The dog was wagging its tail.
Accept and Except
Accept is a verb that means to get or receive: The fundraiser will accept your donations until 5 p.m.
Except is a preposition that means exclude: I like every type of fruit except bananas. These funny words sound like they're made up but they're actually real.
To and Too and Two
To is a preposition: Shawn is going to the lake.
Too is an adverb that can mean indicate an excessive amount when it precedes an adjective or adverb: I stayed in the sun for way too long today.
Two is a number: She has two children.
Capital and Capitol
Capital refers to a city, wealth of resources, or a letter: The capital of Connecticut is Hartford.
The capitol is the building where lawmakers meet: The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.
Principle and Principal
Principle is a noun meaning a truth or law: My teacher is a man of principle.
Principal is a noun referring to the head of a school or organization: After Tommy was caught cheating on his math test he was called down to the principal’s office. It's probably safe to ignore these grammar rules.
Bear and Bare
Use bear when you’re referring to the animal or to indicate the act of holding: On a hike in Maine, he saw a bear.
Bare is an adjective meaning lack of clothing: It was a hot day, so Chris took off his shirt, revealing his bare chest.
You’re and Your
You’re is a conjunction of you and are: You’re not being very nice today.
Your is a pronoun: Don’t forget to bring your laptop to class tomorrow.
Lie and Lay
Use lie to indicate the act of reclining: I need to lie down for a minute.
Lay indicates the placement of something: Please lay the napkin over the plate.
Ensure and Insure and Assure
To ensure means to make sure or guarantee that something happens: I need to study all night to ensure that I get an A in the class.
To insure means that something is covered by an insurance policy: I have to insure my car in case I get into an accident.
To assure means to remove someone’s doubts: I assure you that the ocean isn’t that cold. Watch out! Spell check won't catch these spelling and grammar mistakes.
Complement and Compliment
Complement means to enhance or complete: The gold necklace really complements her blue eyes.
A compliment is an expression of praise: Five different people complimented my gold necklace.
Aloud and Allowed
Aloud is when something is said out loud: Please say your name aloud to the group.
Allowed is when you’re given permission: My mom said I’m not allowed to stay out past 11 p.m.
Creek and Creak
A creek is a small river: The kids played in the creek.
Creak means to make noise: The floorboards in the old house creak when you walk on them. Your teacher probably taught you the difference between these homophones, but make sure you don't believe these grammar myths your teacher probably taught you.
One and Won
One is a number: I would like one taco.
Won is the past tense of the verb “to win”: I won first place at my track meet on Sunday.
Peak and Peek and Pique
A peak is the top of a mountain: You have to walk a lot of miles to get to the peak of the mountain.
Peek is another word for look: Don’t peek at your Christmas presents!
Pique is a verb meaning to stimulate: Since you have snacks at this meeting you’ve piqued my attention.
Lose and Loose
Lose is a verb that means to fail at winning, to misplace, or free oneself of something or someone: I need to lose ten more pounds to reach my goal weight.
Loose is an adjective that means “not tight”: Her pants were too loose so she had to wear a belt.
Toe and Tow
A toe is a body part on a human or animal: He stubbed his toe on the leg of the table.
Tow means to pull something behind a vehicle: My car broke down and I had to have it towed to the mechanic.
Than and Then
Than is used as a comparison: I like cats more than dogs.
Then is used to indicate time: I have to go to work until noon, and then go to the grocery store. Homophones are words that sounds the same but mean different things; synonyms are two words that mean the same thing. Next, read up on these words most people think are synonyms but actually aren't.