7 Homophone Mistakes to Avoid

Updated on 27 March 2015

When you’re speaking out loud, homophones sound alike, but when you’re writing them out, it’s a different story. Though they have the same pronunciation, homophones may have slightly different spellings and totally different definitions. Since using the wrong one can completely change the meaning of your statement, it’s important to make sure you have the right word in mind. Here are seven homophone mistakes to avoid.

Than vs. Then

Despite their single letter of difference, misusing “than” and “then” can change a statement completely. “Than” is the word to use in a comparative statement, such as “You’re a better writer today than you were yesterday.” Use “then” when describing a sequence of events, like “Write a good sentence, and then compose a great paragraph.”

To vs. Too

While “to” and “too” sound the same, remember that the former is a preposition, while the latter is an adverb. “To” typically means “toward,” while “too” can either mean “excessively” or “also.” For example, you could say, “When you go to the beach, take me too.”

Your vs. You’re 

Though it’s a common mistake, using the wrong version of this word can make your writing look sloppy. “Your” is always a possessive pronoun, so when you use this word, be sure you’re declaring ownership. For instance, you could say, “your book” or “your professional writing sample.” “You’re,” on the other hand, is a contraction of the words “you” and “are.” When using this word, check yourself by reading it with the words “you are” in place of the contraction to make sure it makes sense.

Threw vs. Through

“Threw” and “through” may be different parts of speech, but they can be tough to keep straight. The first word in this homophone pair is the past tense of the verb “throw,” or the act of tossing something in the air. “Through,” however, is a preposition that indicates movement across space or time. You could say, for instance, “The pitcher threw the baseball through the air like a pro.”

Stationary vs. Stationery

Many writers confuse these homophones, since the only spelling difference is a single vowel toward the end of the word. “Stationary” and “stationery,” however, have very different meanings. “Stationary” refers to standing still, while “stationery” refers to cards, paper, or other writing materials. Your stationery may be stationary, but never the other way around.

Seas vs. Sees vs. Seize

As if two homophones weren’t enough, you will find three spellings of this sound-alike. “Seas” is a noun that describes oceans and other large bodies of water, while the verb “sees” refers to looking or observing. Finally, “seize” means to take possession of something. “She sees the opposing forces seize the seas” demonstrates the unique meaning of all three.

There vs. Their vs. They’re

You’ll also find three of these tricky homophones. “There” refers to a general location or distance. When describing where you parked your car, for instance, you might say, “My car is in the parking lot over there.” “Their” serves as a possessive form for more than one person. When referring to the vehicles belonging to a group of people, for example, you would say, “their cars.”

Finally, “they’re” is a contraction of the words “they” and “are.” Whenever you use this term, make sure that what you really mean is “they are.” For instance, you could say, “They’re parking.” If you’re really ready to show off your knowledge of homophones, try out the statement “They’re parking their car in that lot over there.”

Homophones may sound the same, but their meanings are very different when you use them in writing. Study up on which words you need to use (and when to use them) because many spelling and grammar checkers cannot correct words that are spelled correctly but used in the wrong context. (Lucky for you, Grammarly can!)

What’s your biggest homophone mistake?

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