Praying or “Preying”: Main Differences & How to Use Both Correctly as a Writer

Praying and preying may sound similar, but they have completely different meanings and uses in the English language.

Praying is the act of communicating with a higher power, usually in a spiritual or religious context. It involves making requests, expressing gratitude, or simply seeking comfort through prayer. On the other hand, preying refers to the act of hunting and capturing prey, usually in a predatory or harmful manner.

As a writer, it is important to understand the differences between these two words to avoid confusion and misuse in your writing. Using the wrong word can change the entire meaning of your sentence and can be jarring to your readers.

In this blog post, we will explore the main differences between praying and preying, and how to use them correctly in your writing. Understanding these distinctions will help you enhance your writing skills and effectively communicate your ideas to your audience. Let’s dive in and explore the nuances of these two homophones.

What Does The Word Pray Mean?

Pray is a verb. It has two common meanings:

  • to speak to God, either in a religious ceremony to express love, admiration, or thanks; or to ask for something
  • to hope for something very much

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What Does the Word Prey Mean?

Prey can be used as either a noun or a verb.

As a noun, prey has two known meanings:

  • an animal taken by a predator as food
  • one that is helpless or unable to resist attack

It’s easy to see that these meanings are related. Prey, when used as a noun, connotes something vulnerable and hunted by a predator.

Prey as a verb means:

  • to seize and devour prey
  • to make raids for the sake of booty
  • to have an injurious, destructive, or wasting effect

The verb-form meanings share similarities with the word “prey.”Prey, in all of its verb-form definitions, refers to the act of hunting to take—whether it is for food, personal gain, or domination.

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How To Use Pray In A Sentence

If you’ve ever been to a religious service or ceremony, you’ve probably heard the worship leader say, “Let us pray.” That’s one of the more common sentences using pray.

Here are some examples of using pray as a verb in religious contexts:

  • I will pray to (enter the name of your higher power) for guidance and comfort.
  • Please pray for a positive outcome.
  • We need to pray for an end to world hunger.
  • Devout believers pray without ceasing.

The following examples demonstrate the use of pray as a verb expressing the action of hoping for something.

  • I pray the weather holds up.
  • I pray they get home safely.
  • I pray we get there in time.

Although the second group of instances concentrates on wishing, the speaker may use both definitions of “pray.”

The speaker may just be hoping for nice weather or, spiritually, appealing to their higher power to bring it. However, comprehending the speaker’s overall goal does not require making the distinction in meaning.

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How To Use Prey In A Sentence

To “prey” means to hunt and kill other animals for food. It can also mean exploiting or victimizing others, typically in a way that takes advantage of their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

Examples of prey used as a noun:

  1. He’s so trusting. He’s easy prey for a con artist!
  2. The sugar is prey for ants.
  3. The lion hunts for prey at night.

The act of the predator— hunting or stalking— is the context for using prey as a verb. Usually, it is followed by the word “on” or “upon.” For example:

  • Eagles prey on mammals and fish.
  • Anxiety preys on my mind.
  • Scammers prey on the most vulnerable members of society.
  • They preyed on my fragile emotional state and convinced me to give them money.

Every writer must know when to use “Anywhere” and “Everywhere”in their writing

Verb Tenses of Pray

  • Infinitive: To pray
  • Present: Prays
  • Past: Prayed
  • Future: Will pray
  • Participle: Has, have, had prayed

The noun form of pray is prayer and the plural form of that noun is prayers. For example:

  • We offered a prayer of worship.
  • We offered prayers of praise.
  • Our prayers have been answered.
  • Let’s pray a prayer of thanksgiving.

Generally, the word prayer (pronounced PRAY-er) is not used to identify a person who is praying, at least not formally. Terms referring to people who pray include “worshipper,” “supplicant,” and “petitioner.”

Verb Tenses of Prey

  • Infinitive: To prey
  • Present: Preys
  • Past: Preyed
  • Future: Will prey
  • Participle: Has, have, had preyed

Plural Form of Prey (Noun)

The plural form of the noun prey remains prey. A lion may hunt a zebra as prey, or a lion may hunt three zebras as prey. The zebra is prey and the zebras are prey.

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How To Remember When To Use Prey and Pray In A Sentence

  • The word pray means “ask” and “adoration”. When we pray, we ask for help, peace, or forgiveness, or express adoration to the receiver of their prayers.
  • The word prey connotes “eat,” “eliminate,” and “exploit” which describes what many predators do with their prey. The lion eats the zebra. The killer eliminates its victim. The manipulator exploits its target.

FAQs On Praying or Preying

What does “praying” mean?

“Praying” refers to the act of communicating with a deity or spiritual being, often involving worship, supplication, or giving thanks. It is an important practice in many religions.

What does “preying” mean?

Preying means hunting and killing other animals for food. It can also mean to exploit or victimize others, usually by taking advantage of their weaknesses or vulnerabilities.

Can you use both words in a sentence?

Certainly! Here’s an example: “While the congregation was praying inside the church, a hawk outside was preying on a rabbit in the field.”


Prey and pray are homophones: they belong to a category of words in which two words sound alike but have different meanings, origins, or spellings.

As a noun, pray means to speak to God, either in a religious ceremony to express love, admiration, or thanks; or to ask for something while prey means an animal taken by a predator as food.


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