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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tackling Tricky Homophones and Homonyms

Tackling Tricky Homophones and Homonyms

There are some words that sound exactly the same, but mean different things. These are known as homophones. Recognizing homophones is essential when it comes to gaining a better understanding of the English language, as there are several commonly used words that sound the same but have entirely different definitions and usages. To ensure that you are using these homophones correctly, you must first learn to recognize them.

Homophones are straight-forward due to the fact that numerous homophones are spelled differently, even though they may be pronounced the same. For example, while "knight" and "night" sound the same, the word "knight" refers to a warrior from the European Middle Ages, while the word "night" refers to the time of day when the sun is no longer present. Another example of homophones are the words "wave" and "waive," where the word "wave" refers to either the action of sweeping your hand back and forth or a swell on the water surface, while the word "waive" refers to the act of surrendering something. In both of these examples, the words are pronounced the same, but mean entirely different things. Some other common homophones to keep in mind are these:

"There," "they're," and "their" are often confused and misused. To keep yourself from using the wrong term in your sentence, remember what each of them mean. The word "there" indicates place and location, such as in the sentence "The bus is over there." The word "they're" is a contraction of the words "they are" and should only be used when you want to use those two words, such as in the sentence "They're waiting for the bus." Finally, the word "their" indicates possession and ownership, such as in the sentence "Their bus is late."

"Its" and "it's" are two other commonly confused and misused terms. Remember that "its" indicates possession and ownership, such as in the sentence "The dog chases its tail." On the other hand, the word "it's" is a contraction of the words "it is" and should only be used when you want to use those two words, such as in the sentence "It's chasing the ball."

Another thing that English learners should recognize is the homonym, which is a special type of homophone where the words not only sound the same, but they also are spelled the same. For example, the word "fawn" can either mean a baby deer or the action of behaving in an excessively doting manner. In both cases, they are pronounced and spelled identically, yet still have differing definitions. To deal with these, you simply need to look up the word that you are unsure about in the dictionary and apply the most relevant meaning of the word to the sentence. This way, you will better understand what the text is saying.

Some good resources for lists of homophones and homonyms include a Michigan State University study webpage, and an Earlham College webpage.

Having a good grasp of homophones is essential in effective English communication. Knowing different homophones will allow readers to accurately recognize the meaning of English texts in pamphlets, books, signs, and other reading materials. In writing, knowing different homophones will allow writers to use the correct words in the sentences they are constructing so that the correct meanings are conveyed. Memorizing the correct usage of common homophones like the ones mentioned in this article is a great way to tackle tricky homophones. Another tactic that can be used to understand homophones is to simply look up different words in the dictionary to ensure that you are using them correctly.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topics of online degree programs. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: anna22.miller@gmail.com.

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