Saturday, August 23, 2008

Son, Sun, Hey, Hay and Other English Language Homophones

What Exactly are Homophones?

Basically, homophones are defined as “words which sound exactly alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Not only are they oftentimes confusing for English as a foreign language learner, but even for native speakers as well. Homophones though, can be interesting and fun to teach to learners who usually enjoy the play of word sounds even if they don’t always quite understand the meanings, usage and definitions. Let’s have a brief look at some of the scores of double and triple homophones in the English language.

Triple Homophones in the English Language

There are fewer triple homophones in the English language than double homophones so we’ll look at few of these first.

By buy bye

Pete peet peat

To too two

Four fore for

Despite the differences in spellings, there is essentially no discernable difference in the pronunciation between these three-word homophone groups. Try as you might, you won’t hear any difference in the way they sound. Which one is being used becomes discernable only through its application in context.

Double Homophones in the English Language

When it comes to double or two-word homophone pairs in the English language, there is definitely no shortage of them. They seemingly come at you from almost every direction at times. Here is just a handful sampling of some of the more commonly heard of homophones in the English language.

Passed past
Pie pi
Choose chews
Die dye
Sex sects
Do due
sun son
Nose knows
Their there
Eye I
Feat feet
Beat beet
Meat meet
Hear here
Jeans genes
Where wear
Bourn bourne
We wee
In inn
Hi high
Made maid
Red read (past tense of read)
Blue blew
Great grate
See sea
Be bee
Close clothes
Eight ate
Hail hale
Won one
Pale pail
Male mail
Sail sale
Tail tale
Son sun
Hey hay
Bail bale
Peal peel
Heal heel
Seen scene
Shoe shoo
Yule you’ll
Flee flea
Tee tea
Him hymn
You ewe
No know
Which witch
Do dew

Many More Homophones Exist in the English Language

The list certainly goes on and on, but by now you certainly must get the idea.
Try having your learners use these in context to help their understanding of the meanings. Try a “spelling bee” using homophones or create short lists which give meanings between specific pairs of homophones. You can also be on the lookout for them when reading papers, articles and online texts. Anyway you might decide to use and teach the theme of homophones in the English language, they can be most interesting and fun for your English as a foreign language learners. Try them out for yourself and you’ll see.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, prolific writer, author and public speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, "If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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