Rachel's English



Someone has asked me to talk a bit about homophones. Homophones are words that are spelled differently but pronounced the same. If you've taken a look at my sound chart, then you know that there are many different ways to pronounce one letter. Let's start with some homophones in which it's the vowels that alter the spelling of the word. 

For example, week. Week can be weak as in not strong, it can also be week as in seven days. Naval. This can either mean pertaining to ships or the belly button. One is spelled with an A and the other an E and, now, they are making here the schwa sound.

Every vowel in American English can be pronounced as a schwa when it is in an unaccented syllable.

Die can either mean to become dead or to - a process of changing the color of something. Now, this is either spelled I-E or Y-E. And Y in English is a consonant but it often acts like a vowel. And here I would say it is acting like a vowel and this is a difference in vowel spellings. Now let's look at a comparison where it's the consonants that change the spelling of the word. Patients. This can be the plural of patient, for example, a patient waiting to see a doctor, or it can be the noun patience: what you have when someone is being very annoying but you do not yell at them.

In one case it is a T-S, and in the other case it is a C-E. Patience. So they can both have this 'ts' sound.

Disburse. If this is spelled with a B-U, it means to pay out money. When it's spelled with a P-E, it means to scatter. Disperse. Now, the B and the P are related. B, bb, being the voiced version of P, pp. Now in this word, disperse, the B/P is almost a mix between being voiced and unvoiced, it's like it's so light that they sound exactly the same within the word. Disperse, disburse.

In the past, -ed is sometimes pronounced as a T. So the word passed can either be passed, as in the past tense of the verb to pass, or it can be past the noun, past.

Sometimes one word in a pair of homophones is a contraction. For example, we've. It can be the contraction of we have: we've been there. Or it can be the verb to weave. Also, who's: who is. Who's coming? Or it can be whose showing possession: whose bag is this?

Sometimes it is the past tense of a verb when it is not pronounced as a T that makes it a homophone. For example, towed. My car was towed yesterday. That is also like toad, the animal that is related to the frog.

Sealing is the ING form of the word to seal: I'm sealing some envelopes. However spelled with a C, and also a vowel change, it means the ceiling.

The K before an N can sometimes be silent, which created several homophone pairs. Knight and night, one spelled with a K being a figure from Medieval times, and the other being the opposite of day. These are spelled exactly the same except for the K. However there are others where the word is not spelled exactly the same. For example: knows, as in, who knows the answer? And of course, nose.

The ff sound can be spelled with either an F or a P-H, which gives us the homophone pair profit. Profit with an F-I, meaning, money you make, and with a P-H-E meaning someone who speaks with divine inspiration. Two homophones that contain country names: Greece, being a country, but also being what you put in a pan when you want to fry something; Turkey, being a country, but when it's not capitalized, being the name of a bird.

These are just a few of the many examples of homophones in English.

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