Homophones and Homonyms English Grammar

What are homophones and homonyms?

Quite often, a word can have multiple meanings despite holding the same sound or spelling. If one does not have a sound knowledge of such words, understanding English can be a daunting task. Therefore, it is very important to know the difference between homonyms, homophones and homographs. 

HOMONYMS

Words that have the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings are known as Homonyms.

  • I can go to the library only after noon. (Can=verb (ability))
  • The can was opened by a knife. (Can=noun (container))

HOMOPHONES

Words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings are known as Homophones.

  • Mother served us chocolate dessert. (Dessert=eatable)
  • The boy was stranded alone on the desert. (Desert=land mass)
Homo (same) + Nym (name)Homonym (same name)
Homo (same) + Phone (sound)Homophone (same sound)

Let us now look at some homophones. 

aye, censor, cite, buy, braze, eye, sight, braise, sensor, bye
  • Aye Aye Captain!” said the sailor as he pulled the sails. (old English for ‘yes’)
  • The censor board decided to ban the play in the communally sensitive regions of the country.  (a group)
  • The motion sensor detection lights failed to operate in time. (a mechanism)
  • The student should cite at least two examples for each occurrence. (to quote from a source) No one was in sight when I reached the charity ball. (to be seen)
  • The Wilsons are going to buy the old mansion next month. (to purchase)
  • Bye, Aunt Kathy!” Cindy said as the car pulled out of the lane. (a greeting)
  • The two pieces of metal were brazed together at a high melting point. (soldered) The vegetables were braised using little water. (cooked in a pan)

Look at the words printed in bold in the sentences below. The table that follows explains each word’s pronunciation and meaning. 

  • All the expenses of the tour were billed to the company. 
  • We ate heartily last night at the graduation party. 
  • Privileges should be given based on merit rather than caste.
  • Nathan decided to build a room upstairs for his long lost brother. 
  • Soldiers are trained to survive without food and water for days together. 
  • Like Cinderella, Isabelle also wished for a fairy godmother to arrive and rescue her out of her foster home. 
  • We were not prepared to face such a devastating storm.
  • The FIR report stated that the family had employed Jaggu despite knowing that he was a minor
  • The ferry to Mandva jetty leaves in 10 minutes so we better hurry up. 
  • The fir trees in the woods were covered with snow.
  • She was groomed to become a nun one day. 
  • The witch cast an ominous spell over Andalusia and every baby that would be born in the country. 
  • The wife of the victim was in a daze after the revelations of the murder.
  • Polar bears have thick fur on their body to protect them from extreme cold. 
  • Felix liked to have eight pencils in his pencil box. 
  • Kevin’s father was a miner during the day and a bouncer at night. 
  • The main switch needs to be disconnected immediately in case the red light starts beeping continuously. 
  • The knot was too tight for little Kevin to loosen it in time. 
  • Simba stood at the edge of Pride Rock and looked magnificent as the wind breezed through his luscious mane
  • None of the designs sent by the architect are impressive. 
WordPronunciation and Meaning
billed  build\ˈbild\: to charge someone 
\ˈbild\: to make something 
ate eight\ˈä-tē\: past tense of eat 
\ˈāt\: the eighth number in a set 
caste cast\ˈkast\: division based on wealth, rank, or occupation
\ˈkast\ to send something in a direction
days daze\ˈdāz\: on any day
\ˈdāz\: to stupefy
fairy ferry\ˈfer-ē\: a mythical being
\ˈfer-ē, ˈfe-rē\: to carry by boat
fur fir\ˈfər\: a hairy coat of an animal 
\ˈfər\: a tall evergreen tree
minor miner\ˈmī-nər\: below 18 years of age
\ˈmī-nər\: a person who digs in a mine 
main mane\ˈmān\: the chief part 
\ˈmān\: thick hair around the top and sides of the neck of a horse or a lion 
knot not\ˈnät\: an interlacement of parts 
\ˈnät\: a negative word
none nun\ˈnən\: not any
\ˈnən\: a woman from a religious order 

Examine the underlined words in the sentences below to understand how homonyms can be tricky yet interesting! 

  • It took 12 hours for the crane to shift the trailer off the highway. (a machine)
    • The crane kept staring at the fish in the water, as if meditating into oblivion. (a bird)
  • The file that went missing today from the office had confidential information. (set of papers)
    • The residents are going to file a case against the builder pressing criminal charges against him. (record legally)
  • The brass vessels were no match to the silver chairs placed in the royal dining hall. (to be equal to)
    • The match was well played by both the teams. (a game)
  • The left hand side of the page has to remain blank. (one side of your body)
    • The survivors were left with just a few supplies in the middle of the ocean. (remaining)
  • He visits his grandfather’s grave every year on his birthday. (final resting place)
    • It was a grave mistake that killed many innocent children. (serious)
  • The chief guest addressed the audience and the teachers in his speech. (officially spoke)
    • The address you have written on the form is incomplete. (a place where you live)
  • I will not support any criminal activity in this village. (to approve of)
    • The NGO had the support of 500 villagers and several government schemes. (assistance) 
  • The duck swam in the pond with the four ducklings as the snake glided into the water. (a bird)
    • Suraj had to duck to avoid getting hit by the ball. (to lower the head suddenly)