Homonyms (also called homophones) are words that are pronounced the same way, but mean different things. They are also words that are spelled the same way that differ in meaning.
Where can I get a long list of homonyms?
This list includes 100 homonyms,
Alan Cooper provides a long list of homonyms in alphabetical order.
I have provided a slide show of commonly used homonyms below.
Remember: Your spell check will not catch a homonym mishap! This poem is an example of why you need to know the differences between words:
MY SPELL CHECKER
I have a gnu spell checker; it came with my pea see.
It plane lee marks four my review miss steaks aye dew knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it, yore shore reel glad to no;
Its very polished in it’s weigh. My checker tolled me sew.
Each frays come posed up on my screen eye trust to be a joule.
The checker pores or every word to cheque sum spelling rule...
This slide show provides examples of common homonyms and how to properly use them.
This video, while not as exciting as a music video, provides a practical discussion of homonyms, what they are, and commonly used homonyms.
This video discusses homonyms, and gives you a method of remembering them.
Principal is different from principle because principal ends in "pal." The principal of your school is your pal!
Accept is to receive something. Note that there are two Cs in the word. The letter "C" sounds like the verb "to see". OK. I see and you see the object being exchanged between us. Here's an example: The client accepted our bid. First we had to see (C) the bid as we created it, then the client had to see (C) the bid, then it was accepted.
Except begins with EX meaning "to out something". Here's an example: Everything is finished except the invitations. This means that on the list of all that had to be done, it's all completed (checked off, out of the picture) except the one thing - invitations.
The difference between these two words is the "S" and the "C", so that is the focus of the memory trick. Advice is when you give your two cents worth of your thoughts to someone. It is usually no big deal, but you just feel you need to put your two cents worth into the discussion. Note that cents begins with a "C". There's your memory trick. Here's an example: His advice is to take the short cut. Take it or leave it, it's just his advice.
Advise is an action and actions are serious. If you ask for someone's opinion, it is usually because you are in some sort of a quandary and you need someone to help you. This is a more serious matter than someone just giving you an opinion. Serious starts with "S" and something serious requires action - someone to advise you. Example: He advised us to take the short cut. In other words, you'd better take the short cut!
Your memory trick in these two words is the double "n". In the case of the single "n" it means one on one, direct contact; this one is personal. In the case of the double "n" however, it means a group of people who work for a company. So one "n" means one and the double "n" means more than one. Here is one example that covers both words: The boss wants to have a personal conversation with all of the company's personnel.
Then is used to describe the order of events. Note that the word "then" has an "e" in it - so does the word "events". Remember when you're discussing the order of events to use then. Example: I asked for the burger and fries and then I changed my mind.
Than is used in comparisons. Note that both words have an "a": than; comparisons. Example: I like spelling more than grammar.
The best thing I learned from that elementary teacher so long ago was to think of concrete tricks in abstract terms. Spelling tricks are very beneficial and once you find one that works for you, you are not likely to ever forget it.
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