Homophones, Homonyms, Homographs and Heteronyms

Homophones

When it comes to learning and grammar, the pronunciation of English words and sentences can be weird. You probably would have observed this if you’ve learned English even for a short period of time. You may be surprised to hear that the word “two” was pronounced the same way as “to.” For instance, when you learn the past tenses, you’ll come across words like “ate,” which has the same tone as “eight.”

Let’s face the truth; these kinds of words may make it strange and confusing to pronounce for English learners and even native English speakers.

Words described above that have the same sound but different meanings are homophones. In this piece, you’ll be learning about homophones and a few other things you need to know about them. Let’s begin by taking a brief look at the meaning of homophones:

What Is A Homophone?

As mentioned earlier, homophones refers to sets of words such as “you’re” and “your,” which has the same tone and pronunciation but different meanings entirely. The root of the word, “homo” simply means “same,” while the second word “phone” means “sound.” For instance, “ate” and “eight” are homophones as “two” and “to.”

Why Is It Essential to Use Homophones Correctly?

Homophones are often a tricky part of correct grammar. In English language, a few of the often used homophones form a significant part of the common grammar mistakes.

While homophones may be a bit confusing especially to ESL students, learning it consistently will help you use homophones properly. Once you are able to understand the right usage of homophones, you’ll be able to avoid mistakes in English grammar as well as improve your overall understanding of the English language.  

Examples Of Homophones

Homophones usually occur in a group of two or three, and they can even be up to three or four in a group in some cases. However, you must identify and able to recognise the most common homophones because the spellings changes the entire meaning of the sentence.

Here are a few of the most common homophones in English language:

  • Air, heir.
  • Buy, by
  • Scent, cent
  • Die, dye.
  • Hear, here.
  • Heal, heel.
  • Course, coarse.
  • Knot, not.
  • Meat, meet.
  • Hour, our.
  • Made, maid.
  • Piece, peace.
  • Poor, pour
  • Mourning, morning.
  • Wear, where

Now that we’ve listed a few examples of homophones, let’s proceed by using them in the construction of meaningful sentences.

  • The gardenias produced a pleasant scent.
  • Rebecca wants to apply a blue dye on her clothes.
  • Vegetarians are people who doesn’t engage in the consumption of meat.
  • While the sun hides behind the clouds, my son is currently in search of the hidden treasure.
  • Where do we meet for lunch?

There you have it! An overview of homophones and their usage in English learning and grammar. However, most people are of the opinion that homophones are pretty cool and easy to use in constructing meaningful sentences. Mastering a few of the earlier listed homophones will significantly reduce your chance of using the wrong choice of words in your writing.

Homonyms

“Have you heard about a man who left the town by turning to the left side at the stoplight? He discovered that he forgot to make use of his arm to arm the alarm of his house. So, the next thing he could do was to turn right because that was the right thing to do.”

Homonyms are two words with the same spelling and sound the same but different meanings. The word “homonym” was derived from the prefix “homo,” which means “same” and the suffix “-nym,” which means “name.” Hence, homonyms are words that have a similar name as another word. This implies that two words that sound and look exactly alike.

 A typical example of a homonym is the word “pen.” The word pen can have two possible meanings. One is “an area that encloses animals,” and the other is “an instrument used in writing.” One other typical example is the word “book.” This could mean “something to read,” and it could also mean “the act of making reservations.” In both situations, the two words used “book” and “pen” possesses the same sound and spellings, but the meaning changes.

Examples Of Homonyms

Now that we’ve had an overview of the meaning of homonyms, we’ll proceed to learn a few of the examples and also use them in the construction of meaningful sentences.

  • Address: This could mean “a particular location” or “to speak with someone.”
  • Bright: This word could mean “very smart or intelligent” or to describe something that’s “filled with light.”
  • Current: The word current could mean “flow of water” or “up to date.”
  • Express: This could mean “the act of doing something faster than the normal time” or the act of “showing your thought with words.”
  • Fair: This word could mean “beautiful” or “equitable.”
  • Kind: The word kind could mean “a type of something” or “the act of being caring.”
  • There you have it! Perhaps an overview of homonyms and a few examples. However, if you’ve come across a word that doesn’t seem to make sense in a context, you should endeavor to check for the alternative meanings.

Homographs

Homographs are words that have the same spellings but have different meanings entirely. For instance, the word “present” in English can either be used as a noun to qualify a “gift” or used as a verb, which means “to offer.” Apart from that, it can also be used as an adjective, which means “something is in a specific location.”

Usually, some dictionaries such as Oxford Advanced Dictionary also explain that homographs can be used for two meanings, especially words that come from different origins. For instance, “lead” could a homograph because it possesses two meanings. While one is a noun that refers to a metal that is used in the manufacture of paints, the other is a verb which means “to guide the ways for others”. This implies that the word “lead” comes from two different root words.

Examples Of Homographs

Now that you have a brief on the meaning of homographs, here are a few examples of the common ones in English learning and grammar:

  • Accent: This could mean emphasis or stress. It could also mean “a speech or pronunciation influenced by the particular region in which someone resides or grew up.”
  • Bass: This could be used to describe a deep voice or tone. It could also mean “a kind of fish.”
  • Compound: The word “compound” could be used to describe a combination of something. On the other hand, it could also be used to describe an enclosed area that has a building or multiple buildings enclosed.
  • Contract: “Contract” is a word used to describe an agreement or to get, incur, or acquire something.
  • Discount: This word could mean a reduction in the price or value of something. Apart from that, it could also mean “the act of undermining the significance of something or to give credence to something.”
  • Project: The word “project” could be used to describe a plan or proposal. In other cases, it could also describe the act of throwing or hurling forward. In another example, it could also be used to describe a shadow or image to fall upon a particular surface.
  • Subject: “Subject” has numerous meanings and applications. It could be used to describe a situation where some people are under a particular authority. In another case, it could also mean “to make liable” or “vulnerable.” “Subject” also means a topic or a noun in a sentence that discusses something that is said in the predicate. 
  • Refuse: The word “refuse” can be used as waste or garbage. In another case, it could also be used to describe an act of rejecting or decline a particular thing.
  • Tear: The word “tear” means to rip off. It also means “a drop of water from the eye” in another situation.
  • Desert: Desert could mean “a hot region.” In another situation, it could also mean the act of leaving somewhere.

In conclusion, the above list is just a few from the samples of homographs that exists. In English language, there are hundreds of homographs compared to the homographs that exist in other languages and even the ones that exist between languages. All you need do is to master a few of the common homographs in order to use them appropriately in sentences.

Heteronyms

“The local dump was so overflowing that it had to refuse refuse.”

If you are like many other people, the above sentence looks wrong. This is because it features the repetition of the same word twice in a row. Therefore, it is assumed as not been a proper grammar.

While it might be true that repeated words are wrong grammar, that sentence features two different words spelled identically. If you go over that sentence for a second round, the first “refuse” is a verb that simply means “deny” while the latter “refuse” means “trash.”

Heteronyms are words that are spelled identically but possess different meanings and pronunciations. The English language features a wide variety of heteronyms. Due to the fact that they have different pronunciations, it would be a bit challenging to notice them in everyday speech easily.

Examples Of Heteronyms

In writing, heteronyms are a bit trickier, especially if English isn’t your first language. However, there are multiple contexts to help you figure the right meaning and pronunciations of these heteronyms.

Let’s take a look at a few of the examples of heteronyms.

  • How many produce does the farm produce?
  • Many people desert the desert than in the mountains.
  • The researcher had the plan to subject the subjects to a psychological test.
  • Until the time he wrecked the mop, he used to mop all day.
  • The man that came from polish decided to polish his table in his desired colour.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, as an English speaker, you need to spend quality time mastering the relationship and differences between homophones, homonyms, homographs, and heteronyms. With these, you’ll be able to utilise these words correctly in English speaking and grammar. Above all, your overall understanding of English grammar will be significantly increased.

Get started with writing. But remember, always plan before you start! Here’s one handy guide for you to get started!