Homophones in English

by | Last updated Nov 20, 2023 | English Learning

In this article differences between homophones, homographs, and homonyms and defines 100+ pairs in a list of homophones.

If someone informs you that the bare bear with a pair of pears just made a sale of a sail, you might initially find their statement perplexing. In reality, they are conveying that a naked bear has just earned some money by selling a part of his boat while holding two pieces of fruit.

While words that sound the same can be bewildering, homophones present an intriguing and delightful way to deepen your understanding of English. Grasping homophones enhances your ability to follow intricate conversations, enjoy humor, and develop a more robust command of the English language.

In this article, we will dissect the definition of homophones and elucidate the distinctions between homophones, homographs, and homonyms. We will then unravel the significance of homophones and furnish a list of over 100 pairs of homophones. If you wish to be well-prepared the next time someone mentions the hair of a hare, continue reading!

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Comprehending Homophones

The term “homophone” originates from Greek roots: “Homo,” meaning same, and “phone,” meaning sound. In simple terms, homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings.

English has numerous commonly confused homophones, such as “to,” “too,” and “two.” Each serves a distinct grammatical purpose – “to” is a preposition indicating direction, “too” is an adverb meaning also, and “two” is a number. For example, you can go “to” the store, but not “two” the store, and you can have “two” cups of coffee, but not “too” cups of coffee.

Another set of confusing homophones includes “its” and “it’s.” Native speakers may struggle to differentiate between “its,” denoting possession by an inanimate object (e.g., the car and its tires), and “it’s,” a contraction of “it is” (e.g., it’s not advisable to drive a car without its tires securely attached).


Different types of homophones

Homophones, not the sole linguistic phenomenon, are accompanied by homographs. Homographs share identical spellings but diverge in meanings or pronunciations. Homonyms, a homophone subtype, denote words with the same pronunciation but distinct spellings and meanings, contributing to the intricacies of the English language.

Improving your proficiency in English using homophones

Enhancing your English conversational skills involves mastering homophones, which are crucial for distinguishing words that sound alike, thereby deepening your understanding of language patterns. Familiarizing yourself with homonyms not only refines your writing skills by reinforcing specific spelling sequences but also facilitates wordplay, enabling you to comprehend and create puns.

Moreover, homophones play a role in decoding jokes in English, contributing to a more nuanced understanding of humor. While appreciating humor across languages and cultures can be challenging, learners of English find it easier to grasp jokes in the language after acquiring knowledge of homophones.

Your proficiency in homophones not only sharpens your language skills but also enhances your cultural awareness, allowing you to discern subtle linguistic nuances. To aid you in this journey, here’s a list of homophones along with their definitions.

-ai and other endings

  • Aisle, isle: A passageway between seats or shelving vs. a small island.
  • Maid, made: Someone who cleans for a living vs. the past tense of “to make.”
  • Pain, pane: Hurt vs. the glass in a window.
  • Wait, weight: Remaining in the same position vs. how heavy an object is.
  • Rain, rein, reign: The water that comes from the sky vs. an animal harness vs. ruling over a land.

Other “a” and “e” homophones

  • Marry, merry: To be legally joined in holy matrimony vs. happy and joyful.
  • Brake, break: The piece of equipment that stops machinery from moving vs. stopping an activity or causing an object to fall to pieces.
  • Hay, hey: A type of grass given to grazing animals vs. an informal greeting of hello.
  • Pray, prey: To address a divine being such as God or a god vs. what is hunted.

-ear/-are or -ere

  • Bear, bare: A fuzzy animal vs. naked or uncovered.
  • Tear, tare: To rip or the drop of water that comes out of the eyes when crying vs. to balance a scale.
  • Wear, where: To put on, usually a piece of clothing, vs. the indication of location.
  • Hear, here: To perceive a sound vs. the place where one is located.


  • Meat, meet: The butchered flesh of an animal vs. to make the acquaintance of.
  • Beat, beet: To hit with force vs. a type of root vegetable.
  • Feat, feet: An impressive act vs. the body part attached to the leg by the ankle.
  • Flea, flee: A small, jumping insect vs. to run away.
  • Grease, Greece: A thick, oily substance vs. a country on the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Heal, heel: To cure vs. the back part of the foot.
  • Peek, peak: To look at quickly or glance vs. the highest point (for example, the peak of a mountain)
  • Real, reel: Existent or factual vs. a series of photos or videos.

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  • Mail, male: Something you receive via delivery vs. the biological way of saying “man.”
  • Sail, sale: The piece of fabric used to help a boat catch the wind vs. the exchange of a product for money.
  • Tail, tale: The hind appendage of an animal vs. a story.
  • Wail, whale: To emit a loud, usually mournful, sound vs. a large sea creature.
  • Ail, ale: To be sick vs. a type of beer.
  • Pail, pale: Something to hold materials such as sand or water vs. a very light tone, often describing the color of the face when the blood drains out.
  • Bail, bale: A sum of money in exchange for an arrested person vs. a bound block of hay.

-ed endings

  • Band, banned: A group of musicians vs. something that is not allowed.
  • Find, fined: To discover vs. being obligated to pay a sum of money for breaking the law.
  • Fair, fare: Just vs. the set amount paid for riding public transport, such as a bus, subway, plane, or taxi.
  • Hair, hare: What grows out of your head vs. a rabbit-like animal.
  • Pair, pare, pear: A set of two vs. cutting down vs. a fruit.
  • Air, heir: Colorless, tasteless gasses that you breathe in vs. someone who inherits money or other valuables from a deceased person.
  • Fairy, ferry: A small mythical creature vs. a boat or ship that carries passengers back and forth between destinations.

-oa and other endings

  • Coarse, course: Rough (to touch or socially) vs. a class or a path.
  • Hoarse, horse: A croaking voice vs. an animal one rides.
  • Groan, grown: A sound made of frustration, disappointment, or both vs. full-sized.
  • Loan, lone: To lend someone something vs. solitary or solo.
  • Oar, or, ore: The paddle of a boat vs. either vs. a raw mineral.

-on/-un or -one

  • Son, sun: A male child vs. the largest star in our solar system.
  • Won, one: The past tense of “to win” vs. a singular item.

Other -e homonyms

  • Be, bee: In the state of vs. a small insect.
  • Genes, jeans: Parts of DNA vs. pants made of denim.

C and s sounds

  • Cell, sell: An isolated, self-sufficient area vs. to receive money in exchange for a product.
  • Cent, scent: A small unit of money (in pennies) vs. a smell.
  • Cereal, serial: A type of breakfast consisting of crunchy grains vs. multiple iterations of something.
  • Ceiling, sealing: The top of an enclosed room vs. closing off a connection or opening (sealing a door or a leak).


  • Two, to, too: A number (2) vs. a preposition expressing motion in the direction of vs. also.
  • Eight, ate: A number (8) vs. the past tense of “to eat.”
  • Four, for, fore (fourth, forth): A number (4) vs. a preposition linking ideas to an object or purpose vs. the front of (plus their adjective forms).

Other “y” and “u” homophones

  • Bye, by, buy: A greeting to end a meeting vs. a preposition identifying the agent performing an action vs. to exchange money for a product.
  • Die, dye: When a life ends vs. something that changes the color of something, such as a fabric or hair.
  • Dew, do, due: Water that falls from condensation in the morning vs. to perform, execute, or carry out vs. the date or time by which something must be completed,
  • You, ewe: The pronoun for the person opposite the speaker vs. a female sheep.
  • Fir, fur: The needles of a tree vs. the hairy coat of an animal.
  • Eye, I: The body part used to see vs. the pronoun for one’s self.


  • They’re, their, there: Shortened form of “they are” vs. the possessive form of “they” (Their water bottles are red) vs. a specific place where the speaker is.
  • It’s, its: Shortened form of “it is” vs. the possessive form of “it” (The house and its foundation are stable).
  • You’re, your: Shortened form of “you are” vs. the possessive form of “you” (Your name is Helen).

Wrapping up: Homophones are just one small part of English

Homophones, characterized by their similar pronunciation but distinct spellings and meanings, are frequently encountered in everyday English conversation. Given their typically concise nature, often consisting of one or two syllables, homophones play a significant role in enhancing clarity during communication and fostering better understanding in linguistic interactions.

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