The English language is complicated. Not only due to the wide variety of spellings and meanings given to words, but due to the fact that we are limited by the amount of sounds we can make, many words that have different meanings are given the same sound. Naturally, this can cause some confusion when having a conversation with someone, and can lead to misunderstandings if the meaning of what you are saying is not apparent. This all comes down to simple phonics and what are known as homonyms, homophones and homographs. The correct study and use of these can help us determine the sense of what people are saying to each other, and understand how best to structure our sentences and speech around the common misunderstood words, so that we clearly explain what we mean.
Here is a basic explanation of each type of sound with links to worksheets and quizzes that will help you to better understand the differences between each and learn how to implement it in your writing and speech.
Homonyms are essentially words that have the same spelling and sound, but that denote different meanings. For instance, the sentence, ‘She spots a Dalmatian crossing the road’, can refer to the spots on a Dalmatian’s body, but in this case it is used with the meaning, ‘to see’. A homonym is also a homograph as well as a homophone, as you will see in the below descriptions.
Here are some links to excellent homonym resources:
Homophones are words that sound alike, but mean different things. There are times when they are also spelled the same, such as ΄rose’ the flower and ΄rose’ out of bed, being the past tense of ΄rise’. There are, however, homophones that are spelled differently from each other, including ΄carat’, ΄carrot’ and ΄caret’ as well as the common and often confused ΄to’, ΄too’ and ΄two.’
Here are links to excellent worksheets and activities for learning homophones:
Homographs are words that spelled the same, but that have different meanings and are pronounced differently. One example is the word ΄lead’. This can mean to ΄lead a group of people’, or to refer to the metal ΄lead’. There are many homographs that people misread in books because they are spelled the same way, and you often need to read the sentence fully in order to determine the appropriate meaning and the correct way to say the word.
Although these words can be hard to determine at first, the meanings, pronunciations, spellings and other grammatical nuances can be learned and memorized. Many people who do not speak English as a first language struggle to make the correct associations between the different words, meanings and spellings, but as you continue to read and write you will get better and better at it.
Once you look at the relationship between these words and the meanings they provide you will understand how best to write your thoughts down or tell someone a story without making it too confusing for them to understand. You might have to refer to something else or support your sentence with an additional one in order to allow the reader to comprehend what you are trying to say.