Homophones—Not Identical Twins

Many words in the English language sound exactly the same. But they have different spellings and most often have unrelated meanings. These words are called “homophones.” Words such as to, too, and two are an example. All three words sound the same, but they are spelled and used differently. There are other “word twins” that look or sound so similar that writers commonly confuse them. Let’s get these words rite—I mean, right! 🙂

* KEEP THIS LIST HANDY *

ACCEPT vs. EXCEPT
Accept = to receive (I accept your gift. Will you accept that job offer? He was accepted by the group.)
Except = to exclude something or someone (We’re open every day except Sunday. I will eat anything on a pizza except anchovies. Everyone attended the family meeting except the baby.)

AFFECT vs. EFFECT
Affect = to have an impact on something or someone (Rain affects the growth of crops. My cousins were affected by the hurricane. Our bodies are affected by what we eat and drink.)
Effect = the outcome or change due to some factor (The effect of not sleeping for three days straight is exhaustion. The effect of the hurricane was severe damage to people and property. The law went into effect and changed the community. The law effected a change in the community.)

AW vs. AWE
Aw = a sound we make to express emotion (Write “aw” or “aww” when you see a cute picture or video.)
Awe = the feeling of wonder or fear (I stood in awe watching the northern lights. She knelt in awe before the king. Do not write “awe” when you see a cute picture or video!)

BEAR vs. BARE
Bear = the animal, to deal with something (Please bear with me a moment while I explain. She couldn’t bear the pain. It was a heavy burden to bear.)
Bare = be unclothed, minimal (Please bare with me = get unclothed with me! The room was bare. He gave us the bare facts.)

BLOND vs. BLONDE
Blond = a yellowish color, having hair of a pale yellow color (She has blond hair. He is a blond. The cabinets were made of blond wood.)
Blonde = only used as a noun when describing a female—no other uses. (She is a blonde. That blonde is my sister.)

BREAK vs. BRAKE
Break = fracture, separate, damage (Did you break your bone? Here, I’ll break my candy bar in half. If you break your phone, I’m not buying you a new one. He ran over to break up the fight.)
* Side note: This is the word used in the slang phrase “Give me a break.”
Brake = something to stop movement (He hit the brakes when a skunk waddled into the road. We put the brakes on the proposed plan.)

BREATH vs. BREATHE
Breath = the air that comes out of your mouth (The dog has nasty breath. I have to catch my breath.)
Breathe = the action of inhaling/exhaling (I can’t breathe with all the smoke in the room. I wear a scuba set to breathe underwater.)

CLICK vs. CLIQUE
Click = a noise, or the way something fits (We heard the click of the lock opening. The two people on the blind date didn’t click.)
Clique = an exclusive group of people (The kids on the chess team were in their own clique.)

CUE vs. QUEUE
Cue = a signal (The band leader gave us the cue to start. The movie director cued the actor to run down the alley. I try to read cues on people’s faces to figure out their feelings.)
Queue = a long line (I waited in a queue for an hour to get tickets to the concert.)

EVERY DAY vs. EVERYDAY
Every day = Specifically means each day (I eat breakfast every day. She has gymnastic practice every day.)
Everyday = Common, usual, ordinary—but not every single day (I jog everyday. These are my everyday jeans. The everyday needs of third world countries are not being met.)

EVERY ONE vs. EVERYONE
Every one = Specifically means each person or object (Every one of the students passed the test. Every one of the gold coins were fake.)
Everyone = A generic term for people—but not literally every single person (Everyone was at the party. Everyone in Boston speaks funny. Everyone hates broccoli.)

FAZE vs. PHASE
Faze = not bothered or disturbed (Nothing fazes him. The bear was not fazed by the raccoon crossing his path.)
Phase = a part of a process or cycle (She photographs the phases of the moon. The next phase of construction starts next week. The bakery phased out chili cupcakes since they weren’t selling.)

FOUL vs. FOWL
Foul = something smelly, terrible, or wrong (The trash has a foul smell. She’s in a foul mood today. We got lost in the foul weather. The boxer lost because of a foul blow.)
Fowl = a bird of any kind

HEAR vs. HERE
Hear = what your ears physically grasp (Do you hear the noisy fowl in the henhouse? He wanted to hear her explanation. The musician was embarrassed to hear his guitar was out of tune.)
Here = in or at a place (I’m finally here. Turn here at the yellow house. Grandma lived here for ninety years.)
* Side note: the idiom is written “Hear! Hear!” (not “Here, here”).

NEVER MIND vs. NEVERMIND
Never mind = telling someone not to worry about something (When I asked what was wrong, he said, “Never mind. It’s nothing important.”)
Nevermind = This is not a word! Never write this.

NO ONE vs. NOONE
No one = not a single person (No one came to my party. No one raised their hand in class.)
Noone = This is not a word! Never write this.

PASSED vs. PAST
Passed = already moved beyond a point (The truck passed me and honked. The deer passed behind the hunter and was safe. The time has passed for me to use this coupon. My grandad passed on.)
Past = no longer current, further than (Don’t laugh—our past school mascot was a cockroach. The past few summers have been extra hot. The Olympic champion raced past her competitors.)

PEAK vs. PEEK vs. PIQUE
Peak = the top or highest point (I climbed to the peak of the mountain. There is a bird on the peak of the roof. The actor was at the peak of his popularity five years ago. Our sales numbers were at their peak in January.)
Peek = glance quickly or secretly (The cat peeked from under the couch at the visitors. I ripped opened a corner of my birthday present to get a peek.)
Pique = to provoke in a positive or negative way (The envelope under the door piqued my curiosity. The movie piqued my anger, and I walked out of the theater.)

RAP vs WRAP
Rap = a sharp blow, negative allegations (After the rap on the head with the bat, I got a concussion. They got a bad rap for lying. The criminal had a long rap sheet.)
Wrap = to cover with something, to finish (I hurried to wrap the gift before she arrived. The sandwich was poorly wrapped, so it fell out onto the floor. The actors were relieved to wrap up the movie.)

RIGHT vs. RITE
Right = accurate, proper, suitable, the right side of the body (Do you know the right protocol for meeting the dignitary? She got the right answer to the riddle. He is the right man for the job. Look out the window to your right. The boxer hit his opponent with a right hook to the jaw.)
Rite = ritual or ceremony (They performed last rites when he passed. Ancient cultures performed specific rites for special occasions.)

ROOT vs. ROUTE
Root = the underground part of something, to dig out, to establish, to cheer (I had a root canal. You have to pull weeds out by the roots, or they’ll grow back. He determined to root out the perpetrator of the crime. They put down roots in their new country. I love to root for my team. Let’s root for our teammate as he competes.)
Route = a direction of travel (Someday I want to travel the entire way on Route 66. The shortest route is through the woods, but it’s more dangerous. No matter the weather, he always goes on his delivery route.)

SET UP vs. SETUP
Set up = to arrange something, to install software on a computer, to set up a meeting/plans—an action. (We set up the chairs on the patio. Set up the cameras to get the best lighting.)
Setup = the position of equipment, a table setting, a camera position, etc.—a layout. (The setup of the chairs on the patio was a circle. The camera setup captured the best lighting.) Also, it’s used for the slang phrase “It was a setup.”

SOME DAY vs. SOMEDAY
Some day = an unknown day with a specific outcome (Let’s go to the beach some day next week. Let’s find some day when we’re both free and visit that museum. Some days you can see the moon when the sun is still high.)
Someday = an unknown time in the future with an undetermined outcome (I’m going to be rich someday. We’re going to travel to Italy someday.)

SOME TIME vs. SOMETIME
Some time = a long time or a while back (It took us some time to put all 500 chairs away. It will take him some time to finish painting the entire house. Some time ago, this was a dirt road.)
Sometime = an unspecified time in the future or past (Sometime let’s go on a cruise. Sometime last week, someone stole his skateboard.)

THAN vs. THEN
Than = used to make comparisons (He can run faster than any of us. Your dog is bigger than mine.)
Then = soon afterward, a consequence (We went shopping and then out to eat. The neighbors called 911, then the fire trucks arrived. She twisted her ankle, then couldn’t finish the marathon. If I don’t study, then I won’t pass the test.)

There are many other words that writers get mixed up, such as: angle/angel, clinch/clench, compliment/complement, grisly/grizzly, mantle/mantel, pore/pour/pore, to/too/two, who’s/whose, your/you’re. Do you know the difference between them?


Savvy Writer Tip:

Now you know what homophones are. There are other words that look like twins, but are not. If you’re (not your) unsure about the correct spelling and usage of a word, look it up before using it. Savvy writers always make sure they use homophones and “almost twin” words accurately. 🙂


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