Homonyms, homophones and homographs
If you ask our students what they find the most difficult about learning English, they will probably say ‘spelling’ or ‘pronunciation’. Unlike Spanish, where words are pronounced as they are written, English is full of words with unpronounced letters and bizarre spellings.
Even more confusingly, there are many words which look or sound the same but have different meanings, for example to (the preposition), too (too much) or two (the number); or read (present) and read (‘red’ past). These are homonyms, homophones and homographs.
Homonyms (same sound, same spelling)
Homonyms are words which are spelt the same and pronounced the same, but have a different meaning.
Right (to be correct) - Right (the direction)
Train (the verb) - Train (the transport)
Ring (the verb) - Ring (the object)
Homophones (same sound, different spelling)
Homophones are words which have the same pronunciation but are spelt differently. For example, as well as having right to be correct and right the direction, we have write the verb.
Meet (the verb) - Meat (the food)
Sun (in the sky)- Son (a male child)
See (the verb) - Sea (the ocean)
Homographs (different sound, same spelling)
Homographs are words which are spelt the same but have a different pronunciation, like the example of readabove.
Tear (the verb, sounds like ‘air’) - Tear (the thing you cry, sounds like ‘ear’)
Bow (the verb, sounds like ‘cow’) - Bow (the weapon with arrows, sounds like ‘no’)
Windy (the weather, sounds like ‘win’) - Windy (a curvy road or river, sounds like ‘wine’)’
These are just a few examples of these very interesting words. Can you think of any more?