“Earn” and “urn” sound the same, making it easy to get them confused. But these words are spelled differently and mean different things. To make sure you don’t mix them up in your writing, then, check out our guide below.
Earn (Receive Something Due)
“Earn” is a verb that usually means “receive money for work”:
He earns twice as much as me but does half the work!
How much do you earn a year?
It can also mean “get something you deserve”:
I feel I’ve earned a holiday.
She felt she’d earned a big slice of cake after her exercise class.
Whichever way you use it, though, “earn” (with an “ea”) is the correct spelling.
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Urn (A Container)
“Urn” is a noun that refers to a container. One common type of “urn” is used to hold someone’s ashes after cremation:
Tom kept his father’s ashes in an urn on the mantelpiece.
However, the word can also refer to a large metal container with a tap, used for keeping large amounts of tea or coffee hot:
Janice brought the tea urn through to the meeting room.
And it can refer to a type of decorative vase, often used in gardens. While these urns are very different in purpose, though, this word is always spelled “urn.”
Summary: Earn or Urn?
These two words sound similar but mean different things:
Earn is a verb meaning “receive money for work” or “get something deserved.”
Urn is a noun that typically refers to either a container used for cremated ashes or a container with a tap for dispensing hot tea or coffee.
If you’re not sure which spelling to use, think about whether you’re describing an action or naming something. “Earn” is a verb, so it always expresses an action. “Urn” is a noun, so it always names something (i.e., a type of container).
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