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Homophones. Almost all languages have their own. They are present in nearly everything we read, and everything we write. So what are they? Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently, and have different meanings. So why do homophones exist anyway? Are the language gods having a good laugh at our expense? Well, I'm not sure about the gods business, but what I can tell you is that all languages have evolved over time, and sometimes when new words were added to the respective country's or region's lexicon, consideration was overlooked (deliberately or otherwise) that there were existing words which sounded the same but were spelled differently, AND had a totally different meaning.
The general consensus among linguists today is that though the words sound the same, the spelling differences are easy to learn, plus they are easy to tell apart by the context in which they are used. So, today, in the English language, we have a number of homophones in common use.
Over the years I have observed that many homophones are frequently misused – that is, used in the wrong context. Take the following sentence, for example: “I did not go over their because it is too far to walk.” The 'their' above, is used in the wrong context. The word 'their' is supposed to show ownership and not location (and location is the context of the above sentence). Instead, the sentence should read: “I did not go over there because it is too far to walk.” The word 'there' is used correctly in this second sentence because it indicates location. Using the wrong homophone, by mistake or by being unfamiliar with the right one, is a turn-off for most readers. They can lose their train of thought for a bit, or even stop reading the piece of writing altogether. Therefore, it's a good idea to arm yourself with the knowledge of the common homophones and use them correctly to help improve your writing – and help keep your readers on track.
Just for fun here are some pairs of commonly used (and misused) homophones:
-There (direction/location) Their (belonging to them)
-Two (numerical value) Too (in addition)
-Here (location) Hair (fine keratin strands growing on head, face, underarms, etc)
-By (location or method of doing something) Bye (farewell)
-Flour (wheat product used for baking) Flower (part of a plant)
-Pair (to combine in twos) Pare (to peel or cut away)
-Night (nocturnal part of day) Knight (Soldier of renown)
-Nose (facial feature) Knows (intellect/awareness)
-Sew (stitch together) So (adverb, conjunction, interjection, etc)
-Plane (airborne flying apparatus/level or flat) Plain (simple or basic/unattractive)
-Pour (empty from one space to another) Pore (tiny opening on the surface of animals or plants)
-Stare (to look at something fixedly) Steer (to control the direction of a moving object)
Some other commonly-used homophones are:
I love homophones. Do you?
***Charmaine Daisley is a Creative Writer and Brainstorming Geek. She also runs Pretty Healthy Charmaine, a blog that provides insights into Christian living and healthy eating - all with a dash of pretty.
Hi, I'm Charmaine Daisley and I'm inviting you to share my journey of living a pretty healthy Christian lifestyle. I'll share my adventures of eating healthy and feeding my mind with the word of God - plus anything pretty that can bring some inspiration and joy to our lives. When I'm not managing this blog, you can find me writing up a storm or doing creative brainstorming for clients.
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