My students often ask me the difference in pronunciation of words like son & sun, meet & meat, write & right, and which & which. And do you know what? Each of those pairs is pronounced exactly the same, even though they’re spelled differently. It’s important to not let your eyes fool you. English spelling can sometimes be unusual. While there are many rules to help you pronounce words based on their spelling, there are also exceptions to the rules. And those exceptions tend to occur in our most common words. Train your ears to tell you the pronunciation of words, not your eyes.
Prefer to see this as a video, rather than read it? Just click here: Homophones video.
Words that sound the same, but have different meanings and different spellings are called homophones. The prefix “homo” means same, and the root word “phone” means sound, so if you put them together in the word “homophone”, it means “same sound”. There are so many homophones in English, so I’ll give you a list of the ones I think you’re most likely to use. I’ve categorized them based on their vowel sounds. That way, if you’ve not yet mastered a particular vowel sound, you can watch one of my videos on how to pronounce that vowel. Click on the link to go to my American English Vowels playlist on Youtube: Vowels Videos.
Long A homophones: vowel pronounced like the alphabet letter A
Long E homophones: vowel pronounced like the alphabet letter E
Long I homophones: vowel pronounced like the alphabet letter I
Long O homophones: vowel pronounced like the alphabet letter O
Long OO homophones: vowel pronounced like the OO in “food”
Short A homophones: vowel pronounced like the A in “cat”
Short E homophones: vowel pronounced like the E in “bed”
• read*/red (*the past tense of read)
Short I homophones: vowel pronounced like the I in “sit”
Short U homophones: vowel pronounced like the U in “fun”
Short OO homophones: vowel pronounced like the OO in “book”
R Controlled Vowels:
“Ear” sound homophones: vowel sounds like “ear”
*tear like in the tears you cry. There is another word with that same spelling with a different pronunciation: tear, which means to rip. This word rhymes with “hair”.)
“Air” sound homophones: vowel sounds like “air”
“Or” sound homophones: vowel sounds like “or”
“Hour” sound homophones: vowel sounds like “hour”
There are lots of English words that sound the same, but have different meanings and different spellings. Those were some of the more commonly used ones. Are there any homophones you use that are not listed here? Let me know in the comments. If there were any vowel sounds you were unfamiliar with in this article, take a look at my video on how to pronounce those sounds. Just scroll through the list of videos in this playlist until you find the ones you need: Vowels Videos.