• 2-minute read
  • 22nd November 2020

Word Choice: Flu, Flue or Flew?

The words “flu,” “flue,” and “flew” all sound the same, yet they mean completely different things. However, if you follow our advice, you should be able to avoid mix-ups when using these terms in your writing.

Flu (Viral Infection)

The noun “flu” is a shortened form of “influenza,” a viral infection. Typical symptoms of “flu” include a stuffy nose, sore throat, congestion, and fever:

 I think my sore throat might be a sign I have flu.

Most of my colleagues are off work today with the flu.

The word “influenza,” meanwhile, comes from the Medieval Latin influentia, meaning “influence.” This is because some people used to believe flu and other diseases were caused by the influence of the stars!

Flue (Vent or Chimney)

The noun “flue” refers to a pipe that carries exhaust gases from a fire or heater to the outside. For instance, if you have a fireplace at home, the chimney will act as a “flue” when you light a fire:

The house is full of smoke! We forgot to open the flue.

But flues are also used on any building that produces smoke or fumes.

Flew (Past Tense of Fly)

“Flew” is the simple past tense of the verb “fly,” meaning “travel through the air.” We therefore use it to refer to flying that occurred in the past:

The ducks flew south for the winter.

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They flew on the first commercial A380 flight from Singapore to Sydney.

We can also use it for something that moves or passes quickly:

The last hour flew past.

His bike flew past me on the street.

The past participle form of “fly,” meanwhile, is “flown.”

Summary: Flu, Flue or Flew?

While these words sound the same, they have very different meanings:

  • Flu is a noun and refers to an infectious viral disease.
  • Flue is a noun and usually refers to a pipe or chimney for smoke or gases.
  • Flew is the simple past tense of the verb “fly.”

“Flu” and “flue” can be tricky, as only one letter separates these words. But “flu” and “ill” both have three letters, so if you can remember that flu makes you feel ill, you should be able to tell these spellings apart!

For a little more help with your spelling, though, why not try our proofreading services? You can even submit a free 500-word sample document for proofreading today to find out more.

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