“Homophone” vs “Homonym”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

Did you know that homophones and homonyms can be the same? 

I mean that the same word that can be both a homophone and a homonym.

All that and more have been carefully explained here.

You’ll learn a thing or two. Read!

Homophones vs homonyms

A homonym in linguistics is a word or group of words with different meanings but the same pronunciation and spelling. This usually happens when the etymologies/roots of two words are different.

A homophone is a word with multiple meanings that is pronounced the same way. The words can be spelled differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too, or the same, as in rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”).

All homonyms have the same sound, hence, they are all homophones. Not all homophones are homonyms. Homophones with different spellings are not homonyms.

Homophones are words or groups that sound the same but have different meanings. When homonyms are used to define homophones, they have the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings. 

Homophones are words with the same spelling but different pronunciations. In contrast, homophones are terms with the same sound but different spellings and meanings, such as “Buy” and “By.” 

Having a better knowledge of homophones is important for enhancing English language skills. It helps people improve their vocabulary. 

When speaking, thousands of homophones are used, which can be confusing for both novices and native speakers. Bark, for example, may be either a covering of a tree or a dog’s sound.

See also: “Forward” vs “Foreword”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

How to use homophone and/vs homonym

Words with the same meaning but spelled differently. Homonyms are considered synonymous with homophones and homographs. 

A homonym is a broad term that includes homophones and homographs, which are words with the same spelling but different sounds. 

According to the definition above, a word pair cannot be a homonym unless they share the same spelling or sound. A homonym, on the other hand, is more specifically described as a homophone (sounding the same) and a homograph (spelled the same). 

Examples of homophones

Here are some examples of homophones

  • Do (to finish) and due (by a specified date) 
  • They’re (they are), there (a location), and their (belonging to them)
  • Know (to comprehend) and no (the reverse of yes)
  • Plain (not fancy) and plane (flying vehicle)
  • Poor (having little money) and pour (to put liquid from a container)

Differences Between Homonyms and Homophones 

Homophones and homonyms may have been used interchangeably in the past.

The Greek prefix homo-, meaning “same,” appears in both words, indicating a relationship between two or more words. Their meanings differ slightly. 

Homonyms are pairs of words that have the same spelling and pronunciation. 

A homophone is a pair of words that sound similar. 

For example, the words eight and ate are homophones because they sound similar. The words “bar” (a metal stick) and “bar” (a facility that sells alcohol) are homophones since they sound and are spelled the same. 

See also: “Citing” vs “Siting”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

Homophones vs homonyms Examples

The most common homophones that confuse are

Most common confusing examples of homophones:

  • Effect/affect:- the effect is a verb while the effect is a noun.
  • Than/then:- then is an adverb, adjective, or noun. Than is a subordinary conjugation.
  • You’re/your:- your is the pronoun used in language, while you’re is a contraction used for you are.

Examples of homophones and homonym are as follows

  • Break/brake
  • Dye/Die
  • Sell/ cell
  • Flower/ flour
  • Heal/heel
  • Night/knight 
  • Write/ right
  • Whether/weather
  • Tale/ tail
  • See/sea
  • Sun/son
  • Pour/poor
  • Except /accept
  • Complement/compliment
  • Too/to/two
  • Quail (the bird) and quail (to cringe).
  • Buy/by

See also: “Adopt” vs “Adapt”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer


Understanding homophones is important in mastering the English language. Rather than simply learning the examples, learn how to use and analyze them; this will help you better understand homonym.