Homonyms (similar sounding words with different meanings) are often mistaken for each other. This is an issue that we encounter on a daily basis with Tudor Tutoring. When speaking, it does not matter whether you say “weather” but mean “whether”. When writing, it makes the difference between a well said sentence and one that doesn’t mean anything. While it might seem like something that you cannot teach yourself, but it is not. It just takes some practise and feedback.
First and foremost, you need to know that a similar-sounding word exists. For example, if you had never heard of “ale” (the drink which contains alcohol), how would you know it is different from “ail” (to feel sick)?
Think about what is being said exactly in the following example:
- Yesterday, when I was playing poker, I had two pair while eating a pear.
- Yesterday, when I was playing poker, I had two pears while eating a pair.
In example #1, the speaker is eating a pear (a fruit) while holding two sets of two cards (e.g. two twos and two threes). While in the second example, the speaker owns two pears and proceeded to eat two cards.
After knowing that more than one homonym exists, how do you decide which one to use? This is where things get tricky. Some people just decide on one and use it in all instances (not a good idea). Others just decide in the moment which one is better (still not a good idea). And others, learn which witch is which/witch (see what we did there?). For some people, it helps to have a bit of a trick. For example, “Would you like a piece of pie?” or “What did you hear here?”. Having little tricks like pieces of pie or having an ear inside of hear can be a starting point for which homonym to use.
And, just for a bit of fun, consider the song that Baloo sings in Disney’s The Jungle Book. Does he say: “Look for the bare necessities” or “Look for the bear necessities”? Hint: Just because the internet says one thing doesn’t mean that is the only option.
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