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Mastering English: Homophones

Homophones: The Most Difficult Word in the English Language

Homophones are words that sound the same but are often times spelled differently, have entirely different meaning and origins.

The origin of the word “homo”, from the Greek meaning, “same” and “phone” meaning “voice”.


Homophones are potentially confusing for both native and non-native speakers, and unfortunately, there is no easy way around them, but the confusion doesn’t stop there. There are actually four different terms that describe different types of homophones.

Homographs are words that sound and are even spelled the same but have different meanings.

Homonyms are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings 

Heterographs are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings

And lastly, Multinyms are words which sound the same but have more than two different meanings and spellings.

(Image/Content Credit: Oxford Royale Academy)

Phew! Take a second to think those over before driving your self even more crazy

Here are a few of the most challenging homophones (and you’d be surprised to know that a LOT of Americans get these wrong ALL the time!)


There, their, they’re

If you didn’t or don’t know the different between these words and the correct meanings, join the club of most Americans.

There - refers to a place that is not here (I am going over there.)

Their - indicates possession - (We are staying at their house for the trip.)

They’re - contraction of, “They are.” Example: They’re going to lose this game if they don’t start playing better.”


To, two, too

These three words have very different meanings and a very high number of native English speakers get confused by these words.

To - used in the infinitive form of a verb, “to play”, it also means “towards”

Too - means, “as well,” “also.” Example: I’m going, too.

Two - the number two, example, “I have two dogs.”



By - is a preposition which refers to somethings location or that something is beside, near or through. Example: Can you hand be that rake over there by the garage?”

Buy - verb meaning to purchase something. Example: I had to go to the store to buy some groceries.

Bye - a shortened version of, “Goodbye.”


Know, No

This example shows you how something can sound exactly the same but have entirely different meaning altogether

Know - to know means o be aware of something. The ‘k’ at the beginning is completely silent.

No - the opposite of yes and indicates a negative response.


These are just a few of the numbers homophones in the English language.

Here are a few others:













Can you think of any others?

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