• 3-minute read
  • 11th December 2016

Spelling Tips: Our 10 “Most Wanted” Homophones

Homophones—i.e., words that sound the same but differ in spelling and meaning—can cause a lot of confusion when you’re not sure which term to use in your written work.

Some mix-ups are definitely more common than others, though, so here’s our list of ten prominent “reoffenders.” Keep an eye out for them when you’re next writing something!

10. Than/Then

Only one letter separates these terms, but each one has a distinct meaning. “Then” is used when referring to time:

Call me at eight. I’ll be ready by then.

Or when discussing consequences:

If you struggle with spelling, then you might want to hire a proofreader!

“Than,” meanwhile, is used primarily for making comparisons:

I’m better at grammar than spelling.

9. Hear/Here

“Hear” and “here” are very different words: while “hear” means “sense a sound” or “listen,” “here” means “in this place.” Keep in mind that “hear” contains “ear,” which is what you listen with!

8. Affect/Effect

These are very easy to confuse, since both refer to change. The important distinction is that “affect” is a verb (i.e., the act of changing something), but “effect” is usually a noun (i.e., the result).

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7. Where/Were/We’re

Although they look similar on the page, you won’t want to confuse these terms in your work. “Where” refers to locations, “were” is the past tense of “are,” and “we’re” is short for “we are.”

6. Our/Are

Mixing these up is common if English isn’t your first language, as they sound similar despite having very different meanings: “our” is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to us,” but “are” is a present tense form of the verb “to be.”

5. Now/Know

In this case, the words look similar but are pronounced differently, as well as being importantly distinct in their use. “Now” means “at this time,” while “know” is a verb meaning “understand.”

4. There/Their/They’re

Like “where,” “were” and “we’re,” these homophones are commonly confused due to being similarly spelled. To ensure clarity, remember that “there” means “in that place,” “their” means “belonging to them,” and “they’re” is an abbreviation of “they are.”

3. It’s/Its

Although apostrophes are often used to indicate possession, the possessive pronoun “its” doesn’t need one. If you’re forming a contraction of “it is” or “it has” (i.e., “it’s”), however, you should use an apostrophe to show that letters have been omitted.

2. Too/To

Another common error is mixing up “too” (an adverb meaning “also” or “excessively”) and “to” (a preposition that often indicates direction or duration, as well as being used in combination with infinitive verbs). Even if you know the difference between these homophones, keep in mind that it’s easy to make a typo!

1. Your/You’re

At the top of our list of “most wanted” homophones are “your” and “you’re,” simply because they’re so commonly mistaken in day-to-day writing (just check social media if you don’t believe us).

Remember, though, that “your” is a possessive pronoun that means “belonging to you” (e.g., “Your spelling is outstanding!”), while “you’re” is a contraction of “you are” (e.g., “You’re a great speller!).

Believed to be armed and dangerous.
Believed to be armed and dangerous. Report to your local proofreader immediately.

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