Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings, and oftentimes, different spellings. There are many homophones, but stay calm and read on to learn more about this quirky characteristic of the English language, commonly confused homophones, and when and how to use them.

The They’re/There/Their Conundrum

This trio is first on our list because their misuse even amongst native English speakers is very common. Like most words in the homophone family, all three sound the same, but have different spellings and very different meanings.

They’re - A contraction (a condensed version of two words) of “they are” or “they were” . You can use it in both written and spoken language, but it is advised to not use this contraction in academic writing. In cases where “they’re” can be used in academic writing, such as a term paper or thesis, both words of the contraction should be spelled out in full.

They’re coming to the party tomorrow.

They’re favorite cake is being delivered tomorrow.

There - Signifies a location different than that of your current location (here). Most commonly used as an adverb, and sometimes an exclamation.

(adverb) Your bag is over there.

(exclamation) There, I did it!

There car is parked on Main Street.

Their - Shows ownership (otherwise known as a “determiner”), meaning it “belongs to them”.

Their dog is so cute!

Their children are playing over there.

The dog over their is so cute!

How to Use We’re/Where/Wear/Ware

We’re - Another contraction, but this time of the words “we are” . In everyday speaking and writing, the use of “we’re” is totally acceptable, but should also be avoided in academic writing (when in doubt, just spell it out).

We’re on our way to the store.

We’re are you?

Where - Denotes a place or position, and is commonly used in the form of a question. "Where" is commonly used as an adverb, but also used informally as a conjunction.

(adverb) Where are you going?

(conjunction) Where some educators fall short, others excel.

Where going to the movies tonight.

Wear - Used in either verb or noun form, “wear” refers to your physical dress or breaking something down over time.

You are to wear a suit and tie to this evening’s gala.

Routine maintenance on your car is a surefire way to lessen the effects of everyday wear and tear.

Wear is the nearest bus stop?

Ware - A noun defined as a home good, such as pottery or plates.

Home Goods is a fantastic place to find discounted designer wares.

Your sunglasses are ware the keys are.

The Difference Between You’re/Your/Yore

You’re - Yet another contraction, but this one stands for “you are” .

You’re my best friend!

You’re phone is ringing.

Your - Another determiner that shows ownership, signifying belonging.

Your bag needs some repairs.

Your going to the supermarket now?

Yore - A literary noun used in many classical pieces, “yore” refers to times gone by, the past.

In the days of yore, my great-grandfather immigrated to America on a steamboat.

Yore about to be amazed by my school paper!

Don't Forget These Too/To/Two

To - One of the most commonly used words in English, this little multi-talented word has many uses. Commonly used as a preposition, “to” expresses a particular direction or relationship between two words. In some cases, it can be used as an adverb, or infinitive marker.

(preposition) I’m walking to the park.

(infinitive marker) She was invited to come, but didn't want to.

(adverb) The elevator doors shut to before I could get in.

I have to pets at home.

Too - An adverb, “too” is used in place of “in addition”, “also", “besides”, and in certain informal cases, “very”.

Is she coming too?

(informal) That movie was too funny!

I sent the letter too his house.

Two - The number. Equivalent to the sum of 1+1 or the number of items in a pair.

There are two socks in a pair.

I have been at my current job for two years.

Incorrect: Who did you send the letter two?

Tips to Recognize and Use Homophones Correctly

Because there are dozens of homophones, the best way to learn the difference between them all is to diligently expand your vocabulary. Some of the best ways to enrich your knowledge of English are:

  • Journaling: When you hear or see a word you’re not familiar with, keep a journal handy and write it down. Look the word up in your dictionary and review its definition. If you don’t know how to spell it, type it phonetically into Google.
  • Repetition: Write down the different groups of homophones and their meanings. If you are an auditory learner, record yourself speaking about each homophone and listen to it several times a week.
  • Use games or apps: There are myriad apps and games out there to help expand your vocabulary that can be downloaded directly to your device so you can study from anywhere.
  • Read more: When able, pick up a book and pay attention to how homophones are used in the structure of a sentence. Highlight or bookmark sections you find helpful and refer back to them when needed (unless it’s a library book - then photocopy the page and use a highlighter).
  • Check out the other articles on our site for further learning.

See our next article about prepositions.