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Homophones!



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Sun Apr 12, 2009 11:54 am
Mars says...



In elementary school, my teacher told us about homophones: those words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things. These poor words cause a lot of confusion, and, unfortunately, using the wrong one can distort the meaning of your work. So I've compiled a list of some of the most commonly mixed-up homophones and their meanings.

accept & except

Accept is a verb which means 'to adapt to,' 'to receive,' or 'to agree to' something. Except is a preposition or verb and means "excluding" or "to exclude."

Susie accepted the award with a handshake and a smile.
They were all covered in dirt, except him.

alter & altar

Alter is a verb meaning 'to change.' Altar is a noun: a table used in some religious ceremonies (such as where priests prepare Communion during a Catholic Mass).

We altered the dress to fit like a glove.
Ursula stood in white at the altar, wondering if she had left the stove on.

by, bye, & buy

By is a preposition indicating nearness. Bye is a shortened form of 'goodbye,' meaning farewell. Buy is a verb meaning 'to purchase.'

Isabel's house is by the seaside.
"Bye!" she called, as Oliver disappeared down the street.
Ian buys way too many shoes.

desert & dessert

Desert is a noun: a dry, sandy area. Dessert is a different noun: the sweet stuff in the last course of a meal.

The desert winds twisted the sand up into a whirlwind.
We ate tiramisu and fruit kebabs for dessert.

its & it's

This is one of the most common homophone mix-ups, for good reason: much of the time, when we see 's, it signifies possession.

It's is different, however. It's is a contraction of it is. Thus, to avoid confusion between contraction and possession, the possessive form of it doesn't use an apostrophe: its is the possessive form, signifying ownership. Examples:

It's only twenty degrees out. (It is only twenty degrees out.)
Its fur was the color of burnt oranges. [The fur belonging to it was the color of burnt oranges.]

past & passed

Passed is a verb, the past-tense form of pass. Past is, well, history.

She passed Timothy the carrots; I passed by her.
"I don't want to talk about your past, okay?"

peace, piece, & peas

All three of these words are nouns, but their meanings differ. Peace is the opposite of war. A piece is a part of something. Peas are vegetables.

One day, we'll achieve world peace.
The glass window shattered to pieces.
Yvette likes her peas frozen.

scents, sense, & cents

Scents is the plural form of the noun scent, meaning smell. A sense is a feeling (think our five senses). It can also be a verb. And cents are US currency.

The scents in the air were different perfumes.
His spidey-sense was tingling.
In Benedetto's wallet she found twenty dollars and thirteen cents.

they're, their, & there

Along with it's and its, these are some of the most commonly confused homophones. As it's is a contraction of it is, they're is a contraction of they are. Their is the possessive form of they. There is an unrelated word indicating a position or a place.

They're getting angry! (They are getting angry now!)
I took their hat. [I took the hat belonging to them.]
You go and stand over there.

too, to, & two

This is another of the most common cases of confusion! Too is an adverb meaning 'as well as,' 'also,' or 'excessively.' To is a preposition indicating direction. Two is a number.

I want a banana too; I was driving too fast.
Richard is going to Phoenix tomorrow; I gave a gift to her.
"Two pills every day for a week, John."

you're & your

This homophone mix-up follows the same rules as it's and its. You're is a contraction of you are. Your is the possessive form of you.

You're incredibly cute. [You are incredibly cute.]
Your pants are on fire. [The pants belonging to you are on fire.]

What other homophones do you struggle with?
'life tastes sweeter when it's wrapped in poetry'
-the wombats


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Thu Apr 16, 2009 3:33 pm
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Demeter says...



Hi, Mars! Good thing you brought this up.

their is the plural form of they


Correction: it's the possessive form. :)

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