Homophones are two or more words that share the same pronunciation but have different spellings or meanings. For example, the words ‘hear’ and ‘here’ are homophones because they mean entirely other things, even though they sound similar. In some cases, homophones have the exact spelling.

Homophone Definition: What is a Homophone?

Before we start, we must define what we mean by ‘homophone.’ Unfortunately, this word sometimes gets confused with similar-sounding terminology, so let’s begin by looking at a simple homophone definition.

homophone is a word that is pronounced like another but has a different meaning and, in some cases, a different spelling. For example, the word ‘bear’ can mean the animal, but it can also mean ‘tolerating something. Homophones can also differ quite a bit in spelling, such as carat and carrot, or there, their, and they’re. However, when homophones share the exact spelling, we call them homonyms.

As you’re using the term homonyms, be careful, as they can easily be confused for other word classes. For example, if words are spelled the same but sound different, these are homographs instead.

What are some homophone examples?

Now that we have a homophone definition to help us let’s look at a few examples.

In the English language, there are lots of words with two homophones and almost 90 words that have three homophones. Some words have more – one word has seven! That would be rays, raise, rase, raze, rehs, reis, and res.

In this list, we’ve included ten examples of common homophones. So if your pupils ever ask, ‘what is a homophone?’, you’ll have some handy examples ready to help them:

  1. There vs. Their vs. They’re
  2. To vs. Too vs. Two
  3. Bough vs. Bow
  4. Lead vs. Led
  5. Sell vs. Cell
  6. Hear vs. Here
  7. Sea vs. See
  8. Bear vs. Bare
  9. Flower vs. Flour
  10. Ate vs. Eight

What are the different types of a homophone?

While we’ve gained a helpful homophone definition and we’ve looked at some examples, you might not know that there are different kinds of homophones. Let’s take a closer look at what these different types are:

What is a pseudo-homophone?

A pseudo-homophone is a homophone that is phonetically identical. However, in almost all cases, pseudo-homophones aren’t real words. For example, the word ‘blue’ and the non-word ‘bloo’ could be considered pseudo-homophones.

Likewise, the word ‘groan’ and its obsolete spelling ‘grone’ are pseudo-homophones.

What is a near homophone?

A near homophone is a word that is pronounced almost the same as another but has a different meaning and a slightly different spelling. Unlike full homophones, which, as we know, share the same pronunciation, near homophones may have one sound or letter, which causes them to be sounded out differently.

Now that we have a near homophone definition check out these examples of near homophones:

  • Except and Accept
  • Proceed and Precede
  • Worn and Warn

Homophones explained: Weather and whether homophones

To help us to understand homophones better and why they can be a source of confusion for kids and adults alike, let’s examine the words ‘weather’ and ‘whether.’ These are some of the most commonly confused homophones, and while they sound the same, they also have completely different meanings.

  1. Weather

‘Weather’ is a noun that refers to the current atmospheric conditions, such as if it’s windy, rainy, or sunny. Here are some examples of ‘weather’ in a sentence:

The weather is awful today.
I’ll check the weather to see if I need to wear a coat.
The weather is going to be hot and sunny tomorrow.

‘Weather’ is also a verb to withstand or survive something. It can also describe an object that’s been exposed to the elements. Here are some examples:

We weathered a night in the cold when our power went out.
He can weather the storm.
If it keeps raining hard, the fences will start to weather.

‘Weather’ is more commonly used as a noun than a verb.

  1. Whether

‘Whether’ is neither a noun nor a verb – it’s a conjunction. It joins two words or phrases together in a sentence. It’s used similarly to the word ‘if.’ Here are a few examples of how to use ‘whether’ in a sentence:

I will follow my dreams, whether you like them or not.
No matter whether it’s night or day, my cat is asleep.
I don’t know whether to go to the park or the cinema.

When will children learn about homophones?

Children must learn a homophones list as the UK National Curriculum directs. They’ll start with the more commonly used homophones and understand the spelling and meaning. Here are some examples of homophones they’ll learn in each year of English:

Year 2 Night Knight
Here Hear
Sea See
Years 3 & 4 Break Brake
Fair Fare
Groan Grown
Years 5 & 6 License License
Practice Practise
Father Farther  
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