Homophones Are A Part Of The Grammar Of English
Grammar Of English
Today we have a lesson designed to help you learn to speak English fluently and to help with some tricky parts in the grammar of English. Here at Adept English we use listening as our main way to learn English, but what happens when words sound exactly the same?
Homophones, English words with a different meaning but which SOUND the same when spoken out loud, makes learning English through listening more troublesome. It’s not a big problem, but it will help you if you know about it.
Fortunately, you don’t really come across a lot of homophones bunched together, you almost always hear them on their own in a context that allows you to guess which English meaning we expect. So if you’re in an academic conversation about what notable people have said and you hear cite, you're not going to confuse this homophone with the word site.
Transcript: Homophones Are A Part Of The Grammar Of English
Hi and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. We are here to help you learn to speak English fluently – and to give you help with English grammar online. We take the pain out of English grammar learning and help you move towards perfect English grammar! And I give you lots of examples too, using authentic spoken English, because when you’re learning English grammar, sentences are always helpful. If you want advice on how to make best use of our podcasts, and our ‘listen and learn’ method of learning English, then sign up for our ‘Seven Rules of Adept English’ [free course]. Yes, you heard correctly – it’s free – you don’t have to pay.
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What are homophones again?
So how about today we do some more practice with homophones? What are homophones again? Well, English is full of them. They’re words which sound the same, but whose spelling is different in different contexts. Homophones can also be words which sound the same and are spelt the same. But they’re less of a problem – they’re just words with more than one meaning. So homophones are part of the grammar of English. Words that sound the same, but the spelling and the meaning are different.
So a simple example of a homophone? What about the word ‘too’ T-O-O, meaning ‘also’ – and ‘two’, T-W-O meaning the number 2. They’re homophones. And yes, you’re right, there is a third one - ‘to’, spelt T-O, the preposition, what you’d use if you wanted to say ‘going to the shop’. OK, so ‘too’, ‘two’ and ‘to’ – you probably know these homophones already.
Sight, Site or Cite?
What about the word ‘sight’, ‘site’ or ‘cite’? Well, if you’re following the transcript – or perhaps watching on YouTube where you can see the written words, you’ll see that there are three possible spellings of sight/site/cite and they can all mean different things. If you’re listening only to this podcast, see if you know the three different spellings of this word. And if you can only think of one or two spellings, see if you can remember that – and the different meaning which goes with each.
So OK – I’ll tell you. You can have sight spelt S-I-G-H-T, site spelt S-I-T-E and cite, spelt C-I-T-E. So what do each of these words mean?
Meaning of ‘sight’?
Well in terms of the grammar of English, sight, S-I-G-H-T is a noun. And it goes with the verb ‘to see’, which you’ll know. So you might hear of someone talking about ‘being a tourist and seeing the sights’ when they go somewhere. So a ‘sight’ in this context, might be Mount Fuji in Japan, Times Square in New York – or the Pyramids in Egypt. So put simply, a sight is something that you can see, something that you can look at and which you’ll remember afterwards. A sight, used in this sense can also be negative. You can say something is ‘a horrible sight’. And if you said of someone ‘Uh - she looked a sight!’, you’d mean that she looked bad, she looked a mess, something terrible had happened to her and her appearance showed this.
You might say something is ‘a sight for sore eyes’ meaning that what you’re seeing is so good, it helps repair sore eyes, helps them get better! It doesn’t really do that of course, but it’s a saying, an idiom – ‘a sight for sore eyes’. It means something that you’ve longed to see, wanted, waited for a long time. And the idea is that your eyes are sore, S-O-R-E, hurting – so this sight is so good, it helps your eyes get better. Sight is a word that comes from Germanic roots, German language. You can always tell a word in English that has German origins – if it has an ‘-I-G-H-T’ spelling. If you wanted the equivalent with a Latin root, then the word would be ‘vision’ - and there are many places where either ‘sight’ or ‘vision’ would do.
The word ‘sight’ can also be used interchangeably with ‘vision’ when you’re talking about your eye sight, how well you can see, how well your eyes work, you can also use the word ‘vision’ for that. So a slightly different use of the word ‘sight’ - this is about the experience of the person who is ‘doing the seeing’, rather than the thing that they see. So you might talk about someone having their sight damaged in an accident or their sight restored by a medical procedure. So your ‘sight’ is your ability to see. You might say ‘My sight, or my vision is worse – now I have to wear glasses! So ‘sight’ can be used to mean the thing that you look at – like the pyramids in Egypt – or your experience of seeing, such as ‘my eyesight is much better now, thankyou’.
Meaning of ‘site’?
What about site, S-I-T-E? Well, this one is somewhat easier. Site, S-I-T-E in terms of the grammar of English, it’s a noun and it means a location, an area of ground, a particular place. So we might talk about a building site - ‘to build’ is what you do when you construct houses or buildings. And a building site, is what happens when you dig up the earth, you bring in the bulldozers and you construct buildings. So a building site. Site, S-I-T-E can also be used to mean ‘the location where something happened’, so you might talk about ‘the site of the plane crash’ or you might say ‘the bomb site’ - the place where the bomb exploded. But site isn’t positive or negative. You might say ‘I’ve found a really good site to build my shed’ or you could be talking about archaeology – the ancient site of Troy in Turkey or Carthage in Tunisia – they’re both the sites of ancient cities.
And another usage of S-I-T-E type ‘site’ – of course, we say ‘website’. I say to you regularly ‘Visit our website at adeptenglish.com’. So site, S-I-T-E can be a virtual location, a place on the internet, where a URL takes you like www.adept.english.com. But we use website not just to refer to the location – we also use it to mean also the web pages that are found, that can be seen in that location. So for example, Adept English has a new website coming fairly soon. New web pages.
Meaning of ‘cite’?
OK, so that’s sight, S-I-G-H-T and site, S-I-T-E. What about the 3rd one, cite, C-I-T-E? If you know this word, you’ve got a really good vocabulary and a good knowledge of English! Cite, C-I-T-E is less used than the other two, but it’s still a word you would quite commonly hear. It’s a word you’re going to need! So English grammar basics first, cite, C-I-T-E is a verb, so it’s ‘to cite’ and it’s similar in meaning to the verb ‘to quote’. That’s Q-U-O-T-E. But it’s also slightly different. If you quote someone, you use their words. So I might quote William Shakespeare and say ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ or I might quote Martin Luther King ‘I have a dream’. ‘To cite’ is almost the same. You’re making a reference, you are referring to someone’s words or ideas, or to their data, their numbers, their statistics, but you’re not directly using their words. If you cite something, you’re referring to it, but you use your own words to express the idea.
So you might cite a research paper as evidence to support your own ideas. It’s important when you’re writing academic papers, in academic work that you cite or use citation, where you’ve used someone else’s ideas – in order to give them credit, so that you’re not seen as trying to claim their thinking as your own. So citing or using citation keeps you out of trouble, if you are an academic or a researcher that is. So I might cite, C-I-T-E, Noam Chomsky’s ideas on how we learn language by saying ‘He said we were all born with an innate, instinctive ability to learn languages. So that language learning is part of out genetics!’. I’m citing his work there. But if I say ‘Noam Chomsky said “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” - that would be a quote, because it’s his direct words. I’ll leave you to work out the meaning of that quote for yourself! It’s a good one.
Anyway, I hope that I’ve helped you with those homophones, sight, site and cite – and that not only that, but I’ve put some pictures and some connections in your mind to help you remember them. Listen to this podcast a number of times to help those words and meanings stick in your mind.
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Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
P.S. These messages are moving
I’ve moved the P.S. Post Scriptum messages to a blog entry on the new website which is nearly ready to go live. I hope this makes sense to those who read them 🙂