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Revision as of 20:51, 28 October 2013 by Ghoti (talk | contribs) (Monosyllables: Correcting link to IPA phonetic symbol (vowel) /æ/)

Template:Phonetics A homophone is a word which, despite its different spelling, is pronounced exactly like another word, as in the case of to, too, and two. Another typical example is see and sea (and the letter C).

English is especially rich in homophones, and there are hundreds of monosyllabic homophones, especially. However, whether they are "true" homophones may depend on the speaker's accent.[1] For example "moose" and "mouse" are homophones in Scottish English and "tree" and "three" in Irish English but neither would be homophones in Received Pronunciation (RP). Other regional differences include the "r" pronouncing areas of the UK that differentiate words that are homophones in RP.

One group of RP homophones which never ceases to "amuse" foreign students is that of the contractions:

  • aren't/aunt; I'd/eyed; I'll/aisle - isle; he'll/heal/heel; they're/there/their; there's/theirs; we'd/weed; we’ll/wheel; who’s/whose; you're/your and the all-time classic which causes severe problems even among native English speakers: it’s/its.

Likewise, native English speakers may make mistakes with poly-syllabic homophones such as complement/compliment and principal/principle.

Some other common examples

Many of the homophones in this section are repeated to show how they can be used and/or presented in different pronunciation exercises. As stated above, not all these words will be homophones in all accents and this sometimes causes difficulty for teachers who may that their course book seems to be describing a language which they don't themselves speak.


One-syllable words of course have the advantage that they can be grouped together by sounds they have in common, as follows:

  • /ɑ:/: aren't/aunt; draft – draught; passed - past;
  • /æ/: band - banned; sac - sack; packed - pact;
  • /ai/: buy – by; cite - sight - site; die - dye; dyed - died; eye – I; find - fined; hi - high; higher - hire; I'll - aisle - isle; size - sighs; sighed - side; style - stile; - tied - tide; wine - whine; time - thyme; write - right - rite;
  • /ei/: ate (AmE) - eight; brake - break; grate - great; made - maid; mail - male; place - plaice; rain(s) - reign(s) - reins; sail(s) - sale(s); shake – sheik; steak - stake; tail - tale; waste - waist; weigh - way; weight - wait; weighed - wade;
  • /i:/: beat - beet; feat - feet; flea - flee; genes – jeans; he'll - heal - heel; meat – meet; peak - peek; read - reed; sweet - suite; scene - seen; steel - steal; team - teem; we'd - weed; week - weak; we’ll/wheel;
  • /u:/: blew - blue; cue - queue; dew - due; flew - flu; hue - Hugh; knew – new; moot - mute; root - route; threw - through; who's - whose; yew - you;
  • /e/: bread - bred; cell – sell; lead (metal) - led; read - red; set - sett;
  • /i/: its - it's; knits - nits;
  • /eə/: air – heir; bare - bear; fair - fare; hair - hare; pair - pear; stairs - stares; they're/there/their; there's/theirs; wear – where;
  • /ɪə/: dear - deer; hear – here; peer - pier;
  • /ɔ:/: board - bored; caught - court; chord - cord; for - four; fort - fought; hoarse - horse; mall - maul; moor - more; poor - pour; sauce - source; saw - sore; sort - sought; your - you're;
  • /əʊ/: broach - brooch; hole - whole; know – no; knows - nose; loan - lone; road – rode - rowed; sew - so - sow; sole - soul;
  • /ɜ:/: earn - urn; heard - herd; tern - turn;
  • /ʊ/: wood – would;
  • /ɒ/: knot - not;
  • /ʌ/: none - nun; one - won; son - sun;
  • /aʊ/: flour – flower; hour – our;
  • /e/: leant/lent; read - red; scent – sent;

poly-syllabic words

  • aloud/allowed; bolder/boulder; complacent/complaisant; complement/compliment; forego/forgo; principal/principle; weather/whether;


There are several letters of the alphabet that are pronounced like words:

  • B - be/bee; C - sea/see; I - eye; O - owe; P - pea/pea; Q - queue; R - are; T - tea/tee; U - you; Y - why.


See also

External links

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