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Loose vs. Lose—What’s the Difference?

Updated on June 21, 2023Grammar
  • Lose is a verb that means “to fail to win, to misplace, or to free oneself from something or someone.”
  • Loose is an adjective that means “not tight.”

No wonder so many people confuse loose and lose! How are lose and loose defined? How can you remember the difference between the two terms?

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Lose vs. loose: What’s the difference?

The word lose is a verb that can mean either (1) fail to win, (2) be unable find, or (3) stop having or owning something. The word loose is an adjective that means not tight or not strict. 

The rules for swimming at the beach are pretty loose, but I don’t want to lose sight of the shoreline.

Loose vs. lose examples

Here are some different examples of  loose and lose.

Loose can be defined as “not tightly attached, pulled, or held.”

The loose change jingled in Tina’s pocket.

Loose also means “lacking in precision or exactness.”

The tour guide gave a loose translation of the sign: Do not enter.

Sometimes, lose means “to free oneself from something.”

Try to lose yourself in the painting.

To lose can mean “to be unable to locate something or someone.”

I always lose my way when I’m in New York City.

Lose can also mean “to fail to win.”

In WNBA news, the Chicago Sky lose again to the Atlanta Dream.

Loose vs. lose–How to remember which is correct

It’s easy to see the difference between the meanings in the quotes, but what about when it’s your turn to write? Because many people confuse loose with lose, there are many mnemonics to help you remember which is which. A grammar expert on the Grammarly Answers website shares this trick: If you lose the O of loose, you’ve spelled the opposite of find. It may help visual learners to picture lose and loose as ropes. Loose would be a longer rope than lose because of the extra O. So, loose is looser than lose.

A single letter distinguishes lose and loose, but you can tell them apart if you use a mnemonic. Practice makes perfect. If you write a few sentences with each of the words, before long you will be a pro. Why not start now? You’ve got nothing to lose!

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