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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 5 - Lesson 27 ( Go to the Answer Key )


Lesson 27, Homonyms:

Homonyms are words that sound alike but are usually spelled differently and have different meanings.  They are among the most confusing aspects of learning to read and write English.  The many irregularities and inconsistencies in the English language have helped to produce a large number of these sound-alike words.  

We will not cover all of the homonyms in English, but we will present many of the most common ones. 

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Word Sets


ant - aunt

ant = a type of  insect that lives in large colonies.  "I saw an ant walking across the kitchen counter."

aunt = your father's or mother's sister or the wife of your father's or mother's brother.  "I received a birthday card from Aunt Martha."

(Some people in the US pronounce aunt as  "awnt" .)

 air - err - heir

air = the gaseous element surrounding the earth.  "I like to breath fresh mountain air."

err = To make a mistake.  "To err is human; to forgive is divine."

heir = A surviving member of a family; one who receives the assets of the deceased.  "Matthew was heir to his father's fortune."

 ail - ale

ail = to be sick,  to have an illness   "John was starting to ail after he visited the hospital."

ale = an alcoholic drink made from grain and hops; like a strong beer.  "Michael drank three pints of ale at the local pub."

aisle - I'll - isle

aisle = a passageway between seats in a theater or between shelving in a store.  "The bride walked down the aisle in the church."

I'll = a contraction of the pronoun " I " and the verb "will" .   "I'll be down to get you in a taxi."

isle = a small body of land surrounded by water; an island  "We vacationed on the Isle of Capri."

bored - board

bored = to be wearied or irritated by dullness, lack of interest or activity.  Having a hole (usually circular) dug into a surface by a drill or auger of some sort.  "Harry was bored waiting at the doctor's  office."  "The wood worker bored several holes in the planks."

board = a finished plank of wood.  A governing body,  "The committee met with the board of directors".  "Our wooden fence needs a new board tto fill a gap."


















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brake - break

brake = to slow or stop; the mechanism used to slow or stop a vehicle.  "Bill pushed hard on the brake pedal."

break = to cause to fall into pieces; to cause to snap in two; to bring to an end; to disobey, as "break the law"; to disregard or violate, as "They tried to break the contract".   "We had to break the window to unlock the door."

beech - beach

beech = a type of hardwood tree.  "The bird landed in the beech tree."

beach = the shore of a sea or lake which is washed by the water.   "We enjoy lyinf on the beach in the summer."

billed - build

billed = possessing a bill or beak, as a duck-billed platypus; being notified that you owe money, as "We were billed too much for our motel room."

build = construct, as "John wants to build his own house."

bald - bawled

bald = having no hair.  "Yul Bryner was a bald actor."

bawled = cried loudly, as "The lost calf bawled for its mother."

bare - bear

bare = naked, unclothed, unadorned. "The bare branches of the maple trees shivered in the December wind."

bear = a large furry animal; to carry or endure.  "James had to bear the weight of the grizzly bear he killed."












Exercise A: Choose a word from the list above to correctly complete each of the following sentences.

1. The baby ______________ when his bottle fell from the crib.

2. Mrs. Reynolds was asked to serve on the Executive _______________next year.

3. We traced the line of ____________ from the kitchen counter to a gap in the window frame.

4. Many cabinet makers value ______________ wood for building furniture.

5. Most large trucks are equipped with air ______________ to help them stop more quickly.

6. Ralph asked the bartender for a pint of _______________.

7. The hospital administrator said my insurance company would be _____________ for the full cost of my stay.

8. I said to my son, "___________ pick you up after school, so don't get on the bus."

9. John couldn't ____________ the thought of telling his wife he had lost all his money in the casino.

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carrot - carat - karat

carrot = an orange-colored vegetable which grows as a fleshy root. "Bugs Bunny often eats a carrot."

carat - an international unit of measurement used for weighing gems. "The new bride admired her one carat diamond wedding ring."

karat = a measure of the purity of gold - 24 karat is pure gold.  "Marie's class ring was made of 14 karat gold."

cell - sell

cell = a locked enclosure, as a jail cell.  The smallest unit of living tissue capable of functioning independently.  "The monk meditated in his roughly furnished cell."

sell = to transfer the ownership of something in exchange for money or other payment.  "Would you sell me that old car for two hundred dollars?"

cents - scents - sense

cents = more than one penny; hundredths of a dollar. "The candy bar costs 55 cents."

scents = More than one odor or aroma. "The woman tested several scents at the perfume counter."

sense = any of the body's means of being aware of its surroundings (sense of smell, of taste, etc.);  the meaning, nature or significance of a thing or idea.  "It doesn't make any sense to shovel the driveway until it stops snowing."

coarse - course

coarse = rough, irregular in texture;  vulgar or unsophisticated, common.  "Hunting clothes are usually made of a coarse fabric."

course = the direction of travel or the path taken; a series of classes leading to a diploma or a degree.  "I had to take a course on the history of education."















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cent - scent - sent

cent = a monetary unit; in the US, one penny or 1 hundredth of a dollar.   "The fake antique wasn't worth one cent."

scent = odor, aroma.  "The hound found the scent of the deer."

sent = past tense of the verb "send"; to cause someone or something to go to a certain place.  "I sent my mother a birthday card yesterday."

deer - dear

deer = a medium-sized grazing mammal the males of which grow antlers.  "Many men in the U.S.A. like to go deer hunting."

dear = a polite form of address for beginning letters; precious or cherished.  "Nancy is my dear friend."

dual - duel

dual = double, as in "Harry's car was equipped with a dual exhaust system."

duel = a fight arranged and conducted according to an accepted Code of Honor.  "Alexander Hamilton fought a duel with Aaron Burr."

faint - feint

faint - to swoon or lose consciousness; to pass out.  "The soldier on guard duty fainted from the extreme heat."

feint = a mock attack meant to fool an opponent.  "The boxer feinted with his left hand just before hitting his opponent with his right hand."














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fair - fare

fair = with a light complexion or blond hair; according to the rules.  "Rules in sports are intended to make the games fair for both teams."

fare = the cost of a journey by commercial means (taxi, bus, train, etc.)  "Train fares have doubled in recent years."

great - grate

great = large in size; beyond the ordinary; powerful or important.  "History has shown Abe Lincoln to have been a great president."

grate = to reduce to small pieces (grating cheese); to rub or grind something making a harsh noise; the movable metal floor of a coal furnace through which ashes fall.  "Most people grate cheese before putting it on a pizza."

hair - hare

hair = a threadlike fibrous substance which grows from the bodies and heads of humans and other mammals.  "It is not nice to find a piece of hair in your soup."

hare = a small, furry plant-eating mammal closely related to rabbits.  "Have you read the fable about the tortoise and the hare?"










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Exercise B: Complete the following sentences with words taken from the list above.

1. The bus driver told the old man he would have to leave the bus if he did not have the exact ___________.

2. The clever ____________ found a way into the garden and was chewing on a ______________.

3. My mother told me that sometimes I didn't have _____________ enough to come in out of the rain.

4. The evenly matched boxers were involved in a _____________ to the finish.

5. A loud, aggressive salesman can readily __________ on one's nerves.

6. The ___________ in the field sniffed carefully for the ____________ of danger.

7. The sparsely furnished monk's ______________ included a _____________ woolen blanket.

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hail - hale

hail = pieces of ice formed by the vertical air movement inside thunder clouds; to call out to a person.  "The doorman stepped to the curb to hail a taxi for me."   "Hail from the thunderstorm damaged the corn crop."

hale = physically sound and well.  "My grandfather was hale and hearty well into his eighties."

whole - hole

whole = entire, complete, all of something.  "I don't believe she ate the whole thing."

hole = a small space or cavity partly or wholly surrounded by matter; an empty space.  "I burned a hole in my new suit."

idle - idol

idle = unwilling to work; not working; casual, not serious.  "Mr. Jones spends his idle hours fishing in the creek."

idol = an image of a god constructed of stone, wood or other material and worshipped as if it were the god it represents; a person or object of intense worship or love.  "Some people refer to their favorite movie star as their idol."

mane - main

mane = the long hair growing on the top or sides of the necks of some animals, such as horses and lions.  "The novice rider grabbed the horse's mane to keep from falling off."

main = an adjective meaning most important, chief, principle.  "The mayor was the main speaker at the town meeting."

male - mail

male = the sex or gender in plants and animals that fertilizes the egg in order to reproduce; of, pertaining to or characteristic of men.  "The part in the movie had to be played by a male."

mail = the public organization dealing with the collection and delivery of correspondence; the letters and parcels sent by this organization.  "They said the check was in the mail."
















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mall - maul

mall = a public, tree-lined walk; an open area, often with benches, plants or fountains, separating retail stores.  "Many young people today meet their friends at the mall instead of on the street corner."

maul = any of several kinds of heavy hammer; to attack savagely and injure; to treat roughly.  " I did not like to watch the lion maul the fleeing antelope."

meet - meat

meet = to make the acquaintance of or be introduced to; to come face to face with; to become acquainted.  "Judy promised to meet me at the diner after work."

meat = the flesh of animals used for food; the edible part of something; the substance or essence of something.  "To eat meat or vegetables was the topic of the meeting of the Vegetarian Society."

no - know

no = used to express negation, denial, refusal.  "No, I have no money to give to the beggar."

know = to apprehend with the conscious mind; to be acquainted with by experience; to recognize; to be in possession of the facts about.  "I know how to drive large trucks."

not - knot

not = an adverb used to express a negative.  "That man is not healthy."

knot = a place in a string, thread or rope where it passes through a loop in its own length and is pulled tight; a place where two or more threads, strings, etc. are joined by passing each of them through loops in the other and pulled tight; a tangle of threads or strings or hair; a lump or protrusion.  "The little girl cried when her mother tried to brush out the knot in her hair."

pear - pare - pair

pear = a tree-grown fruit with juicy, sweet flesh, usually tapering at the stem from a bulbous base.  "Most people put some pieces of pear in a fruit salad."

pare = to cut off the outer surface, skin or edge; to reduce the bulk of something by removing successive thicknesses or portions.  "When you pare an apple before eating it, you lose many of the vitamins."

pair = a set of two things of the same kind; a thing made of two complementary parts.  "I wear a different pair of shoes each day."


















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Exercise C: Complete the following sentences by inserting words from the list above.

1. Indiana Jones climbed down into a ____________ in the ground to search for a golden _________.

2. Do you ______________ how to ____________ a potato while leaving a single long strand of skin?

3. The grocer tried to ____________ a policeman as his store was being robbed by a ____________ of criminals.

4. The teacher told us to read the _____________ chapter before going to the ___________ or sitting _____________ in front of the television.

5. The inexperienced rider grabbed a handful of the horse's _____________ to keep from falling off.

6. Do ___________ pull on the rope when it is tangled or you will make a ___________ in it.

7. I am not a vegetarian, but some days I eat _________ _____________ at all.

8. "I think I ___________ you from school," Jim said to the new employee.

9. I often __________ a neighbor at the ___________ counter in the supermarket.

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pour - pore

pour = to send out in a stream; to flow in copious streams; to flow out as if in a stream.  "It is difficult to pour water from a gallon jug into a small glass."

pore = a minute opening, particularly in mammalian skin through which fluids such as sweat pass; a similar opening in plant tissue through which respiration takes place.  "A pimple may develop from a clogged pore."

poll - pole

poll = the number of votes cast in an election; a canvassing of persons chosen at random or from a sampling group in order to discover trends in public opinion.  "Some politicians do not decide on an issue until they see the results of a poll."

pole = either of opposite ends of the Earth, a battery, plant or animal cells; a long, usually rounded piece of wood or other material.  "George used an aluminum pole to pull the inner tube to the side of the swimming pool."








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rain - rein - reign

rain = a multitude of drops of falling water coming from clouds; the fall of such drops; the fall of other drops, particles or objects.  "Ash and boulders rain from the sky after a volcano erupts."

rein = one of the two leather straps or ropes fastened to the sides of a horse's bit as a means of control; a means of control or restraint.  "Members of Parliament tried to rein in the power of the new president."

reign = the power of a monarch; to hold royal office, to be monarch; to prevail.  "Hulk Hogan enjoyed a long reign as heavyweight wrestling champion."

roll - role

roll = to move along a surface by turning over and over; a quantity of material wrapped together in the form of a cylinder;  to flow forward in undulations; to make something move along a surface by turning over and over. "The bowling ball will roll down the alley in a gentle curve toward the group of wooden pins."

role = the part in which an actor or singer is cast in a play, opera, etc.; the part a person or thing plays in a certain situation.  "Julia was chosen to play the role of Joan of Arc in the school play."

sale - sail

sale = a selling or being sold; a selling of surplus or out-of-date stock at reduced prices; for sale means offered for purchase.  "Kmart had a sale on tires last week."

sail = a piece of cloth or other material attached to poles or beams on a ship to catch or deflect the wind in order to propel and direct the ship; a voyage by ship; to move or glide effortlessly in the air.  "My paper airplane can sail over the head of the teacher."

seem - seam

seem = to give the impression of being something of a specified kind; to have the appearance of being true.  "You seem to enjoy swimming."

seam = a line of stitches where two pieces of cloth have been sewn together; any visible line, fold or ridge showing where two parts of a surface are joined.  "Women's stockings used to have a seam up the back."

tale - tail

tale = an account of a real or imagined event; a piece of gossip; a story.  "A Tale of Two Cities , by Charles Dickens, takes place during the French Revolution."

tail = part of an animal's body formed by an extension of the vertebral column;  the portion of many things coming after or behind the main body (comet's tail, tail of the airplane, tail of the procession).  "The small dog's tail was almost caught when the door closed."





















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their - there - they're

their = belonging to or done by them.  "Joe and Sam did their homework together."

there = in or at that place; to or towards that place; used as an introductory word in impersonal constructions.  "There are no empty places over there in that parking lot."

they're = contraction of they + are. "They're going to be late for the show if they don't hurry."

to - too - two

to = preposition, in the direction of; used to indicate something or someone reached; used to indicate possession or attribution; used with infinitive forms of verbs.  "Mr. Jones had to return to the store to buy some milk."

too = excessively, more than is sufficient, necessary or desirable; very.  "We arrived at the theater too late to see the first act of the play."

two = one more than one; one plus one; the ordinal number 2.  "Frank drank two glasses of wine with his dinner."

weight - wait

weight = the amount something or someone weighs, a factor of its mass and the force of gravity on the object or person.   "Tom lost much weight when he began a job that involved more physical activity."

wait = to remain in a place or a state of inactivity; to be in readiness; to be set aside for later action.  "Please wait for me by the front door ."














Exercise D: Complete the following sentences by inserting words from the list above.

1. Torrents of _____________ began to ______________ from the sky when the storm began.

2. In the _______________ of Paul Bunyan, the lumber jack had a huge blue ox named Babe.


3. The sports magazine conducted a __________ _______ learn what people thought about __________ hometown high school's football team.

4. The athlete strained his back when he tried to lift ________ much _____________.

5. The prices did not ____________ very low during the store's big furniture ___________.

6. Prince Andrew will have a long ___________ to begin his ____________ as king of England.

7. ____________ car began to __________ down the hill because they had not set the brake.

8. One needs to use ___________ ____________ to control a horse properly.

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