Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs for ESL Students - Owlcation - Education
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Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs for ESL Students

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

homonyms-homophones-and-homographs-for-esl-students

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Homonyms, homophones, and homographs can sometimes be very confusing and difficult for ESL and EFL learners to understand. Whenever I gave dictation exercises to my students, many kids would mistakenly hear and write they're instead of there. When composing sentences on the board, many pupils would often in error write its instead of It's. On the occasions when students read aloud, many would put the stress on the wrong syllable of words which are used as both nouns and verbs. In many cases, English is not pronounced the way it is written. There are so many words in English that sound alike but have different meanings and spellings. Finally, some words are spelled the same, but they have different meanings with the same or different sounds.

This article first explains the meanings of homonym, homophone, and homograph. It then gives examples of these words which English language learners will encounter in their studies.

What are Homonyms?

Homonyms are words that sound alike but have different meanings. They may or may not be spelled the same. For example, the word fair is spelled and pronounced the same for three words with three different meanings. We may talk about a girl with a fair appearance going to see the county fair. She paid a fair price to get into the fair. The words buy, by, and bye are also homonyms.

What are Homophones?

Homophones are types of homonyms. These words sound alike, but they have different meanings and spellings. Anytime my students take a dictation test, a great number will write, They're beaches on the island instead of writing There are beaches on the island. This is because They're and there sound the same. If the students understood the grammatical functions of They're and there, they would not make this mistake. A lot of other pupils have difficulty distinguishing among where, we're, were, and wear which all sound the same but have different meanings.

What are Homographs?

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. These words may have the same or different sound. For example, the word, a tear in her eye, and to tear down the house are homographs. In this situation, tear as a noun and tear as a verb are spelled the same, pronounced differently, and have different meanings. Citing another example, a birthday present and to present my friend to my mother indicate the use of present as both a noun and a verb. The pronunciations are different because when present is used as a noun, the stress is on the first syllable of the word. When present is used as a verb, the stress is on the second syllable of the word. Students should be taught the rule that for two-syllable words used as both nouns and verbs, the stress is on the first syllable for nouns and the second syllable for verbs.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Summary

The smart ESL and EFL teacher should spend extra time making sure that his or her students understand and can use common words used as homonyms, homophones, and homographs. This can only be done through student memorization of the words and constant practice using them every day.

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs

Common Homonyms, Homophones, and Homographs Which My Students Encounter in the Classroom

HomonymsHomophonesHomographs

ate - eight

aloud - allowed

read - read

fair - fare

plain - plane

bass - bass

by - buy - bye

son - sun

a tear - to tear

see - sea

one - won

a sow - to sow

It's - its

dear - deer

close - to close

bough - bow

sail - sale

a bow - to bow

lead - led

where - wear

a present - to present

write - right

which - witch

a row - to row

a lie - to lie down

night - knight

a lie - to lie

red - read (past tense)

blew - blue

a record - to record

to - too - two

bored - board

a select - to select

they're - their - there

whose - who's

a reject - to reject

We're - were

been - bin

a return - to return

four - for

been - ben

wind - to wind

a fair - to fair

close - clothes

a rebel - to rebel

flower - flour

be - bee

a desert - to desert

hear - here

hair - hare

a button - to button

seen - scene

sent - scent

a review - to review

a saw - saw (past tense)

a rose - rose (past tense)

a report - to report

meat - meet

rode - road

a consent - to consent

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 21, 2020:

I am happy you found this article useful and informative. I look forward to reading your email.

Asma on January 21, 2020:

sir,I've been tempted to write to you expressing my pleasure about reading this useful and informative hub .

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 07, 2019:

Thank you for your encouraging comments.

Lokesh Magar on August 06, 2019:

Happy to be the reader of this vital words.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 14, 2019:

Thanks for commenting. In many dialects of English, we're and were do not have the same sound. In my native Wisconsin dialect, they do sound the same.

Dylan on January 14, 2019:

I would just like to point out that "we"re" and "were" do not have the same sound.

The rest was helpful ! Thanks !

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 04, 2018:

Thanks for commenting. I am happy you liked this article. I want to also wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Suzie from Carson City on December 04, 2018:

Hello Paul! Hope you are well.

Information, lessons & reminders....I can never absorb enough! Thank you! Wishing you & yours a great Holiday Season. Peace, Paula

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 04, 2018:

I am happy you found this article useful.

@nurarfahs on December 04, 2018:

Thanks for the homonyms,homophones and homographs topic.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 05, 2015:

I appreciate your comments!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 05, 2015:

My EFL and ESL students always liked it when I introduced idioms in class. I'm very happy you like this hub and think it should be part of every ESL textbook. Thanks again for the great appreciative comments.

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on January 05, 2015:

Idioms- Thank you! I saw the word in your list of hubs!

Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on January 05, 2015:

This hub should be part of every ESL textbook. When my Arab students would get bored, I'd do an exercise in American sayings that made no sense. (The word escapes me now, naturally.) "It's raining cats and dogs." Invariably, once they understood the meaning and context, they would tell me about a similar expression in Arabic.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on November 08, 2014:

&divakar3368 I appreciate you stopping by and commenting on this hub.

divakar3368 from Maldives on November 05, 2014:

nice ...very useful..

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on August 20, 2013:

Shyron,

Thank you so much for your praise of this hub. I really appreciate you sharing it.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on August 18, 2013:

Wonderful hub Paul, I really love our English Language, our living language.

Voted up useful and interesting and will share.

Shyron (No my name is not a variation of Sharon)

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on June 02, 2013:

Moonlake,

Thank you very much for your comments. I'm thrilled that you found this hub interesting and informative. I appreciate you sharing and pinning this hub.

moonlake from America on June 01, 2013:

Thanks teacher very interesting and informative hub. Voted up, share and pinned.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 29, 2013:

Kathryn,

Thank you very much for commenting on this hub. I appreciate your good review of this article.

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on May 29, 2013:

I'm pretty good at English, but at the same time it can be confusing! This is an interesting overview.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 26, 2013:

Ms. Dora,

Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub. I really appreciate your praise of me as a teacher. You have made my day!

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 26, 2013:

Thanks for the lesson. It's good for ESLs as well as the rest of us to keep us sharp. You're good teacher!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 24, 2013:

Au fait,

It's great that you find this hub useful instruction! It is true that there are a lot of writers who make mistakes in the use of homonyms, homophones, and homographs. Thank you greatly for sharing this article!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 24, 2013:

Brett,

I'm very happy that you find this hub useful for EFL teachers. Through ongoing revisions, many of my students are making fewer mistakes with homonyms, homophones, and homographs. Thank you very much for sharing, tweeting, and pinning this hub!

C E Clark from North Texas on May 24, 2013:

Very useful instruction. So many people need this article! I can't tell you how often I see the mistakes you write about here in correspondence and even in hubs.

Voted up, useful, and will share!

Brett C from Asia on May 23, 2013:

A very useful hub for EFL teachers as this is an extremely common area for mistakes, and a tricky one for students to master. With a few focused classes and ongoing revision, this area could be greatly improved.

Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and useful.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 23, 2013:

kidscraft,

Thank you very much for your further comments on this hub. I admire you for immersing yourself into English and learning it well as an adult!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 23, 2013:

Stephanie,

Thank you very much for your great comments. They are very encouraging and I really appreciate them!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 23, 2013:

agapsikap,

Thank you very much for reading and commenting on this hub. I'm very happy that you find this article useful for your kids. I really appreciate your great comments!

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 23, 2013:

rajan,

I'm elated that you found this hub interesting, educative, and useful. Let me express my great appreciation for you sharing and pinning this article!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on May 23, 2013:

I don't know if there are more homonyms, homophones, and homographs in French than English. As a kid, I don't remember learning about that in French.... but I taught them as a teacher (but I was not in the same country). As for Enghish, I learned English just by living in an English speaking country as an adult (shopping, reading, talking, watching television, etc.) So I still make a lot of mistakes but I am slowly getting better :-)

Stephanie Bradberry from New Jersey on May 23, 2013:

Great explanation of homonyms. These trip students up (ESL or not) all the time.

agapsikap from Philippines on May 23, 2013:

This is really great. We know for a fact, kids these days try to research online with regards to their assignments or homeworks. I myself is not a native english speaker. It is indeed very useful and informative. I have to print this for my kids. Voted up and awesome!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 23, 2013:

Thanks for this educative lesson. Though I can use the correct for of these terms and the words associated with the terms, it was like, back to school time days. Thanks.

Voted up, useful, interesting, sharing and pinning.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 22, 2013:

livingsta,

Thank you for commenting on this hub. I'm glad you found this topic useful and I'm really grateful for you sharing this hub.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 22, 2013:

Bill,

Thank you so much for your very interesting comments. Yes, I can see how many people can hate the English language when you run into homonyms like fair and fare.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on May 22, 2013:

kidscraft,

Thank you so much for commenting on this hub. I'm very happy you like this hub and find it useful. Does French have more homonyms, homophones, and homographs than English?

livingsta from United Kingdom on May 20, 2013:

This is useful information for anyone learning the English language. Sometimes even native English speakers get confused with the usage of these words. Thank you for sharing this with us Paul. Voted up, useful and sharing!

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on May 20, 2013:

Hi Paul.

I must say this is great fare - but not suitable for the spelling bee at the County Fair. If I asked a fair young lady to spell fare, she might intone

F-A- I- R and to be fair it does sound correct. But the fare I wanted is the price of passage from Boston to Los Angeles.

Huh!!!!! This is why we often HATE the English language!!!!!!!

kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on May 20, 2013:

I love the graphic you use on top of your article! It explains a lot of things visually!

I had to teach the same in French to my students..... some of whom who had English or another language as a first language!

Great hub and subject so important to teach well! Thanks for sharing!

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