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25 Homophones People Confuse All the Time

Homophones are two words that have the same pronunciation but different definitions and spellings. Read on to ensure that you never confuse them again.

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affect effectPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Affect and Effect

Use affect when you want to indicate influence: The girl did not let other people’s opinions affect her decision to get a black cat.

Use effect as a noun; it is the result of a change: The effect of Hurricane Sandy was devastating.

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which witchPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Which and Witch

Which is used as a pronoun: I love the colour blue, which is why I bought a blue car.

Witch is used to describe a scary person: The Wicked Witch of the West has green skin in “The Wizard of Oz.”

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are ourPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Are and Our

Are is a verb: We are travelling to Hawaii this summer.

Our is an adjective: We bought our house in July.

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weather whetherPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Weather and Whether

The weather is the state of the atmosphere: The weather for Friday is not looking very good.

Whether is a conjunction to show two choices: I don’t know whether to order chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

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there theirPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

There and Their and They’re

There is a part of speech, most commonly a pronoun or adverb: There will be a lot of important people at the event tonight.

Their is a pronoun: The parents picked up their child from school.

They’re is a conjunction of they and are: They’re not happy with the number of potholes that haven’t been fixed on their road.

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brake breakPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Brake and Break

Use brake as a verb: If you see red lights on the cars in front of you, you need to brake.

Use break to indicate that something broke, or as a noun to indicate a rest: On my lunch break, I am going to run some errands. I hope I don’t break my back carrying back the heavy bags.

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here hearPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Here and Hear

Here is an adverb that indicates a location: Come sit over here so that you’re in the shade.

Hear is a verb: I can’t hear what you’re saying, can you please speak up.

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buy byPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Buy and By

Use buy when you purchase an item: I have to go to the store to buy a gift for Father’s Day.

Use by as a preposition: Please leave your completed tests by the chalkboard.

Beware of these 17 words even smart people mispronounce.

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it's itsPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

It’s and Its

It’s is a conjunction of it is: It’s really hot out today.

Its is the possessive form of it: The dog was wagging its tail.

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accept exceptPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Accept and Except

Accept is a verb that means to get or receive: The fundraiser will accept your donations until 5 p.m.

Except is a preposition that means exclude: I like every type of fruit except bananas.

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to tooPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

To and Too and Two

To is a preposition: Shawn is going to the lake.

Too is an adverb that can indicate an excessive amount when it precedes an adjective or adverb: I stayed in the sun for way too long today.

Two is a number: She has two children.

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capital capitolPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Capital and Capitol

Capital refers to a city, wealth of resources, or a letter: The capital of Connecticut is Hartford.

The capitol is the building where lawmakers meet: The meeting will take place at 2 p.m. at the Capitol.

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principle principalPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Principle and Principal

Principle is a noun meaning a truth or law: My teacher is a man of principle.

Principal is a noun referring to the head of a school or organization: After Tommy was caught cheating on his math test he was called down to the principal’s office.

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bear barePhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Bear and Bare

Use bear when you’re referring to the animal or to indicate the act of holding: On a hike in Maine, he saw a bear.

Bare is an adjective meaning lack of clothing: It was a hot day, so Chris took off his shirt, revealing his bare chest.

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you're yourPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

You’re and Your

You’re is a conjunction of you and are: You’re not being very nice today.

Your is a pronoun: Don’t forget to bring your laptop to class tomorrow.

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lie layPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Lie and Lay

Use lie to indicate the act of reclining: I need to lie down for a minute.

Lay indicates the placement of something: Please lay the napkin over the plate.

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ensure insurePhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Ensure and Insure and Assure

To ensure means to make sure or guarantee that something happens: I need to study all night to ensure that I get an A in the class.

To insure means that something is covered by an insurance policy: I have to insure my car in case I get into an accident.

To assure means to remove someone’s doubts: I assure you that the ocean isn’t that cold.

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complement complimentPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Complement and Compliment

Complement means to enhance or complete: The gold necklace really complements her blue eyes.

A compliment is an expression of praise: Five different people complimented my gold necklace.

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aloud allowedPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Aloud and Allowed

Aloud is when something is said out loud: Please say your name aloud to the group.

Allowed is when you’re given permission: My mom said I’m not allowed to stay out past 11 p.m.

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creek creakPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Creek and Creak

A creek is a small river: The kids played in the creek.

Creak means to make noise: The floorboards in the old house creak when you walk on them.

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Photo: Nicole Fornabaio/

One and Won

One is a number: I would like one taco.

Won is the past tense of the verb “to win”: I won first place at my track meet on Sunday.

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peak peekPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Peak and Peek and Pique

A peak is the top of a mountain: You have to walk a lot of miles to get to the peak of the mountain.

Peek is another word for look: Don’t peek at your Christmas presents!

Pique is a verb meaning to stimulate: Since you have snacks at this meeting you’ve piqued my attention.

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lose loosePhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Lose and Loose

Lose is a verb that means to fail at winning, to misplace, or free oneself of something or someone: I need to lose ten more pounds to reach my goal weight.

Loose is an adjective that means “not tight”: Her pants were too loose so she had to wear a belt.

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toe towPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Toe and Tow

A toe is a body part on a human or animal: He stubbed his toe on the leg of the table.

Tow means to pull something behind a vehicle: My car broke down and I had to have it towed to the mechanic.

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than thenPhoto: Nicole Fornabaio/

Than and Then

Than is used as a comparison: I like cats more than dogs.

Then is used to indicate time: I have to go to work until noon, and then go to the grocery store. 

Homophones are words that sounds the same but mean different things; synonyms are two words that mean the same thing.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest