Last week we spoke about a curious group of words known as heteronyms: words that are spelled the same as each other, but which are pronounced differently. Aside from being sounded out differently from one another, these words also have different meanings. There is another set of words that are similar to heteronyms but instead of being pronounced differently, they are in fact pronounced the same! These words are known as homophones; they are a group of words that share the same pronunciation; however, they may be spelled differently and have different meanings. Although confusing to those that are learning English, or are perhaps not fluent speakers, what is different, and also helpful, about these group of words is that the context of the sentence, as well as the spelling of each word, always gives away their meaning. What helps in this case is the fact that the pronunciation does not change, thus making them easier to learn to say.
Let’s observe a few of these types of words!
Same spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning:
Rose – “Rose,” the type of flower, is not the same as “rose” as in the past tense of word “rise.”
Gum – Chewing “gum,” is not the same as the type of “gum” above your teeth.
Fair – Going to the county “fair,” is not the same as getting a “fair” performance review at work.
Different spelling, same pronunciation, different meaning:
Sea and See – To explore the “sea” floor is not the same as what you “see” with your eyes.
Pair and Pear – A “pair” of shorts is not the same as eating a delicious “pear.”
To, Two, and Too – Going “to” the museum with only “two” friends is more relaxing than going with “too” many people.
There are hundreds of peculiar words like these ones, can you think of any others?