Understanding English: Homophones
Learning English requires understanding the differences in meanings between words and how they’re pronounced. Sometimes you will encounter certain words that sound the same, yet are spelled differently and have different meanings. These types of words are called homophones.
To help you become more familiar with homophones, let’s take a look at some of the more common ones you’re sure to use while you’re learning English and preparing for your IELTS exam.
Buy – Bye – By: Buy means to purchase something, like “to go buy groceries.” Bye means to bid someone farewell and is the shortened version of goodbye. By is a preposition that is used to refer to something that is near or beside something else, such as “the playground is by the walking trail entrance.”
Break – Brake: These two words sound the same, yet are used differently. Break has a few different meanings, depending on how it used. It could mean “to take a break from working” when used as a noun or as a verb, like “it was easy to break the candy bar in half.” The brake, on the other hand refers to the stopping mechanism on vehicles and bikes, such as “she pressed on the brake to stop the car.”
No – Know: No is used as the opposite of yes when answering questions. Know means to have knowledge or be aware of something, like “I know I need to study for my IELTS exam to get a high score.”
Their – They’re – There: Their is a possessive word and an example is “we used their car”. They’re is a contraction of the two words they are, such as “they’re running late.” There is used to describe a location, like “he is over there,” or as part of a statement, “there will be a test tomorrow.”
Two – To – Too: These three words also sound the same. Two means the number 2. To is an infinitive verb as well as can mean towards, such as “he ran to class because he was late.” Too means also and as well as, like, “She was late to class too.”
Complement – Compliment: These two words are difficult even for native English speakers to use correctly. Complement means to go along with, such as “the colour of the floor complements the colour of the walls.” Compliment is used to give praise, like “her boss complimented her on a job well done.”
As you can see, there are several English words that sound the same but have different meanings. Please keep in mind there are many more homophones besides these. Just for fun, you should look up the meanings for this homophone that includes seven different words that are all pronounced the same:
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