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    Common English Heteronyms and Homographs

    Common English Heteronyms and Homographs

    The English language is full of words with identical or similar spellings or pronunciations but different meanings. The following sections explain the differences between some common English heteronyms and homographs.

    Common English Heteronyms

    Heteronyms are words with identical spellings but different pronunciations and meanings. Many heteronyms are related in meaning or origin.

    abuse – verb – to use or treat improperly
    abuse – noun – improper use or treatment

    If your coworkers abuse you, report the abuse to your supervisor.

    close – adjective – nearby
    close – verb – to shut

    The man was not close enough to close the window.

    desert – noun – a barren area of land with little to no precipitation
    desert – verb – to abandon

    The troops deserted the army after being left in the desert for weeks.

    house – noun – a dwelling place, a residential building
    house – verb – to place in residence

    We house our lawnmower inside our house.

    lead – verb – to guide
    lead – noun – a type of metal

    The guide will lead you to your lead mine.

    minute – noun – a unit of time equal to sixty seconds
    minute – adjective – small

    Give me a minute piece of cake in a minute.

    number – noun – a numeral
    number – adjective – more numb, comparative form of numb

    If your hand feels any number, call this number.

    present – noun – a gift
    present – verb – to give, to reveal

    The committee will present a present to the faculty.

    produce – verb – to make, to create
    produce – noun – fruits and vegetables

    Local farmers produce much of the produce in my town.

    tear – noun – liquid produce by crying
    tear – verb – to separate, to rip
    tear – noun – a rip

    A single tear welled up in my eye because of the tear in my new dress.

    wind – noun – movement of the air
    wind – verb – to tighten, to coil

    Wind up the hose to protect it from the wind.

    Common English Homographs

    Homographs are words with identical spellings but different meanings.

    bow – noun – a type of tied ribbon or string
    bow – noun – a weapon used to shoot arrows

    The hunter broke his bow while tying a bow in his shoelace.

    by – preposition – next to, close to, near
    buy – verb – to purchase

    The celebrity will buy the house by the lake.

    dumb – adjective – stupid, idiotic, lacking intelligence
    dumb – adjective – unable to speak

    Through his writing, the dumb man proved the he is not dumb.

    rose – noun – a type of flower
    rose – verb – simple past tense form of to rise

    The man rose early to pick a rose.

    well – adverb – good, healthy, okay
    well – noun – spring, fountain, source of water

    I fell well after digging the well by hand.

    will – modal verb
    will – verb – to want, to wish, to desire
    will – noun – a legal document

    Your mother will will you to write a will.

    By learning the differences in pronunciation and meaning of the most common heteronyms and homographs in the English language, speakers can avoid making embarrassing mistakes.

    References

    The Heteronym Page: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~cellis/heteronym.html
    List of Words Which Have the Same Pronunciation and Spelling but Different Meaning: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/List_of_words_which_have_the_same_pronunciation_and_spelling

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