Updated May 2023
Homophones: Words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings. They can trip up even the experts. We know, we know…for many of you seasoned writers, homophones are old hat. But who couldn’t use a quick refresher lesson on the trickier words?
Here are nine common homophones to keep on your radar:
1. “Ante-” vs. “Anti-”
Ante- (prefix): Before
My history class spent months studying the antetechnology period.
Anti- (prefix): Against; opposite of
Strictly anti-technology, Melanie refuses to even get a computer.
2. “Bare” vs. “Bear”
Bare (adjective): Naked
His bare legs were very cold.
Bear (noun): An animal
The bear’s legs were very hairy.
Bare (verb): To take off or reveal
Today in therapy, he will bare his secret burden.
Bear (verb): To handle
Today in therapy, he must show how he will bear his burden.
3. “Break” vs. “Brake”
Break (verb): To separate or cause to separate into pieces
They slam the vase into the wall and break it.
Brake (noun): A stopping device
They slam on the emergency brake to stop just in time.
4. “Complement” vs. “Compliment”
Complement (verb): To complete or bring to perfection
The chartreuse pillow perfectly complements their new beige sofa.
Compliment (verb): Politely express praise or congratulations (or noun), polite expression of praise or congratulations
Everyone compliments the chartreuse pillow that fits perfectly with their new beige sofa.
They’ve received countless compliments on their new pillow.
5. “Heal” vs. “Heel”
Heal (verb): Cause to become sound or healthy again
The doctor heals the damage done to her foot.
Heel (noun): The back part of the foot below the ankle
Regardless of the doctor’s good work, her heel still hurts her terribly.
Special note: “Heel” can be a type of shoe as well, whereas “heal” can be used as a command to a dog!
6. “Know” vs. “No”
Know (verb): Be aware of
They all know how to count because they also know their teacher.
No (determiner/adverb): Not any; negative answer
The teacher taught them how to count because they admitted they had no inkling previously.
7. “Principal” vs. “Principle”
Principal (noun): First in order of importance
The principal of the school is the key member of the board.
Principle (noun): Fundamental truth
The board operates on an unyielding principle of kindness.
8. “Stationary” vs. “Stationery”
Stationary (adjective): Not moving
She remained stationary for hours at her desk, writing letters.
Stationery (noun): Writing paper
The letters were all written on her new stationery with matching envelopes.
9. “Wear” vs. “Where”
Wear (verb): Have on one’s body or corrode from use
He woke up late and scrambled to locate the shirt he planned to wear.
He had had the shirt for years and found that its colors were fading, a sign of wear.
Where (adverb): In what place or position
He decided to put on a different shirt but had no idea where that one was either.
For more grammar tips, check out our free Grammar And Usage Tool Kit!
QUESTION: Which homophones usually trip you up?