Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Sound-alikes

Have you ever wondered why some words—homonyms—sound alike even though they have different meanings or spellings? Since there are no rules, homonyms are tricky: you must learn them by heart. Remember, practice (or is it practise?) makes perfect, so have a look at our list.

A

  • air (atmosphere)
    are (1/100 of a hectare)
    ere (before)
    err (to make a mistake)
    heir (inheritor)
  • aisle (walkway)
    I'll (contraction of I will)
    isle (small island)
  • allowed (permissible)
    aloud (out loud)
  • all ready (prepared)
    already (previously)
  • all together (everyone at the same time)
    altogether (entirely)
  • a lot (many; to a great extent)
    alot (incorrect; avoid)
    allot (divide or distribute)
  • anyone (anybody)
    any one (any person in a group, as in "any one of the students")
  • ascent (climb)
    assent (agreement)
  • assistance (help)
    assistants (helpers)
  • auger (tool)
    augur (to foretell)
  • aural (of hearing)
    oral (of the mouth)

B

  • bail (money to get out of jail)
    bale (bundle of hay)
  • bare (unclothed)
    bear (animal)
  • bi (bisexual)
    buy (to purchase)
    by (near)
    bye (goodbye)
  • bloc (alliance)
    Bloc (short for Bloc Québécois, a political party)
    block (square object)
  • board (piece of wood)
    bored (uninterested)
  • born (of birth)
    borne (carried)
  • borough (town)
    burrow (to dig)
  • brake (to stop)
    break (to smash)
  • breach (gap; violation)
    breech (lower part)
  • broach (to begin to talk about)
    brooch (type of jewellry)

C

  • cache (hidden storage)
    cash (money)
  • cannon (gun)
    canon (body of law)
  • canvas (fabric)
    canvass (to solicit charitable donations)
  • capital (city)
    Capitol (US government building)
  • carat (unit of weight for gemstones)
    caret (proofreader's mark)
    carrot (vegetable)
    karat (measure of gold purity)
  • cast (to throw)
    caste (social group)
  • censer (incense holder)
    censor (person who represses ideas, etc.)
    sensor (device that detects)
  • cent (penny)
    scent (odour)
    sent (past tense of to send)
  • cents (money)
    scents (odours)
    sense (meaning)
  • chute (inclined channel)
    shoot (to discharge a gun)
  • cite (to quote)
    sight (vision)
    site (location)
  • complement (something that completes)
    compliment (flattering remark)
  • cord (thin rope)
    chord (combination of musical notes)
  • councillor (elected official)
    counsellor (adviser)

D

  • dependant (person who relies on another)
    dependent (unable to do without)
  • dependants (people who rely on others)
    dependence (state of being dependent)
  • discreet (prudent, tactful)
    discrete (distinct)
  • dyeing (colouring)
    dying (approaching death)

E

  • elicit (to draw forth)
    illicit (unlawful)
  • everyone (everybody)
    every one (every person in a group, as in "every one of the students")

F

  • fair (free from bias)
    fare (price of passage)
  • faze (to disturb)
    phase (stage)
  • flair (natural talent)
    flare (gradual widening of pants or a skirt)
  • forbear (to hold back)
    forebear (ancestor)
  • foreword (preface)
    forward (toward the front)
  • forth (onward)
    fourth (after third)

G

  • gild (to coat with gold)
    guild (organization)
  • gilt (thin layer of gold)
    guilt (feeling of remorse)
  • gorilla (primate)
    guerrilla (type of soldier)

H

  • hail (to call out)
    hale (healthy)
  • hear (to perceive by ear)
    here (in this place)
  • heard (past tense of to hear)
    herd (group of animals)
  • higher (taller; greater than expected)
    hire (employ)
  • hoard (to accumulate)
    horde (large group)
  • hole (opening)
    whole (entire)

I

  • incite (to provoke)
    insight (understanding)
  • innocence (state of guiltlessness)
    innocents (more than one innocent person)
  • its (possessive form of it)
    it's (contraction of it is)

J

  • jam (fruit spread)
    jamb (vertical side of a doorway)
  • jewel (precious stone)
    joule (unit of work or energy)

K

  • knew (past tense of to know)
    new (not old)
  • know (to be certain)
    no (not any)

L

  • lead (metal)
    led (past tense of to lead)
  • lessen (to become less)
    lesson (single session of formal instruction)
  • licence (permit)
    license (to grant a licence)

M

  • mantel (shelf above a fireplace)
    mantle (cloak)
  • marshal (to gather)
    martial (warlike)
  • meat (flesh)
    meet (to come together)
    mete (to hand out)

N

  • naval (of ships or the navy)
    navel (umbilicus)
  • nay (negative vote)
    neigh (sound horses make)
  • none (zero)
    nun (woman belonging to a religious order)

O

  • one (single)
    won (past tense of to win)
  • overdo (to do to excess)
    overdue (late)

P

  • pair (two)
    pare (to peel)
    pear (fruit)
  • palate (taste)
    palette (paint board)
    pallet (portable platform for transporting goods)
  • past (gone by)
    passed (past tense of to pass)
  • patience (the quality of being patient)
    patients (people under medical care)
  • peace (absence of war)
    piece (portion)
  • peak (mountain top)
    peek (quick look)
    pique (resentment)
  • pearl (gem)
    Perl (computer language)
    purl (knitting stitch)
  • pedal (foot-operated lever)
    peddle (to sell)
  • phosphorous (containing phosphorus)
    phosphorus (chemical)
  • plain (clear)
    plane (flat surface; airplane)
  • poor (having no money)
    pore (small opening in the skin)
    pour (to flow freely)
  • practice (business of a professional)
    practise (to pursue as a profession)
  • praise (commendation)
    prays (worship)
    preys (hunts)
  • precedence (priority)
    precedents (legal decisions)
  • presence (the fact of being present)
    presents (gifts)
  • principal (most important)
    principle (basic truth or law)

R

  • rack (framework)
    wrack (wreck)
  • rain (precipitation)
    reign (rule)
    rein (leash)
  • raise (to bring up)
    rays (beams)
    raze (to tear down)
  • residence (dwelling)
    residents (dwellers)
  • review (to go over)
    revue (theatrical entertainment)
  • right (correct)
    rite (ritual)
    wright (worker)
    write (to inscribe)
  • ring (circular band of metal)
    wring (to twist)
  • road (surface for driving)
    rode (past tense of to ride)
  • root (underground part of a plant)
    route (course)

S

  • scene (place where action takes place)
    seen (past tense of to see)
  • seam (junction)
    seem (to appear)
  • seas (bodies of water)
    sees (looks)
    seize (to grab)
  • sewer (one who sews)
    sower (one who sows)
  • sewer (waste drain)
    suer (one who sues)
  • sight (function of seeing)
    site (location)
  • slay (to kill)
    sleigh (sled)
  • sometime (at an unspecified time)
    some time (unspecified period of time)
  • stair (step)
    stare (to gaze fixedly)
  • stationary (not moving)
    stationery (writing paper)
  • storey (floor in a building)
    story (tale)
  • straight (without a bend)
    strait (narrow passage of water)

T

  • their (belonging to them)
    there (not here)
    they're (contraction of they are)
  • throes (violent spasms)
    throws (hurls)
  • through (by way of)
    threw (past tense of to throw)
  • to (toward)
    too (also)
    two (number following one)
  • troop (soldiers)
    troupe (actors, performers)

V

  • vale (valley)
    veil (piece of transparent fabric)
  • vain (excessively proud)
    vane (flat surface that rotates against air or water)
    vein (blood vessel)

W

  • wail (cry)
    wale (welt)
    whale (mammal)
  • waist (area of the body between the ribs and the hips)
    waste (to consume uselessly)
  • waive (to relinquish a right)
    wave (swell)
  • ware (article of merchandise)
    wear (to have on the body)
    where (in what place)
  • weak (feeble)
    week (seven days)
  • weather (climate)
    whether (if)
  • were (past tense of to be)
    whir (noise)
  • wet (moistened)
    whet (to sharpen)
  • which (what one)
    witch (crone)
  • who's (contraction for who is)
    whose (possessive form of who)

Y

  • yoke (device for joining together)
    yolk (centre of an egg)
  • yore (time past)
    your (possessive form of you)
    you're (contraction of you are)