Grammar-ease: Those Words That Are Spelled the Same, Sound the Same…

It’s been a while since I’ve done a grammar post. As I’ve been writing lately, my fingers have been coming up with their own spellings of words that pass spellcheck but aren’t correct. And, voila, today’s post was born!

What are the words called that are spelled the same but sound different?

How about the words that sound the same but are spelled different? What are they called?

And then, what about those words that are spelled the same and sound the same? What are those called?

Here’s the cheat / check list:



Homophones are words that sound the same when pronounced and are spelled differently. (think ‘phone’ = ‘sound’) Examples:

  • adds / ads
  • air / heir
  • ate / eight
  • bare /bear
  • bread / bred
  • days / daze
  • dear / deer
  • dew / do
  • doe / dough
  • feat / feet
  • fore / for / four
  • hire / higher
  • lead / led
  • loan / lone
  • meat / meet
  • pair / pare / pear
  • sail / sale
  • sew / so
  • there / their / they’re
  • wear / where

Homographs are words that are spelled the same and they can sound the same, but don’t have to. (think ‘graph’ = spelling) Examples:

  • bear (animal) / bear (carry something)
  • bow (bend forward) / bow (of a ship)
  • fair (reasonable) / fair (in appearance)
  • lead (bullet) / lead (be in front)
  • lean (thin) / lean (rest against)
  • plain (ordinary) / plain (flat country)
  • porter (beer) / porter (person)
  • punch (drink) / punch (in the face)
  • tear (apart) / (cry a ) tear
  • train (teach) / train (transportation)

Homonyms are words that are spelled the same and/or sound the same – they are a combination of homophones and homographs. (think ‘onym’ = name). Examples:

  • lead / led
  • mean (nasty) / mean (math term)
  • muscle / mussel
  • pen (to write with) / pen (to cage animals)
  • pour / pore

***Tip — all homonyms are homophones because they sound the same

Does this help clarify the terms and differences?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

6 thoughts on “Grammar-ease: Those Words That Are Spelled the Same, Sound the Same…

  1. Yes, this post certainly “bares” repeating. The English language is difficult enough to learn without all the exceptions to the rules and then one begins to realize, as beautiful a language as English is to the musical ear, it is a mess of contradictions. However, it is a jigsaw puzzle I enjoy figuring out, at times, and then there are moments of shear angst and fear. Thank you for your great post. I really need to read through your older posts to learn more. By the way, I was born and raised in America. Karen

  2. I love this post. It reminds me of my English language course when I was in Dublin and we also talked a lot about homophones. You are very good at explaining confusing topics and making them easy 🙂

  3. Hey Lisa!

    Thanks for explaining that – I am speaking English for 9 years now and still make huge mistakes. Sometimes I just think: Wait, for my foreign ear it sounds like that, but actually it must sound like that – when in fact I heard right! example air/heir omg, hair sounds also like that.

    And you just exposed me to a lot fo new words, I’m always in for them:)

    It’s the same with German tho, especially dialect, don’t worry. I prefer English to German, more exact.


  4. It was my understanding that homonyms are words that MEAN the same thing, regardless of spelling, pronunciation, etc. (The word homonym does mean ‘same name.’) I suppose it’s possible, though, that the definition has shifted since I was a teacher; American English was a different language in the 1990s.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s