Here are the 25 most common homophones in English for your reference. Homophones are words that sound the ame, but have different spellings. Getting to know these will help, not only your pronunciation, but your spelling too.
1. ate, eight
ate (verb): This is the simple past tense of the verb “to eat.”
I ate an entire pizza and now I’m really full and tired.
eight (noun): The number after seven and before nine.
Charles will wake up at eight o’clock tomorrow morning.
Interesting note: There is a popular children’s joke that goes like this:
Q: Why was 6 afraid of 7?
A: Because 7 ate 9.
Yes, it’s pronounced “because 7 8 9,” and yes, it’s a pretty bad joke. But most kids’ jokes are bad.
2. bare, bear
bare (adjective): If something is bare, it means that it’s not covered or not decorated.
Tom likes to walk around his house in bare feet. He says it’s more comfortable than wearing shoes.
bear (noun): A large mammal.
When you go camping, you should be careful to not leave any food or anything with a scent in your tent because they can attract bears.
Interesting note: Bears are often popular characters in stories and cartoons.
3. buy, by, bye
to buy (verb): A synonym of “to purchase.” It’s probably one of the first verbs you learned.
I forgot my money at home. Do you think you could buy me lunch and I’ll pay you back tomorrow?
by (preposition): This can be used in many different ways. It’s commonly used to mean “next to” or “near” when describing a location. It can also indicate who created something.
My favorite autobiography is “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” It’s written by Malcolm X and Alex Haley.
bye (exclamation): This is a shortening of “goodbye.”
I’ve got to go now, so bye! See you on Sunday!
Interesting note: This is a set of three homophones, but you could also possibly include the prefix “bi-.” It means “two,” as in “bipedal” (something that uses two legs), but it can also be an adjective as an abbreviation for “bisexual.” So if you include “bi,” then this can actually be a set of four homophones!
4. cell, sell
cell (noun): A cell is a small area or room, usually in a prison. A cell can also be one of the smallest divisions of a living organism.
The prisoner spent 10 years in his cell.
to sell (verb): To exchange a product or service for money. Like “buy,” it was probably one of the first verbs you learned.
We would like to sell our car, but we don’t think we’d get very much money for it.
Interesting note: Monks (men) and nuns (women) are two groups of religious people who live in monasteries or convents. Their rooms are also called “cells,” and they actually do look a bit similar to a prison cell!
5. dew, do, due
dew (noun): Dew is the name for small drops of water that accumulate (gather) on plants and other objects outside during the night.
When I went outside early in the morning, the dew on the grass made my shoes wet.
to do (verb): This common verb is used to indicate an action. It can also be an auxiliary verb.
What do you usually do on Friday nights?
due (adjective): This is used to indicate the deadline (final day) that something can happen. It’s also used to indicate when a baby will probably be born.
My friend is pregnant. Her baby is due in October.
Interesting note: The soft drink company Mountain Dew played with this homophone set with its motto “Do the Dew.“
6. eye, I
eye (noun): The part of your body that you use to see.
My eyes hurt when I read. I think I need a pair of glasses.
I (pronoun): A first person singular subject pronoun.
I really hope you know what this word means.
Interesting note: This can actually be a three-word homophone if you include the word “aye.” That’s an old-fashioned way of saying “yes.” You might hear people on boats show that they’re following an order by saying “Aye-aye, captain!” And there’s a strange-looking animal called an “aye-aye,” also. I learned that just a minute ago, so even native speakers learn new words every day!
7. fairy, ferry
fairy (noun): A mythical creature that can often do magic.
There is a fairy named Tinkerbell in the story “Peter Pan.”
ferry (noun): A ferry is a boat that moves passengers and vehicles across water. It’s used for long distances or places where there are no bridges.
The ferry in Costa Rica is really hot and incredibly badly organized. At least the trip only takes an hour.
Interesting note: There is a common mythical fairy in some parts of the world called the Tooth Fairy. She’s especially popular in the USA. The story is that when a child loses a tooth, he or she should put the tooth under their pillow. Then, while they sleep, the Tooth Fairy will replace the tooth with a coin.
8. flour, flower
flour (noun): This is the main ingredient in bread. It’s a powder made from ground grains.
Tony wanted to make a cake, but he didn’t have any flour, so he couldn’t.
flower (noun): The decorative, colorful part of a plant.
If you want to give flowers to somebody you love, avoid white roses. They are often given when someone dies.
Interesting note: In some languages, there is an element that has a name similar to “flour.” But in English, the element is called “fluoride,” and the “u” is silent.
9. for, four
for (preposition): This preposition is usually used to indicate a person who receives something, or to indicate a purpose.
We wanted to buy a chocolate cake for Cheryl’s birthday. The bakery didn’t have any chocolate cakes for sale, though, so we got vanilla instead.
four (noun): The number after three and before five.
The Beatles, one of the most famous bands ever, had four members: George, John, Paul and Ringo.
Interesting note: This is another set of homophones that can also include a third: If you’re playing golf, you should yell “Fore!” right before you hit the ball. This warns other people to look out for your ball.
10. hear, here
to hear (verb): This is the action that you do with your ears. The sense is called “hearing.”
I can’t hear the TV. Can you please turn up the volume?
here (adverb): “Here” indicates the place where you are at any moment. It’s the opposite of “there,” basically.
Can you set the boxes down over here please? Yes, right here next to the door.
Interesting note: The expression “Hear, hear!” is used to indicate that you agree with something. But it’s usually used in formal situations, and it’s not very common in modern English.
11. hour, our
hour (noun): A period of time that lasts 60 minutes.
It takes about six hours to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
our (pronoun): This is the possessive pronoun form of “we.”
We should study for our exams.
Interesting note: Depending on a speaker’s accent and the way they’re using the word, these two might not alwayssound like homophones. Also, to make things more confusing, the word “our” is sometimes pronounced as a homophone to “are.”
12. know, no
to know (verb): To have knowledge or understanding about something.
Reggie knows how to speak French.
no (determiner): This indicates a negation or something that’s not true.
There is no good reason to listen to Justin Bieber.
Interesting note: This pair of words made me think of some interesting songs. Radiohead has a song called “A Punchup at a Wedding (No no no no no no no no),” Beirut has one called “No No No” and Destiny’s Child has two songs called “No, No, No” (part 1 and part 2. Personally, I like part 2 better).
Also, I discovered that there is a Swedish band (that sings in English) called NONONO. See, you learn something new every day!
13. knight, night
knight (noun): A man given a special honor (or rank) by a king or queen. Their title is usually “Sir.”
One popular English legend talks about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
night (noun): The period of time when it’s dark and most people sleep.
I prefer to work at night, since it’s quieter and not as hot. I can concentrate better.
Interesting note: There was a popular TV show in the 1980s called “Knight Rider,” but many people thought it was “Night Rider.” It was actually called “Knight Rider” because the main character, played by David Hasselhoff, was named Michael Knight.
Also, an additional fun note: I live in Costa Rica, and here “Knight Rider” was called “El Auto Fantástico,” or “The Fantastic Car”!
14. mail, male
(to) mail (verb or noun): As a noun, this is a collective noun for letters and packages. As a verb, this means to send something to somebody. Email also comes from this word.
I haven’t gotten the mail yet today, but I was expecting a letter from grandma. Can you please check the mailbox?
male (adjective or noun): An adjective (or noun) indicating that something is masculine or has masculine reproductive organs.
People always ask if our cat is pregnant. I tell them he can’t be, since he’s a male. He’s just fat.
Interesting note: In British English, they usually use the word “post” as a verb or a noun, instead of “mail.”
15. marry, merry
to marry (verb): The action when two people have a wedding; also called “to get married.”
My grandpa told me to be sure to marry a good woman.
merry (adjective): A synonym for “happy,” but less common in modern English. Mostly used in phrases like “Merry Christmas!”
I don’t like to go shopping in December because the song “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” always gets stuck in my head.
Interesting note: This is another example of a three-word homophone set, if you include the name “Mary.”
16. meat, meet
meat (noun): Edible flesh from an animal.
Vegetarians don’t eat meat.
to meet (verb): When you are introduced to a person for the first time. It can also refer to later meetings.
I’m excited to travel to England so I can meet some new people!
Interesting note: In English, you can generally only meet people, but not places. If you want to talk about seeing a place for the first time, you could say something like “I want to see Paris,” “I want to go to Paris,” or “I want to visitParis.” But we generally don’t use the words “meet” or “know” with places.
17. pair, pear
pair (noun): A set of two things that go together.
Most of these examples of homophone sets are pairs of words, but some are groups of three or four words.
pear (noun): A delicious fruit.
I wanted to buy pears for my fruit salad, but they only had winter pears. I don’t like winter pears very much because they’re hard, so I got peaches instead.
Interesting note: This can also be a set of three words if you include the less-common verb to pare. It means to cut something to make it smaller.
18. right, write
right (adjective): This can mean either a synonym of “correct” or the opposite of “left.”
I should turn right when I get to 10th Street, right?
to write (verb): The action of making words or marks to represent ideas.
Jerry’s dream is to write a novel, but he hasn’t decided what the book should be about.
Interesting note: This can be yet another homophone set of three words if you include “rite,” which is a ceremony or ritual. There is also a common last name “Wright,” which is pronounced the same as “right,” “write” and “rite.”
19. sight, site
sight (noun): This is the sense that you use when you see or look.
Blind people can’t see. They have no sight.
site (noun): This is a synonym for “place.” The most common modern use is in the word “website.”
There’s an awesome site for language learners.
Interesting note: You guessed it: This can be another three-word set if you include the word “to cite,” which means “to reference.” For example, it’s commonly used in academic papers that have citations of other books.
20. son, sun
son (noun): A male child.
Grandma and grandpa had four sons and three daughters.
sun (noun): The star at the center of our solar system. It’s that big yellow thing in the sky during the day.
Don’t look directly at the sun, or you’ll damage your eyes. You may even lose your eyesight!
Interesting note: Don’t forget that the word “sons” only indicates males, and “daughters” is just females. If you want to indicate “sons and daughters” with only one word, you can say “children” (even if you’re talking about adults).
21. their, there, they’re
their (pronoun): The possessive pronoun for the subject “they.”
We should study for our English exam, and they should study for their German exam.
there (adverb): Remember the word “here” above? This is basically the opposite of that. “There” can refer to any place where you are not at.
Who is that over there? Is that Jane? If so, I hope she comes over here, since I want to talk to her.
they’re (contraction): This is a contraction of the phrase “they are.”
The children all passed their exams, so they’re very happy!
Interesting note: This is a bit funny, because this set of homophones actually seems to cause more trouble for native speakers than it does for English learners. There are even some great videos that are designed for native speakers, but people still get confused.
22. to, too, two
to (preposition): This usually indicates a direction that something is moving.
Every day Paul and Judy drive together to school.
too (adverb): “Too” can usually either mean “also,” or it can indicate that there is more of something than necessary (and it’s usually a problem).
I’m too full to finish this plate of food. I’ll ask the waiter if we can have a container to take it home. And I’ll ask for the bill, too.
two (noun): The number after one and before three.
Most homophone sets have two words, but some have three or four.
Interesting note: This is another set of homophones that confuse native speakers, too. But of course there are some fun videos available to help you!
23. one, won
one (noun): The number after zero and before two.
The musical group Three Dog Night said that one was the loneliest number.
won (verb): “Won” is the simple past and past participle form of the verb “to win.”
Grandpa won $500 in his poker game!
Interesting note: When you use a form of the verb “to win,” you can either indicate the event or the prize, but not the opponent. If you want to indicate the opponent, use the verb “to beat.” So in the example above, you could say “grandpa won $500″ or “grandpa won the poker game,” but you would say “grandpa beat all of his poker friends.”
24. wait, weight
to wait (verb): This means to stay in one place or to anticipate something.
It was snowing a lot, so the bus came late. I had to wait in the cold for 20 minutes.
weight (noun): This word indicates how heavy something is.
Every year around Christmas, many people gain a lot of weight because they eat lots of food but don’t exercise.
Interesting note: If you want to determine a person or an object’s weight, then the verb is “to weigh.” The machine you use to weigh something is called a scale.
25. wear, where
to wear (verb): To have clothing or accessories on your body.
I hate wearing ties. They’re uncomfortable, hot, and hard to tie. Do you wear ties?
where (interrogative): A question word used to ask for a location.
Where should we meet for dinner? Personally, I’d like to meet at the new Chinese restaurant in town.