Almost immediately after I wrote my post on heteronyms – words spelled identically but with different meanings and pronunciations – I got an email from a reader suggesting that I write a follow up on homophones. Homophones are much more difficult for non-native English speakers she claimed.
My reader’s logic made sense. Since heteronyms are pronounced different, you don’t even notice them when talking; because they are spelled the same, they can cause confusion in writing but you have the surrounding context to know what it means. On the other hand, homophones can be tricky when someone is talking because they sound the same. There’s no chance to go back and use context to sort out the confusion.
As an example, read the following sentence out loud:
The number of TV ads adds too much time to a baseball game.
To make matters worse, spellcheckers can’t recognize homophones.
By some estimates, there are several hundred homophones in English – certainly too many for me to list here. In the interest of education and fun, here are 10 sentences with homophones:
- You are not allowed to talk aloud in the library.
- The hotel maid made the bed.
- Let’s have buffalo meat when we meet for dinner.
- The bartender had a wry smile when pouring the shot of rye.
- Will the teacher give me a special role now that I’m on the honor roll?
- The paper’s review of the new revue wasn’t very flattering.
- The bride walked down the sandy aisle on the tropical isle.
- You’d be in pain if you fell through a window pane.
- I turned pale when I dropped the water pail.
- I ate a pair of pears.
As it turns out, homophones don’t just come in pairs of words. That last sentence could be extended into a triple: I ate a pair of pears that I pared.
Inspired by the triple, I spent an hour trying to think of a sentence with four homophones in it. Here’s what I came up with:
I wouldn’t meddle with a soldier who was wearing a metal medal, awarded for a display of mettle.
Can any of you come up with a sentence with five homophones?