Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings. They confuse readers and writers, and are often the source of frustrating spelling mistakes.
There are lots of tricks available to help you differentiate between homophones. In some cases, you can use mnemonics to remember which spelling to use. In other cases, you just have to memorize the words, their meanings, and their spellings.
In any case, it helps to understand the structure of language so you can more easily recognize words (including homophones) and how to use (and spell) them properly.
For example, knowing how to diagram a sentence and being able to identify parts of speech will give you an advantage when it comes to telling the difference between homophones.
Weather and Whether
The words weather and whether are typical homophones and especially confusing ones. They sound exactly alike and are spelled quite similarly. A third, incorrect spelling often appears, which is a combination of the two spellings (wheather). Luckily, they have vastly different meanings and there are some tricks we can use to remember all of them.
1. Wheather is NOT a word: no heat
It would make perfect sense if the spelling w-h-e-a-t-h-e-r were used for the word that refers to the outdoor temperature because embedded in that spelling is the word heat. Unfortunately, this spelling simply does not exist. There is no heat. So if you’re using either of these homophones, remember that the letter string h-e-a-t should not appear. No heat.
2. Weather is related to climate
Weather is a noun and it deals with sunshine and storms. It may not be 100% tangible but we can certainly feel the weather on our skin when we step outside.
Ever notice that the weather affects your appetite? On cold days soup sounds tasty and on hot days, nothing hits the spot like an ice cream or an icy slush. Yes, the weather may help you decide what to eat. Notice that the word eat is conveniently buried inside the word weather.
3. Whether or not
Whether is a conjunction, close relative of the famous and, or, but, and yet, and it’s often used to determine something: tell me whether or not you’ve finished this blog post.
Using the phrase whether he writes or not, we can form a mnemonic device that will help us remember how to spell this homophone.
You see, the only difference in spelling between the two homophones weather and whether is that after the w, one has the letters ea and the other has the letters he. As I’m sure you realize, he is an actual word (ea is not).
If you can remember the phrase, whether he writes or not, you can easily recall that whether, which is a conjunction, has he within its spelling. Say it over and over: whether he, whether he, whether he. You’ll have it memorized in no time.
Got any tips you’d like to add for remembering how to tell the difference between weather and whether? Have a grammar question of your own or a set of homophones that give you aches and pains? Leave a comment!