English words that have a variety of spellings and meanings

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Homophones are words that are spelled differently and have different meanings, but sound the same. There are hundreds of homophones in the English language and while you work hard on the speaking part, it can become more confusing when writing them down. This can make things complicated for any learner – and quite often, English native speakers as well. A good way to find a link between these types of words is to watch English films with subtitles – reading the word and hearing its context in spoken language can be extremely helpful. Here we explore some of the more common homophones you may come across…

Two/too/to

Two – a number
E.g. There were two people
• Too – in addition; also.
E.g. She’s going to the park, too
Too – an excessive amount
E.g. It was too much
To – in the direction of; towards
E.g. We’re going to the shop

Where/ware/we’re

Where – in, at, or going to a place or end point
E.g. Where are we going? Where do you live?
Ware – usually used as the plural ‘wares’ – goods for sale
E.g. The trader was selling his wares at the market

Right/rite/write

Right – when something is correct (opposite of wrong)
E.g. You were right
Right – A direction (opposite of left)
E.g. Turn right at the next corner
Rite – a ceremonial religious act
E.g. The rite of baptism
Rite – A customary practice
E.g. It’s a rite of passage to go to the football as a teenager
Write – to produce words
E.g. Write your name on the envelope

Buy/by/bye

Buy – to purchase something
E.g. I want to buy a new bag
By – near or next to
E.g. We walked by the river
Bye – short for ‘goodbye’
E.g. I’ll see you tomorrow, bye!

There/their/they’re

There – in or at a place or position
E.g. We went there yesterday; over there
• Their – in someone’s possession
E.g. It was in their house
• They’re – contraction of ‘they are’
E.g. I think they’re going later

Here/hear

• Here – in or at a place
E.g. We are here
• Hear – To perceive or listen with the ear
E.g. Did you hear that; can you hear me?

Scent/sent/cent

• Scent – a distinctive smell; perfume
E.g. The scent of flowers
• Sent – the past tense of ‘send’
E.g. I sent an email
• Cent – an amount of currency – 1/100th of a dollar or euro
E.g. I have so many one-cent coins

Cites/sites/sights

• Cites – to recall
E.g. He cites Bob Dylan as a musical influence
• Sites – the place where something is located
E.g. Here are the three sites where you can find…
• Sights – visual landmarks
E.g. We walked around and saw the sights of Rome

Weather/whether

• Weather – the state of the atmosphere – wind, temperature, humidity, etc.
E.g. What’s the weather like tomorrow?
• Whether – to compare two alternatives
E.g. Let’s decide whether we should go or stay

These won’t be the only English words that may make your writing skills a little harder to perfect – but remember there are plenty of English speakers who still find these spellings difficult to use correctly. For more tips on how to improve your English skills, explore other English Learning posts.

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