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What are some common homophones and homographs?

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Quick Answer

Some common homophones are your and you're; to, too and two; and there, their and there. Some common homographs are desert, meaning to abandon, and desert, a dry region; bass, denoting a fish, and bass, a musical instrument; and close, defined as nearby, and close, meaning to shut. Homophones are words that are pronounced alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings, and homographs are words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently and have different meanings.

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Full Answer

The prefix homo- means the same, the suffix -phone denotes sound and the suffix -graph indicates writing. This etymology may help an English student to remember that homophone means "sounds the same" and homograph means "written the same." There is another related term, homonym, for words that are spelled the same and pronounced the same but with different meanings. Common homonyms are spruce, the tree, and spruce, to tidy up; scale, a weighing device, and scale, to climb; and fair, meaning equitable, and fair, a festival.

Homophones typically confuse those writing an English sentence. A simple mnemonic trick may help a person choose between two spellings. When a writer is trying to distinguish between principle and principal, for example, he may use the phrase, "The principal is your pal." Homophones are more likely to trip up readers of English, and the correct pronunciation of a word is determined through context.

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