When I see professional signs or business documents with words spelled incorrectly, it’s like someone’s dragging nails down a chalkboard, which is something I don’t want to hear.
But I try not to get too riled up. I know that spelling isn’t easy for everyone. However, I do believe that with a little effort, anyone can learn the proper spelling of a word.
I also realize that homophones present a special challenge because when two words sound exactly alike but are spelled differently, we have to work a little harder to remember which spelling goes with which definition.
Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and different meanings. These confusing words have instigated many headaches among writers, editors, and readers as well as the general population.
Some homophones are easier to master than others. Luckily, today, one of our homophones has an easy, built-in way to remember what it means and how it’s spelled.
To learn more about homophones in general and to find out about other word groups with similar pronunciations and confusing spellings, read Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs.
Hear and Here
The words “hear” and “here” have similar spellings and are pronounced exactly the same, but they have very different meanings. According to dictionary.com, here are the basic definitions of these homophones:
Hear (verb) – to perceive by the ear. I hear music.
Here (adverb) – in this place; in this spot or locality (as opposed to there). You are there and I am here.
Once you know what these words mean and that they have completely different definitions, all you have to do is find a way to remember when to use them properly in context. To do that, focus on the word “hear.” Take a close look at it and you’ll see that “hear” is simply the word “ear” with the letter h in front of it. And since you hear with your ear(s), it shouldn’t be difficult to remember that when you’re using the word “hear” in reference to listening or taking in sounds, you should use the spelling that has the word “ear” embedded in it.
Past Tense of Hear
The word “hear” is a bonus homophone because its past tense, “heard,” is also a homophone in its own right. Don’t confuse “heard” (as in I heard that song yesterday) with “herd” (as in Did you see that herd of buffalo?). Again, just remember that if it’s related to listening, it should have the word “ear” within its spelling.
Do you have any tricks you use to remember the difference between “hear” and “here?” Are there any other homophones that give you trouble? Share your tips and questions by leaving a comment.
Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. Sometimes, they’re also spelled differently. Compliment and complement are two such words.
Since homophones sound the same, they are often misspelled. Sometimes they’re misspelled because the writer doesn’t know there are two different spellings. In other cases, misspelled homophones are the result of typing too fast or failing to proofread carefully.
Spell check will not catch these typos because the spelling is legitimate, but it’s for a word with a different meaning.
To make it easier to remember which spelling goes with which meaning, we can use mnemonic devices, which are memory tricks. Today, we’re going to learn how to remember the difference between the homophones compliment and complement.
Homophones: Compliment and Complement
The meanings of these two words are fairly similar. However, there is a difference.
Compliment can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it indicates an expression of admiration, a formal act of regard, or good wishes. When you pay someone a compliment, you say something nice about them. To send someone your compliments is to send your regards.
As a verb, compliment simply means the act of offering a compliment. You might compliment someone’s clothes or hair. An act of kindness can also be expressed with the verb compliment: She complimented you by buying one of your books.
Like its homophone, complement can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, it indicates something that completes, enhances, or perfects another thing. You can use complement for things that go well together:
Root beer complements pizza.
It can also mean a full quantity:
There is a full complement of passengers on the plane.
As a verb, complement is simply the action form of the noun: Root beer really complements this pizza (goes well with).
Be aware that complement has many other related but more detailed definitions that are industry- or field-specific. These are applied in areas of grammar, mathematics, music, and medicine.
Mnemonic Tips for Remembering the Homophones Compliment and Complement
The only difference between the spelling of the words compliment and complement is that one has the letter i in the middle and the other has the letter e in the middle. So, all you have to do is figure out whether you need an i or an e.
The opposite of a compliment is an insult. Since insult starts with the letter i, ask whether the opposite is an insult. If it is, then you should use the spelling c-o-m-p-l-i-m-e-n-t.
When one thing complements another, it usually enhances it in some way. It makes the other thing even better. You know that enhance starts with an e, so just remember that if one thing enhances another, it complements it (with an e) and you should use the spelling c-o-m-p-l-e-m-e-n-t..
Homophones can be confusing, but by using mnemonic devices, it’s pretty easy to remember which spelling to use. Do homophones ever give you headaches? Are there any specific homophones that either confuse you or annoy you when you see them misspelled? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!
And keep writing…
Homophones can be confusing. Luckily, there’s an easy way to remember affect vs. effect.
I see it all the time: affect and effect mixed up as if they were completely interchangeable.
But they’re not.
These two homophones may sound exactly alike, but they don’t even belong to the same parts of speech!
If you’ve ever been typing along, written one of these words, and scrunched up your eyebrows wondering whether to spell it with an a or an e, then this grammar lesson is for you!
Affect vs. Effect
In the ongoing wars between homophones, affect vs. effect is one of the most brutal fights on the battlefield. One is usually a noun (but not always) and the other is usually a verb (but not always). So the war wages on, and in the meantime, misspellings and typos run rampant whenever one of these two words appears in print.
Affect is almost always a verb. It is something that happens. You are affected (by someone or something) or you affect (someone or something). This word is never preceded by an article such as an or the because it’s not a thing, it’s an action. When you’re writing, or speaking for that matter, and are unsure of the spelling, ask yourself if the word is being used as an action. If it is, then go with affect.
a = action
a = affect
Effect is a noun, and that is a thing. It’s not something you do, it’s something you have or give or something that just is. We hear this word most commonly in reference to fancy film making — you know — special effects. “The special effects in that movie were groundbreaking!” Note the use of the article, the, as in the effect. See that? Easy!
the = article
effect = noun
If you are using effect as a noun, you can pair it with the: the effect
Also note that if used with an adjective (or noun phrase), it’s effect (with an e):
- After effect
- Special effect
- Greenhouse effect
- Sound effect
- Effects of alcohol
- In effect…
- Adverse effects
- Positive/negative effects
- Cause and effect
- Side effects
That’s all for today! Do you think the battle of affect vs. effect can be won? Will we eventually learn how to spell these two homophones correctly or will they someday merge into a single word?
Do you have any homophones that you need clarified? Or are there any homophones out there that you just can’t seem to remember? Leave a comment and I’ll try to come up with a clever mnemonic device just for you! If you’re too shy to leave a comment, go ahead and use the contact form!
And if you have any tips or tricks for remembering how to spell affect vs. effect, then please share your knowledge. If you are stuck on any homophones, drop a comment. There’s a good chance your grammar question will be answered in the comments or in an upcoming post.
The English language is fraught with sound-alike words that look nothing alike on the page (or screen). These homophones have given many writers headaches as they agonize over word choice while composing poems, articles, essays, and stories.
Accept and except are two such words. Though not among the most commonly confused homophones, these two words do occasionally find themselves getting mixed up and used incorrectly.
Here’s a quick way to remember the difference between accept and except.
Accept means to take or receive, agree or consent, undertake responsibility, or reconcile oneself to something. In a sense, it means to acknowledge. You can’t actually accept something without acknowledging it, except in some very far-out circumstances. Since both words start with ac, it should be easy to remember that if acknowledgment is involved, then accept belongs in your sentence.
Which sentence below is correct?
I accept your proposal.
I except your proposal.
Is the proposal acknowledged? Then choose accept.
You know what’s special? The letter x. It’s special because it’s so rarely used. Wouldn’t you agree? We could almost say that the letter x is an exceptional letter. Remember this letter and these words together: x, exceptional, except. Because except always indicates something that is special or different from the others. It means with the exclusion of, with exception, or otherwise. It marks something as unique.
Which sentence below is correct?
Everyone accept me had read the book.
Everyone except me had read the book.
Does the sentence indicate something or someone who is unique, like one person who didn’t do something that everyone else did? Mark it with an x and use except.
Accept and Except (and Other Homophones)
What other homophones can you come up with besides accept and except? Are there any that you find especially perplexing? Share them in the comments!
Homophones are such trouble-makers. They confuse kids, slip past spell check, and pop up all over the place as typos and misspellings.
Homophones sound exactly alike when pronounced out loud but have completely different meanings.
To make things worse, many homophones have different spellings, which means spell check ignores them, since alternative spellings are correct.
These little devils of the English language give readers headaches and copyeditors nightmares, so it’s up to us as writers to learn how to use homophones correctly. If we can do that, we can spread proper homophone spelling and usage to the far corners of the planet.
They’re, There, and Their
I’m willing to bet that they’re, there, and their are among the most commonly misspelled and misused words in the English language. You see it all the time – in newspapers and magazines, on blog posts and comments, even on signs and advertisements – there is used where their should be, and vice versa. Throw they’re into the mix and you’ve got a big linguistic spelling mess.
It’s pretty disheartening.
But there are some easy ways to remember which homophone is correct when you’re using they’re, there, and there. And for those of you who already know how these three homophones should be used properly, let this be a reminder that we cannot rely on spell check.
This is the easiest of the three because it’s a contraction, which means that the word itself is actually two words shortened and joined by an apostrophe:
They + are = they’re
If you can say “they are” in place of “they’re” then you are using it correctly. But if “they are” just doesn’t work, then you’ll need to look to one of the other spellings of this word.
The trick to remembering how to use there is hidden inside the word itself. There refers to a distant location.
She put her books over there.
In the example above, there refers to a place. Another word that refers to a place is here, which refers to a nearby location.
She left her books here.
If you’re using there to indicate a location (i.e. over there), make sure you use the spelling that has the word here tucked inside: T H E R E
Their is a possessive pronoun. This means it’s a word used to show that someone owns something. For example:
The Smiths just washed their car.
The car belongs to them (the Smiths), and their demonstrates ownership. How to remember? Well, look at the spelling: t-h-e-i-r. Within this word is another word, and as luck would have it, this other word also implies (future) ownership. The word inside is heir.
If you’re using their to indicate ownership or possession, check to see if the word heir is within the spelling: T H E I R
Get in on the Homophones Challenge
Here are a few more sets of homophones:
Do you ever get hung up on how to properly spell and use homophones? Got any tricks for remembering correct homophone spellings? Can you think of any other homophones to add to this list?
They perplex us, confuse us, and make our heads spin. If you thought learning how to correctly spell words that sound alike was difficult, wait till you try to learn the terms for describing those words.
Homophones are words that are pronounced alike but have different meanings.
Some examples are accept and except, affect and effect, and triplets too and to and two, along with they’re and their and there.
Homophones may also refer to words that are spelled and pronounced the same, but differ in meaning, for example lie (lie down) and lie (an untruth).
These words are a major source of frustration for many writers, students, and professionals who struggle to memorize variant spellings for words that sound alike but have different meanings. English teachers and other spelling perfectionists wince when homophones are written incorrectly.
Worst of all, spell check won’t catch the error when incorrect homophones are used because alternative spellings are legitimate.
And to confuse matters further, there are other words called homonyms, which are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings. Examples include words like stalk, which could refer to the stem of a plant (a stalk of corn), or the act pursuing or approaching prey (the cat stalked the mouse).
Another example of a homonym is lie — as in lie down or telling a lie (or untruth).
That’s right, some homophones can also be classified as homonyms – if they’re spelled the same.
Confused yet? Wait. There’s more.
Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. They may be pronounced the same or they could be pronounced differently from one another.
This means that some homographs are homophones and homonyms.
A good homograph example is record (a disc that plays audio) and record (to save or register something – in writing, audio, video, etc.).
How To Remember Homophones, Homonyms, and Homographs
It’s not easy but it can be done. You can remember the difference (what difference there is) between homophones, homonyms, and homographs by breaking each word down and recalling the meaning of its root suffix and prefix. Also, try remembering each term separately to start, and don’t worry about which homophones are homonyms and which homonyms are homographs.
The root homo means “the same.” For all of these words something is the same – the spelling or the pronunciation.
- Homophones sound alike. That’s the only rule and you can remember by the suffix phone, a word you can surely relate to sound. They may be spelled alike or not but they must sound alike.
- Homonyms are spelled alike. Same name. Name = nym. Like the words “same” and “name” they also sound alike.
- Homographs look alike (same spelling). Like graphs, they are visual. With the prefix homo, they are visually the same.
Easy enough? Sure it is!
Do you have your own tricks for remembering homophones, homonyms, and homographs? Do you find any of them especially confusing? Share your tips, ideas, and questions in the comments.