Not knowing what a homophone is or what the common ones are could leave you sounding silly in your next English conversation. In today’s English grammar podcast we explain the problem, we help you practice spotting common homophones and we test you just to keep you on your toes as we learn how to speak the English language.
Let’s face it: All languages have at least one annoying characteristic or grammar rule you just have to accept and learn. The English language has a lot of rules that seem arbitrary, with countless exceptions and "special cases" that are just plain weird. Homophones are a great example of this.
The problem with homophones is that they can trip you up. Homophones are tricky because they sound the same when spoken, but have a different meaning. Or said another way, a perfect way of catching out new English language students during a conversation.
What did one homophone say to comfort the other homophone? Their, there, they're.
Although in today’s lesson we stick to an Adept English rule, and only work on the homophones you really need, the most common ones. I spent some time trying to identify what single sounding English word has the most possible meanings.
I'm sure you can suggest better ones, but I came up with "Carrot, carat, karat and caret". 4 Words which sound "Exactly the same" when spoken in English. They mean; a vegetable, the weight of gems, the fineness/purity of gold and finally a typographical mark.
Homophones Unpack Countless Typographical
Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. Let’s do some work on the English language today for a change. Let’s talk about homophones! That’s HOMOPHONES. Don’t forget - if you know other people who’re learning English, please share our podcast with them.
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So you may have heard this word ‘homophone’ - you may have it in your own language, especially if yours is a European language - because the word ‘homophone’ comes from the Greek. The stem ‘homo’, HOMO means ‘the same’ and ‘phone’, PHONE means ‘sound’.
So put simply, ‘homophones’ are words ‘with the same sound’. So these are English words which sound the same, but which have a different spelling. Let me give you an example. So in the following two sentences, you’ll hear the word ‘blue/blew’ - but see if you can identify the spelling. Here goes.
- The wind blew so hard, that it lifted the tiles off the roof.
- The sun was shining and the sky and the sea were blue.
So in the first sentence, the word ‘blew’ is spelt BLEW - and it is the past tense of the verb ‘to blow’ - that’s fffff - to blow. So ‘The wind blew so hard that it lifted the tiles off the roof’. So here, ‘blew’, BLEW is a verb. In the next sentence, the use is perhaps more familiar to you. ‘The sun was shining and the sky and the sea were blue’. So this blue, BLUE, the colour ‘blue’ - but both types of ‘blew/blue’ sound the same. They’re homophones.
So we’ve covered homophones before at Adept English. In podcast episode 298 in January 2020, I covered three different meanings and spellings of the word ‘sight/site/cite’. That one is still available on our website at adeptenglish.com. And in October 2019, I touched on homophones again - and this time I did lots in one podcast - episode 270 from October 2019.
In this episode I covered many commonly used words which are homophones - things like ‘no’, NO and ‘know’, KNOW and ‘by’, BY, ‘buy’, BUY and ‘bye’, BYE. Those two podcasts are still available on our website if you would like to listen to them. And while I’m talking about our podcasts - don’t forget that you can buy podcasts in an easy download format in bundles of 50 podcasts, 50 podcasts together for a small fee. That will give your English language learning a real boost!
Anyway today, let’s cover a couple more homophones, because they can be confusing, misleading - and you need to think about the spelling with these words. They sound the same, but the spelling is different as well as the context - the words surrounding the homophone.
They will give you the sense of a different meaning. And very often, one will be a noun, another an adjective, so they’re not even the same part of grammar.
Homophones-Avoid Mistakes With Confusing Words As We Learn The English Language Ep 494 Article Image
A photograph of twins. Avoid the following common mistakes when using English homophones in a conversation.
So let’s test you out! Let’s give you an opportunity to hear some sentences with homophones - and you can pause the recording to try and write them down. Or you can spell them out loud or say the spelling in your head, as a way of testing yourself. How good is your knowledge of homophones? Here goes.
- As I walked through the door, she threw a ball at me!
- I can’t bear to see a bare Christmas tree.
- If you think you have the answer right, write it down.
- In here, you will hear one story - out there, you’ll hear a different story.
- The nurse tried in vain to find a vein when she was taking blood.
- One night a knight in shining armour arrived.
- ‘Can you see the sea? It’s over there!’ their mother said. (that’s two sets of homophones in that one!)
- I could fit my whole hand into the hole.
- Late at night, I heard the herd on the move.
- Grate some cheese and we’ll make a great pizza.
- Oh - I felt so weak, when I was ill last week.
OK, how did you do? Did you manage to spot the homophones in those sentences? And how did you do at spelling them? It’s in the spelling that you can see the difference.
Let’s unpack those sentences.
- As I walked through the door, she threw a ball at me! So the first ‘through’ is spelt THROUGH - and it’s the preposition - ‘through the door’. The second ‘threw’ is THREW, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to throw’.
- I can’t bear to see a bare Christmas tree. So here the first ‘bear’ is BEAR, spelt like the animal, but this one is the verb ‘to bear’, which originally means ‘to carry’ - but here it means ‘to suffer’, ‘to tolerate’. ‘I can’t stand it’ would be another way of saying this. ‘I can’t bear to see a bare Christmas tree’. So the second bare, as in ‘bare Christmas tree’, is an adjective, BARE - meaning ‘not dressed’, ‘not decorated’ or ‘not clothed’.
- If you think you have the answer right, write it down. So these are really common words, so you’ve probably got this one right - the first one is ‘right’, RIGHT meaning ‘correct’, and the second one ‘write’ as in ‘write it down’ is WRITE. Well done!
- In here, you will hear one story - out there, you’ll hear a different story. So there are three homophones here - but two are spelt the same, or two are the same, rather. ‘In here’ means ‘in this place’ - and of course that’s spelt HERE. Then ‘you will hear’ and ‘you’ll hear’ - that’s HEAR. If you remember that ‘ear’ is spelt EAR, and you ‘hear with your ears’, that should help you remember this spelling.
- The nurse tried in vain to find a vein when she was taking blood. So again two homophones. ‘In vain’ means ‘without success’ - so that word ‘vain’ here is VAIN. But if you try to ‘find a vein’ - that means a tube in your body that’s full of blood. Think of Dracula! So that type of ‘vein’ is VEIN.
- One night a knight in shining armour arrived. Again, these are common words. ‘One night’ is NIGHT - And ‘a knight’ means a person, a person from history probably, if he’s ‘in shining armour’. But ‘a knight in shining armour’ is also a phase we use when we mean ‘someone who comes and rescues us from a bad situation’ - and we use this as an idiom. So ‘a knight in shining armour’ type knight is KNIGHT. ‘Value for money’ in terms of ‘silent consonants, that word! It’s also a common surname amongst English speakers, ‘Knight’ with a K.
- ‘Can you see the sea? It’s over there!’ their mother said. So two sets of homophones in this one! Again, common ones so you may well know them. ‘Can you see the sea?’ So the first ‘see’ is the verb ‘to see’, SEE and the second sea, ‘SEA’ is the ocean. And then ‘It’s over there!’ their mother said. So in ‘over there’, ‘there’ is a place, so THERE and then ‘their mother’ is possessive, so THEIR.
- I could fit my whole hand into the hole. So here, which way round are they? Well, ‘whole hand’ means ‘all of it, all of my hand’, so that’s WHOLE. And then ‘into the hole’ is a noun, HOLE - meaning a gap, a space, probably where it shouldn’t be!
- Late at night, I heard the herd on the move. So OK, ‘I heard’ is the past tense of the irregular, but very common verb ‘to hear’, so HEARD. And ‘the herd on the move’ - well a ‘herd’, HERD is a group of animals - sheep maybe or goats, and they’re moving around at night.
- Grate some cheese and we’ll make a great pizza. So the first ‘grate’ here is a verb - and it’s being used as a command, GRATE ‘Grate some cheese’ - it’s an imperative. Then the second ‘great’ here is the more familiar one, the adjective GREAT, which I’m sure you’ll know.
And the last one?
- Ooh! I felt so weak, when I was ill last week. So the first one is an adjective - ‘I felt so weak’, WEAK. It’s the opposite of ‘strong’. And ‘when I was ill last week’? Well, WEEK is of course a noun. It means ‘seven days’.
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OK, how was that? Did you get them right? How did you do? If not, listen to this podcast a number of times, until you can remember the answers. Homophones are something that you will come across all the time, so it’s quite useful to learn them.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.