Saturday, July 9, 2011

Tricky Word Pairs

There are a lot of tricky word pairs (and sometimes word trios) that your spellchecker cannot catch for you. Sometimes these are words that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently (homophones, to use a technical term), and sometimes the words are similar but not identical in pronunciation. There are literally hundreds of these tricky word pairs in English; I have listed some of the most common ones below.

  • BREATH is a noun; BREATHE is a verb.
    Using gillyweed, Harry Potter was able to breathe underwater.
  • PASSED is a verb/participle; PAST is an adjective/noun.
    Many years passed before Odysseus returned home to Ithaca.
  • QUIET means "silent" (qui-et); QUITE means "very" (one syllable: quite).
    The Greek soldiers inside the Trojan Horse had to keep quiet.
  • RAISE is to lift up; RAZE is to destroy.
    Pharaoh's daughter raised Moses as her own son.
  • SHONE is from "shine" (like a light); SHOWN is from "show."
    When Zeus revealed himself to Semele, a great light shone all around him.
  • THAN is for comparisons; THEN is for time
    Heracles was far stronger than his brother Iphicles.
  • THEIR means "belonging to them;" THERE is for location.
  • The sheep foolishly agreed to a peace treaty with the wolves, their deadly enemies.
  • WERE is "to be" in past tense; WHERE is about location.
    At first, Rama did not know where Ravana had taken Sita.
  • WOMAN is singular; WOMEN is plural.
    Zeus loved many mortal women and fathered many children with them.


Here you see Pharaoh's daughter discovering the baby Moses in the river Nile; for more information, visit Wikipedia.

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