English grammar- odds and ends
Homonyms, homophones, synonyms and antonyms
What’s a homonym – or how to get confused in English without really trying!
“well”; “well”; “well” – the same word repeated 3 times? …… well, not really …. They are spelt and pronounced the same – but have different meanings!
"Well!” he said. “The well is dry and we can no longer be sure of remaining well enough to travel.
The first ‘well’ is an exclamation; the second ‘well’ refers to underground water and the third ‘well’ refers to good health.
Homonyms (and homophones & synonyms) are quite common in English; and it pays to be conscious of them to avoid confusion when listening or writing.
They are also important for variations in writing so that our narrative remains interesting and not repetitive.
mail/mail: mail – the letter in post; and mail the shirt of armour.
Mail/male: mail the letter in the post or the armoured shirt AND male: the masculine gender (these are homophones, though the two ‘mails” remain homonyms also!!!.
plane/plane: plane the aeroplane; and plane meaning a flat surface ….. you try plain and plane – a homophone.
Are words spelt like another word (and even pronounced the same)
But have a different meaning.
e.g.can (tin or container) and can (to be able to do something)
Same Pronunciation; Same Spelling; Different Meaning
A word that is pronounced the same as another word
But has a different meaning and spelling
e.g.some/sum; stare/stair, fort/fought; made/maid;
cent (coin) and scent (smell) and sent (verb: to send)
Same Pronunciation; Different Spelling; Different Meaning
Note: They are usually nouns, but some homophones and homonyms can be verbs
e.g. Cent (noun) and sent (verb) “The boy sent (verb) a 10 cent (noun) piece to his mother by mail.
Usually, homophones are in groups of two (our, hour), but very occasionally they can be in groups of three (to, too, two) or even four. If we take "bear" example, we can add another word to the group"
“Our bear (the animal) cannot bear (tolerate) being bare (naked) in the winter – this is actually a mix of homophone and homonym!
Note: Nowadays some grammars make no distinction between homophone and homonym – putting all under the homonym label. It does simplify – but do what you are more comfortable with.
Likewise with homonyms – usually in twos, but occasionally in threes as above e.g. well, well, well.
“Well !” he said. “The well is dry and we can no longer be sure of remaining well enough to travel.
A word or expression that has the same (or nearly the same) meaning as another word (in the same language)
e.g. car/automobile; cut/shear
Different Pronunciation; Different Spelling; Same Meaning
A word that means the opposite of another meaning [Antonym is the opposite of synonym]
e.g. old/young; old/new; far/near; boy/girl.
The Japanese language is a language of words and characters. It is spoken very much as it is written with each word standing alone with its own meaning. This is completely opposite of English. English is a language of groupings of words and thoughts. It has a flow and a rhythm, like the Latin based languages.
Some Common Homophones
This list contains only the most common homophones, using relatively well-known words. These are headwords only. No inflections (such as third person singular "s" or noun plurals) are included.
eye ......... aye ..... I
bare ........ bear .... bear
For .......... fore ..... four
oar .......... or ........ ore
pair ......... pear ...... pare
sew .......... so ....... sow
wear ......... where ..... ware
Different varieties and accents of English may produce variations in some of these pronunciations. The homophones listed here are based on British English.
Remember a homonym has the same spelling and pronunciation, but a different meaning (can/can)
And a homophone has a different spelling, same pronunciation but a different meaning. (hare/hair)
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