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Confusing words

Homonyms, homophones and homographs can make it very easy to misspell, mispronounce or misinterpret words in English. Despite being difficult you will find that they add to the diversity of the language as well as being very useful for comedic purposes. To start with let´s look at the difference between these 3 tools.

A homonym (homo- = the same and -nym = name) are words that sound alike but actually have a different meaning. Occasionally they have a different spelling but they can be spelt the same. “Lie (untrue) and Lie (Lie down).

A homophone is similar to a homonym, as it sounds alike but has a different meaning but will always have a different spelling. Examples include “Their, There and They`re”, Sea and See”, . Homonyms can cause confusion in spoken English if the correct meaning has not been specified. If your friend phoned you and said he had an Ant/Aunt in the kitchen it wouldn´t be immediately obvious if he was talking about an insect or the sister of his father.

A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word but crucially has an alternative pronunciation and meaning. This is something that often doesn´t happen in other languages as pronunciation rules are often much more concrete than in English. An example of a homograph is “Live”. As in, “I live in Barcelona” (/lɪv/) or “Shakira is playing live tonight in Palau Sant Jordi” (/laɪv/).


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