101 English Homophones You Should Know

What you will learn:

1. What are homophones?
2. 101 English homophones with examples
3. How to learn homophones in English
4. Quiz: Test your understanding of English homophones

What are homophones?

Homophones are two or more words that sound the same (identical pronunciation), but have different meanings. These words are often spelt differently in English too (e.g. pear vs. pair). The term homophone comes from Greek ‘homo-’ (meaning: same) and ‘-phone’ (meaning: sound or voice), so the word literally means: ‘same sound’.

English has more homophones than most languages because its pronunciation has changed a lot over time, while its spelling has changed very little. Many words have been borrowed from other languages through the centuries and this explains why English spelling is so strange (or confusing!). For example: right (Old English: riht) vs. write (Old English: writan) vs. rite (Latin: ritus). In the past, these words would have been pronounced differently, but today they all sound the same in modern English.

In this guide, we will focus on homophones in British English. Most of these are the same in American English too. However, national and regional accents change the way people pronounce words and sometimes this creates different homophones. For example, these words are homophones in American English, but not in British English: hostel/hostile, balm/bomb, caught/cot, halve/have.

Let’s take a look at some homophones!

101 English homophones with examples

In this list of English homophones, you will find simple, intermediate and more advanced level vocabulary. For each pair or set, there are meanings and examples. Some you will know already, but others will certainly be new! Where possible, these homophones have been put into approximate categories to help you organise and learn them.

  1. One, won

One (noun): The number that comes after 0 but before 2.
My son is one year old today.

Won (verb): The past tense of ‘win’.
The football team won two games in a row.

  1. Two, to, too

Two (noun): The number that comes after 1 and before 3, a pair.
He bought two packets of crisps.

To (preposition): In the direction of a particular location.
I am going to the shop.

Too (adverb): To a higher degree than desired, also.
The girl was too tired to work. I was tired too.

  1. Four, for

Four (noun): The number that comes after 3 and before 5.
The clock struck four.

For (preposition): If someone receives something, if something is done for a reason.
I bought John some sweets for his birthday (for him to eat).

It is common for native speakers to use numbers in online chat or SMS messages. For example, you can write ‘before’ like ‘b4’ and ‘forget’ as ‘4get’. This is because ‘for’ sounds the same as ‘four’ (4). Another common example is ‘m8’ (mate – friend).

  1. Eight, ate

Eight (noun): The number that comes after 7 and before 9.
There were only eight days left until Christmas.

Ate (verb): Past tense form of ‘eat’.
We ate dinner together then went home.

  1. Steak, stake

Steak (noun): Prime cut of meat, usually beef.
My all-time favourite meal is steak and chips.

Stake (noun): A strong wooden post with a sharp point at one end.
Vampires can only be killed with a stake through the heart!


words that sound the same in English

  1. Bean, been

Bean (noun): Edible seed that grows in pods on leguminous plants.
Baked beans on toast is a traditional British dish!

Been (verb): Past tense form of ‘be’.
Where have you been all night?

  1. Pear, pair

Pear (noun): Common type of fruit.
Would you like a pear from the garden?

Pair (noun): A set of two things (often used together).
He couldn’t find a matching pair of socks.

  1. Bread, bred

Bread (noun): Type of food.
Our local bakery sells the best wholemeal bread for miles!

Bred (verb): Past tense form of ‘breed’ – to raise or develop animal stock.
In the past, many farmers bred rabbits for meat and fur.

  1. Cereal, serial

Cereal (noun): Grain used for food (e.g. wheat), type of dried breakfast eaten with milk.
My favourite cereal is cornflakes.

Serial (noun/adjective): A story or programme delivered in instalments, taking place in series.
The serial killer loved watching serials on TV!

  1. Flour, flower

Flour (noun): Ingredient used to make bread and cakes.
This recipe uses two cups of flour and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Flower (noun): Seed-bearing part of a plant.
Her husband gave her a nice bunch of flowers on her birthday.

  1. Meat, meet

Meat (noun): Food from the flesh of an animal.
The hotel guests got food poisoning because the meat wasn’t cooked properly.

Meet (verb): Arrange or happen to cross paths with somebody.
I’m going to meet my friend at the train station this evening.

  1. Chilli, chilly

Chilli (noun): Small spicy pepper or pod used in cooking.
I ordered the Mexican Hot Pizza, but couldn’t eat the chilli on top!

Chilly (adjective): A bit cold, not warm.
Don’t forget your coat! It’s a bit chilly out today.

  1. Mussel, muscle

Mussel (noun): Mollusc with purple-brown shell.
I had the mussels as a starter and they were delicious!

Muscle (noun): Type of human body tissue.
What do you prefer in a boyfriend – brains or muscles?!

  1. Wine, whine

Wine (noun): Alcoholic drink made from fermented grapes.
Chilled white wine goes well with fish.

Whine (noun/verb): Long high-pitched cry, complain.
The little dog shivered by the door and let out a whine.

  1. Bite, byte

Bite (noun/verb): Tear something apart with teeth.
Let’s grab a bite to eat in town after work!

Byte (noun): Unit of measurement of digital information.
How many bytes are there in each character in MS Word?

  1. Grate, great

Grate (verb): Shred into small pieces using a food grater.
The recipe says we need to grate the cheese into the sauce.

Great (adjective): Large, prominent, very good.
The Great White Shark is a great hunter!

  1. Berry, bury

Berry (noun): Small pulpy fruit.
Did you know that watermelons are a type of large berry?

Bury (verb): Put or hide underground.
You shouldn’t bury your head in the sand each time there’s an argument.

  1. Currant, current

Currant (noun): Type of berry, also of dried berry variety.
We have lots of currant bushes at the bottom of our garden – both red- and blackcurrants.

Current (noun/adjective): Strong flow of water, present or up-to-date.
Surfers should be aware of the strong currents along the south coast of England.

Even native speakers get confused by the way words are pronounced vs. written! Here are some examples of commonly confused homophones: compliment/complement, practice/practise, principle/principal, lightning/lightening, insight/incite, miner/minor.

  1. Leek, leak

Leek (noun): Long white and green stick-like vegetable in the onion family.
Wales is famous for its rainy weather and its giant leeks!

Leak (noun/verb): Hole through which fluid can escape accidentally, drip out.
Our roof has got a leak so we need to fix it before winter comes.

  1. Maize, maze

Maize (noun): Corn.
It is common for manufacturers to use maize as an ingredient in many processed foods.

Maze (noun): Labyrinth.
Chatsworth House has a maze that is made up of a network of paths and hedges.

  1. Thyme, time

Thyme (noun): Type of aromatic herb.
What goes best with roast chicken – thyme or rosemary?

Time (noun): Period, measure of seconds/minutes/hours/days/etc.
How much time does it take to cook a roast chicken?

  1. Sauce, source

Sauce (noun): Liquid used to add flavour to food.
This Chinese cooking sauce uses a variety of citrus fruits.

Source (noun): Origin, cause of something.
Citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C.

  1. Sweet, suite

Sweet (noun/adjective): Candy, food with a sugary taste.
If you eat up all your vegetables, I’ll let you have one more sweet!

Suite (noun): Set of rooms or technical instruments.
The journalist interviewed the rock star in his London hotel suite.

  1. Mousse, moose

Mousse (noun): Light and fluffy dessert.
The French restaurant opposite our office sells the best chocolate mousse in town!

Moose (noun): Large animal in the deer family.
Do people eat moose in Canada? They certainly have a lot of them!

  1. Hare, hair

Hare (noun): Animal that looks like a large rabbit.
The hare hopped through the woodland.

Hair (noun): Growing from the skin of humans and other animals.
Her hair was so long that she had to wear a large hat to work!

  1. Bear, bare

Bear (noun): Type of large hairy animal.
Our local pub is called The Brown Bear.

Bare (adjective): Naked, without clothes/covering, plain.
If you walk around with bare feet you might cut yourself!

NOTE: The word ‘bear’ is also a verb that literally means ‘to carry a load’. This is not often used in modern English, although you will find it in expressions like ‘I’ll bear that in mind’ (remember) or ‘I can’t bear it!’ (tolerate, put up with).

  1. Deer, dear

Deer (noun): Large animal with antlers, similar to a small elk or moose.
Some UK farmers keep deer and breed them for their meat (venison).

Dear (noun/adjective): Beloved person, expensive.
The wedding ring you’ve chosen is a bit too dear, my Dear!

homophones examples

  1. Gorilla, guerrilla  

Gorilla (noun): Large ground-dwelling ape.
African gorillas live in mountainous forests in the west of the country.

Guerrilla (adjective/noun): Unauthorised and irregular (military) action, partisan fighter.
The Colombian guerrillas lived in the jungle and sometimes attacked government troops.

  1. Sole, soul

Sole (noun): Variety of marine flatfish.
I really love grilled sole with a touch of lemon!

Soul: Spirit, immortal part of a human.
For my philosophy course, I have to write an essay about the human soul.

NOTE: The word ‘sole’ is also a noun that refers to the underside of a person’s foot or shoe, and the word ‘soul’ can be used as an adjective to describe the musical genre.

  1. Flea, flee

Flea (noun): Small jumping parasitic insect that often lives on dogs or cats.
I caught a flea on our cat today so we’ll need to wash him with special shampoo.

Flee (verb): Run away or escape from danger.
After 3 months of bombing, the family decided to flee the conflict in their war-torn city.

  1. Boar, bore

Boar (noun): Wild pig.
We saw a boar and a tiger when we visited the local zoo.

Bore (verb/noun): Make someone bored or disinterested, a boring person.
John‘s such a bore! All the guy talks about is golf and work!

NOTE: In technical contexts, the word ‘bore’ can also mean ‘make a hole using a tool’. Therefore, ‘borehole’ would be an engineering word for a drill hole, and not a hole made by a wild pig!

  1. Horse, hoarse

Horse (noun): Four-legged animal often used for riding or work.
When my grandfather was young, he went to school on a horse and cart.

Hoarse (adjective): Describes a rough or husky voice due to a sore throat.
I was feeling hoarse before the concert, but managed to sing when I got up on stage.

  1. Lynx, links

Lynx (noun): Type of medium-sized wild cat.
In American Indian mythology the lynx is considered a ‘keeper of secrets’.

Links (noun): Plural form of ‘link’, connections or points of contact.
Our company has links to suppliers all over the world.

  1. Whale, wail

Whale (noun): Largest (marine) mammal on Earth.
Thanks to the work of conservationists, most species of whale are now protected.

Wail (noun/verb): High-pitched cry of pain, anger or sadness.
I heard a patient wail in agony from the neighbouring (hospital) ward.

  1. Mare, mayor

Mare (noun): Adult female horse.
Children often came from the village to feed apples to the old mare.

Mayor (noun): Elected leader of regional government.
The mayor cut the ribbon at the museum opening ceremony.

  1. Toad, towed, toed

Toad (noun): Type of large brown frog.
There’s a toad living in our garden pond and my daughter has named it ‘Freddy’!

Towed (verb): Past tense of ‘tow’, when one vehicle pulls another.
When our car broke down, a neighbour kindly towed it home for us.

Toed (adjective): Having toes.
The three-toed sloth lives in the jungles of Borneo.

PRONOUN HOMOPHONES (+ contractions & determiners)
  1. I, eye

I (pronoun): Used by a speaker to refer to himself/herself.
I did not enjoy the film.

Eye (noun): The pair of organs that allow us to see.
He is blind in one eye.

  1. I’ll, isle, aisle

I’ll (contraction): Short form of ‘I will’.
I’ll get to school on time if there is no traffic today.

Isle (noun): A small island.
We go on holiday every year to the Isle of Wight.

Aisle (noun): Passage between two rows of seats.
Passengers must not leave their bags in the aisle at any time.

NOTE: While ‘isle’ and ‘aisle’ are always homophones in British English, the contracted form ‘I’ll’ is pronounced differently in many regional accents (isle vs. aal). The same is true for similar contractions like ‘you’ll’ (yule vs. yorl) and ‘we’ll’ (wheel vs. wirl).

  1. You, ewe, yew

You (pronoun): Used to refer to the person or people being addressed.
Would you like to come round for dinner sometime next week?

Ewe (noun): Female sheep.
The little lamb followed its mother as the ewe crossed the field.

Yew (noun): Type of evergreen tree.
Traditional English longbows were often made from yew (wood).

  1. You’ll, Yule

You’ll (contraction): Short form of ‘you will’.
I think you’ll improve your piano playing with practice.

Yule (noun): Old word for Christmas.
The word ‘Yule’ is still used in old Christmas songs and religious hymns.

  1. You’re, your

You’re (contraction): Short form of ‘you are’.
You’re my best friend.

Your (determiner): Belonging to the person the speaker is addressing.
Hi, I’m Jack! What’s your name?

  1. Our, hour

Our (determiner): Belonging to the speaker and one or more other person.
We both got our hair cut at the same place!

Hour (noun): Period of 60 minutes.
The queue for the roller coaster was over an hour so we didn’t go on it.

NOTE: In many regional accents of British English, ‘our’ and ‘are’ will be homophones. For example, in the sentence ‘Our (ar) friends are (ar) coming to stay’ the words ‘our’ and ‘are’ can be pronounced in exactly the same way.

  1. They’re, their, there

They’re (contraction): Short form of ‘they are’.
My brother and his girlfriend got engaged because they’re really in love.

Their (determiner): Belonging to a person or thing being mentioned.
Parents are often keen to help their children with their homework.

There (adverb): In, at, or to a given place.
I threw the ball and now it’s over there.

  1. Theirs, there’s

Theirs (pronoun): Refers to something that belongs to two or more people.
I think that white football is theirs.

There’s (contraction): Short form of ‘there is’.
There’s a good film on at the cinema tonight. Fancy it?

  1. We’ve, weave

We’ve (contraction): Short form of ‘we have’.
We’ve been digging all day and we haven’t found any treasure!

Weave (verb): Make fabric/baskets by crossing threads over and under.
My grandmother taught me how to weave cloth and make my own clothes.

  1. We’d, weed

We’d (contraction): Short form of ‘we would/had’.
If we’d got the bus, then we’d be home by now!

Weed (noun): A wild plant that is not wanted.
The gardener pulled up all the weeds in the flowerbed.

  1. We’ll, wheel

We’ll (contraction): Short form of ‘we will’.
We’ll have to run; otherwise we’ll miss the bus!

Wheel (noun): A circular object used to move things over the ground.
The back wheel of my bike is bent and needs to be replaced.

  1. We’re, weir

We’re (contraction): Short form of ‘we are’.
When do you think we’re going to get our exam results?

Weir (noun): Low barrier to control the flow of water in a river.
I saw some boys fishing down by the weir.

  1. Him, hymn

Him (pronoun): Refers to a male object in a sentence.
His face looks familiar, but I don’t really know him.

Hymn (noun): Religious song to praise God.
The church congregation stood up to sing a hymn.

  1. He’ll, heel, heal

He’ll (contraction): Short for ‘he will’.
He’ll win the tennis match if he scores the next point.

Heel (noun): Back part of a foot or shoe below the ankle.
He stood on a nail and cut his heel.

Heal (verb): (Cause to) become healthy again.
The cut on your foot will heal by itself, but you must keep it clean.

  1. He’d, heed

He’d (contraction): Short for ‘he would/had’.
He’d better not be late or I’ll kill him!

Heed (verb): Pay attention to.
He should have heeded the warnings. Now he’s in trouble!

  1. It’s, its

It’s (contraction): Short form of ‘it is’.
It’s not my fault. It’s yours!

Its (possessive determiner): Belonging to a thing being mentioned.
Lay the baby on its side if it starts crying.

In English you can say ‘it’ about a small baby without being impolite. Native speakers often do this if they do not know the gender of the child. In most other languages grammatical gender dictates that separate words must be used for male vs. female babies.

  1. Who’s, whose

Who’s (contraction): Short form of ‘who is’.
Who’s coming to your birthday party tomorrow?

Whose (pronoun): Belonging to or associated with which person.
Let’s get on with the game! Whose turn is it to roll the dice?

  1. What’s, watts

What’s (contraction): Short form of ‘what is’.
What’s the capital of France?

Watts (noun): Unit of power in electrical items (plural form).
How many watts are in an amp?

  1. Which, witch

Which (pronoun/determiner): Used when asking for information about people or things.
Which of these shirts do you like best?

Witch (noun): Woman with magic powers, usually evil ones.
I’m dressing up as a witch for Halloween this year.

  1. Blue, blew

Blue (adjective): Colour between green and violet (e.g. like the sky).
Elvis was a fan of blue suede shoes!

Blew (verb): Past tense form of ‘blow’.
The storm blew down several trees on our street!

  1. Red, read

Red (adjective): Colour at the end of the spectrum (e.g. like blood).
Little Red Riding Hood is a popular children’s fairytale.

Read (verb): Past tense form of ‘read’.
How many Harry Potter books have you read?


homophones with examples

  1. Greys, graze

Greys (noun): Two or more shades of the colour grey.
I really like how the artist has used the greys in this painting.

Graze (verb): Eat grass in a field (of cows, sheep, etc.).
Early each morning, the farmer took his cattle out to graze.

  1. Son, sun

Son (noun): A boy or man in relation to his parents.
My son is only eight years old, but he thinks he is 18!

Sun (noun): Star round which the Earth orbits, light/warmth from this star.
The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening.

  1. Aunt, aren’t

Aunt (noun): The sister of someone’s father or mother.
My mum’s sister is my aunt.

Aren’t (contraction): Short form of ‘are not’.
We aren’t going on holiday this year.

NOTE: In American English and many UK regional accents, the words ‘aunt’ and ‘ant’ are homophones. In Britain, ‘ant’ (aunt) would be the usual pronunciation in the north of the country.

  1. Father, farther

Father (noun): Dad.
My father used to play rugby for England.

Farther (adverb): Comparative form of ‘far’.
How much farther do we have to walk?

  1. Root, route

Root (noun): Underground part of a plant or tree, source or origin.
A weed may grow again if you don’t remove the root.

Route (noun): Way, course or path.
Our route took us through the Alps and then on to Italy.

  1. Wood, would

Wood (noun): Small forest, material from trees.
There used to be badgers in the wood, but they are gone now.

Would (verb): Past tense form of ‘will’, expresses conditional.
Where would you like to spend the summer holidays?

  1. Sea, see

Sea (noun): Expanse of salt water that covers most of our planet.
Julie’s hometown is by the sea.

See (verb): Action of perceiving with the eyes.
If you climb to the top of that hill, you can see for miles!

  1. Tide, tied

Tide (noun): Alternate rising and falling of the sea.
When it’s low tide you have to walk a long way before you can swim.

Tied (verb): Past tense form of ‘tie’.
She tied the hook to the end of the fishing line.

  1. Shore, sure

Shore (noun): The land along the edge of the sea or a body of water.
We walked along the shore and found some pretty shells.

Sure (adjective): Confident that one is right.
I’m sure that I locked the door.

  1. Weather, whether

Weather (noun): Relates to sunshine, rain, wind etc.
The weather in April is usually showery.

Whether (conjunction): Expressing a doubt or choice between alternatives.
I don’t know whether to go to work or call in sick.

Whether the weather is cold
or whether the weather is hot,
we’ll weather the weather,
whatever the weather,
whether we like it or not.

  1. Mist, missed

Mist (noun): Light fog.
The morning mist covered the fields.

Missed (verb): Past tense form of ‘miss’.
We missed the train so had to get to London by coach.

  1. Dew, due

Dew (noun): Tiny drops of water that form on cool surfaces at night.
The grass was wet with dew.

Due (adjective): Expected at a certain time.
My sister’s baby is due in 3 weeks!

  1. Reed, read

Reed (noun): A tall plant which grows in water or marshy ground.
There were reeds growing along the side of the canal.

Read (verb): Look at and comprehend the meaning of words.
She loved books so much that she would read them all day long.

  1. Air, heir

Air (noun): Mix of gases that we breathe.
The air was moist after the storm.

Heir (noun): A person entitled to the property or rank of another after death.
He was the King’s only son, and so was heir to the throne.

  1. Night, knight

Night (noun): The period from sunset to sunrise.
The stars come out at night.

Knight (noun): An old term for a mounted soldier in armour.
He was my knight in shining armour.

  1. Sew, sow, so

Sew (verb): Join or repair with needle and thread.
There’s a hole in my sock, but I don’t know how to sew.

Sow (verb): Plant by scattering seeds on the ground.
Each year the local farmers sow wheat in their fields.

So (adverb/conjunction): To the same or greater extent, therefore, in order that.
I’d never seen so many people in the shop, so I decided to come back later.

  1. Pause, paws, pours, pores

Pause (verb): Interrupt an action briefly.
I think we should pause the meeting for a short break at 12.00.

Paws (noun): Plural form of ‘paw’, animal foot with pads and claws.
The cat got its paws trapped under the carpet.

Pours (verb): 3rd person form of ‘pour’, flow quickly in a steady stream.
If John pours the tea, then you can offer our guests a biscuit.

Pores (noun): Plural form of ‘pore’, tiny holes in the skin.
When you do physical exercise, sweat comes out through the pores in your skin.

  1. Wrap, rap

Wrap (verb): Cover in paper or soft material.
My mum likes to use colourful paper to wrap the Xmas presents.

Rap (noun/verb): Hip-hop music, singing style involving quick rhymes.
When I was in my teens I used to love rap, but now I’m more into rock.

words pronounced the same in English

  1. Wear, where, ware

Wear (verb/noun): Have clothing on one’s body, damage over time through use/friction.
Where (adverb): In, to, or in which place or situation.
I have no idea where the nearest petrol station is.

Ware (noun): Manufactured items of a certain type.
John Lewis is a good department store if you want to buy kitchenware.

  1. Steal, steel

Steal (verb): Take (illegally) without permission.
If you steal goods from a shop, this is called ‘shoplifting’.

Steel (noun): Common type of metal use in construction.
The new art museum is made entirely from glass and steel.

  1. Write, right, rite

Write (verb): Mark letters, words or symbols on paper with a pen or pencil.
Please remember to write to Santa Claus before Xmas!

Right (adjective): Correct, just, opposite of left.
I answered all the test questions, but only got half right.

Rite (noun): Ritual.
In many cultures, older boys must complete a rite of passage to become ‘men’.

  1. Buy, by, bye

Buy (verb): Get something in exchange for payment.
I am going to buy some food from the Supermarket.

By (preposition): Identifying who performed an action, near to, using.
My homework gets checked by my teacher.

Bye (exclamation): Informal way of saying ‘goodbye’.
Bye mum! I’ll see you when I get home from school.”

  1. Sell, cell

Sell (verb): Give or hand over something for money.
I want to sell my car and buy a new one.

Cell (noun): Small room for a prisoner.
The police kept the thief in a cell overnight.

  1. Hear, here

Hear (verb): Perceive sound with the ears.
I could hear people laughing in the next room.

Here (adverb): In, at, or to this place or position.
We’ve lived here for most of our lives.

  1. Break, brake

Break (verb): Smash or separate into pieces.
Be careful not to break a window with that football!

Brake (noun): A device used to slow down a moving vehicle.
When you want to slow the car down, remember to use the brake.

  1. Affect, effect

Affect (verb): Influence, cause to change.
The Brexit vote will certainly affect the UK economy.

Effect (noun): A change which is a result of an action or other cause.
No one knows what the effects of this political decision will be.

  1. Die, dye

Die (verb): Stop living.
When sailors die they are sometimes ‘buried’ at sea.

Dye (verb/noun): To colour something, substance that adds colour.
My sister would like to dye her hair pink, but I think green would look better!

examples of homophones

  1. Waste, waist

Waste (verb/noun): Use or expend carelessly, rubbish or unwanted material.
Let’s go. I don’t want to waste any more time!

Waist (noun): Part of the body or measurement around the hips.
I need a pair of jeans with a 36-inch waist.

  1. Know, no

Know (verb): Be aware of.
Most men know how to boil an egg, but some don’t!

No (exclamation and determiner): A negative response, not any.
No, I don’t want to mow the lawn today.

  1. Accept, except

Accept (verb): Agree to receive or undertake something.
I said the dog had eaten my homework, but the teacher didn’t accept my excuse!

Except (preposition): Not including, other than.
I invited everyone to my birthday party except Jamie.

  1. Wait, weight

Wait (verb): Stay where you are until a particular time or event.
I didn’t want to wait any longer, so I left the cafe.

Weight (noun): The heaviness of a person or thing.
My wife often worries about her weight, but she’s actually quite slim!

  1. Weigh, way, whey

Weigh (verb): Use scales to determine the weight of something.
Match officials have to weigh each boxer before a professional fight.

Way (noun): Method of doing something, road or route.
We got lost and I had to admit that I didn’t know the way home.

Whey (noun): Watery component of milk after the formation of curds.
Whey is produced as part of the cheese-making process.

  1. Flew, flu, flue

Flew (verb): Past tense form of ‘fly’.
The beautiful eagle flew high above the trees.

Flu (noun): Influenza.
Many people suffer from flu during autumn and winter.

Flue (noun): Duct or pipe for smoke.
When we got a wood-burning stove, we had a flue and liner installed in the chimney.

A flea and a fly flew up in a flue.
Said the flea, “Let us fly!”
Said the fly, “Let us flee!”
So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

  1. Threw, through

Threw (verb): Past tense form of ‘throw’.
He threw his dirty clothes into the laundry basket and put on a clean t-shirt.

Through (preposition): Moving in one side and out of the other.
He walked through the door and went straight upstairs.

  1. Male, mail

Male (adjective): A man.
The survey was conducted with equal numbers of male and female participants.

Mail (noun): Letters and parcels sent by post.
The postman put the mail through the letterbox.

  1. Vain, vein, vane

Vain (adjective): Inflated sense of self or appearance, producing no result.
I think a lot of fashion models are vain.

Vein (noun): Type of blood vessel.
The patient needed an injection, but the trainee nurse couldn’t find a vein.

Vane (noun): Weathervane, broad blade attached to rotating wheel/axis.
The weathervane moved from side to side in the wind.

  1. Weak, week

Weak (adjective): Opposite of strong.
I like my tea weak, with milk and one sugar.

Week (noun): 7 days.
I can meet tomorrow, but I’m around all next week.

  1. Whole, hole

Whole (adjective): Full, entire.
I can’t eat a whole pizza to myself. Would you like to share?

Hole (noun): Gap or space in the ground or a surface.
There’s a hole in my pocket. That’s how I lost my key!

  1. Bored, board

Bored (adjective): Lacking interest or engagement.
The girl looked bored and half-asleep in class.

Board (noun/verb): Long and flat piece of wood, get onto transport (plane, ship, etc.).
The window was broken and a board had been nailed across it.

  1. Coarse, course

Coarse (adjective): Rough, rude.
The surface of the stone was coarse and scratched his fingers.

Course (noun): Study programme.
A friend of mine is doing an online English course.

  1. Higher, hire

Higher (adjective): Comparative form of ‘high’.
Our company sales figures are higher this year.

Hire (verb): Rent, borrow for money.
There’s no need to take bicycles because we can hire them at the park.

  1. Plain, plane

Plain (adjective/noun): Simple, without flavour, large flat area of land with few trees.
I usually have plain yoghurt and muesli for breakfast.

Plane (noun): Aeroplane.
Our plane landed at 2 o’clock sharp.

  1. Aloud, allowed

Aloud (adverb): Not silently.
He read the letter aloud so that everyone could hear.

Allowed (verb): Past tense form of ‘allow’.
The museum staff allowed us to take several photographs.

  1. Principal, principle

Principal (adjective): Main, number one.
The government’s principal concern is immigration.

Principle (noun): Fundamental truth or proposition.
You can trust Rob. He’s a man of principle.

How to learn homophones in English

There is no secret formula when it comes to learning homophones. Try several different approaches and see what works best for you! To get you started, check out the 5 study tips below:

1) Always learn homophones in context

This is basically a fancy way of saying “in a real sentence or situation”. Context helps us understand the intended meaning behind the usage of a word. This becomes even more important when learning homophones because words like pause/paws/pours/pores all have identical pronunciation! You can only work out which meaning is intended by looking at the context.

2) Have a laugh with English homophones!

Many English jokes use homophones to confuse the listener and create puns. You have already seen several jokes in this study guide, but you can find more on Homophonelist.com. At higher levels, exploring English humour can be a really good way of developing your understanding of vocabulary and culture.

3) Use mobile apps anytime, anywhere

The best way to learn vocabulary is to repeat it regularly. Mobile apps offer a quick solution for learning homophones on the move! You can download apps like Homophones Free or go online to play the BBC’s homophone game.

4) Write nonsense sentences with homophones

Another good way to learn homophones is to practise them in your writing. Take a set of homophones and write one sentence that includes ALL of them. It does not matter if the sentence is nonsense! The main aim of the exercise is to compare the different meanings of the homophones. For example: I said “bye” to my friend and went to buy a coat in a shop by the river.

5) Play spelling games with homophones

Native speakers often make spelling mistakes because of homophones! This shows the importance of learning the correct meanings AND spellings of words that have the same pronunciation. Try this game: Make flashcards with x1 homophone on each side and the translation in your language in brackets. Ask a friend to choose random cards and read out the homophones and/or translations. Try to write down the correct spelling of the word, and then check to see if you are right!

Quiz: Test your understanding of English homophones

Now that you have been through the homophone list, it is time to test your knowledge! Try each of the exercises in this quiz and then check your answers at the end.


Put the follow homophones into the sentences: pause, paws, pours, pores.

  • Whenever it rains, the water _____ off the roof into the drain.
  • If you feel nervous during the presentation, then just _____ for a moment.
  • A facial scrub helps clean the _____ and prevent spots.
  • Could you please keep your dirty _____ off the biscuits!

Write down the correct homophone for each of the jokes.

Q: Why was the mortgage sad?
A: Because it was a loan!

Q: Why will you never starve to death in a desert?
A: Because of all the sandwiches there!

Q: Why does a milking stool only have three legs?
A: Because the cow’s got the udder!


Choose the correct homophone in each of the following sentences.

  • Our company’s guiding principal/principle is trust.
  • Its/it’s forecast to rain all next week.
  • If you’re going swimming in the sea, be careful of the current/currant!
  • I’ve decided to except/accept the new job at Google.

Find the errors in the following text and correct the spelling of the homophones.

I went to sea the doctor on Thursday because I thought I’d caught flue. When I arrived, I wasn’t shore wear the waiting room was sow I asked at reception. They told me witch doctor to see and ware to go. Their were few patients sew I went straight in. The doctor took a pencil to rite down my symptoms. He said I didn’t have flew, but that stress could be the sauce of my headaches. He gave me some aspirin, which soon took affect. I was pleased that my visit had not been in vein.


A = pours, pause, pores, paws
B = alone, sand which is there, other (regional pronunciation)
C = principle, it’s, current, accept
D = see, flu, sure, where, so, which, where, there, so, write, flu, source, effect, vain

English for tourism: Essential UK travel phrases with examples


1. Greetings and expressions

One of the first words you’ll hear after stepping off the plane is ‘hello’. However, Brits use many different expressions to greet one another, and these are often less formal. It is worth learning several different ways to greet and address “the locals” because they may use phrases that do not appear in your textbooks!

English for travel and tourism


‘Hi / Hey / Hiya / Ay-up’ are informal ways of saying ‘hello’. These can be used in casual situations, such as when entering a cafe or greeting someone you already know. They are suitable for men and women of any age. It is not considered rude to use the word ‘hi’ to a stranger, despite it being informal.

‘Good morning’ and ‘Good afternoon’ are more formal variations of ‘hello’. You can say ‘good morning’ up until 12.00 (noon), then it is ‘afternoon’. These are often made informal by leaving out the word ‘good’. For example, ‘morning!’ or ‘evening!’. Following the same pattern, ‘goodnight’ can also mean ‘goodbye’, but is usually shortened to just ‘night’. If you want to be funny, you can use the famous children’s rhyme: “Goodnight…and don’t let the bedbugs bite”.

‘See ya / See you later / Bye / Cheerio / Ta-tar’ are all casual ways of saying ‘goodbye’. You can say these to your colleagues, friends or family, but avoid using them in more formal conversations.

Greetings are used differently depending on the regional dialect and social class of the speaker. Listen to the words used by others around you and copy them! This will make your English sound more natural and appropriate to the situation.


‘How’re you?’ is a popular English phrase that often follows ‘hello’. A common reply would be ‘Fine, thanks!’, ‘Not bad, thanks! or ‘Good, cheers!’ (more informal). Sometimes this phrase can be used with people you do not know in public situations, for example, with a member of staff at a pub or cafe. In some cultures, you can expect to hear all about a person’s problems if you ask how they are doing, but in the UK this is usually just a polite addition to ‘hello’.

Travel phrases‘Alright / Orate / What’s up? / Sup?’ are more informal ways of asking how somebody is doing. Only use these phrases when speaking with friends or family. ‘Alright’ is a short form of ‘Are you alright?’ and this can also be pronounced ‘orate’ or ‘alreet’ in the north of England. ‘Sup?’ is a short form of ‘What’s up?’ and has come to the UK from American English. ‘What’s up?’ can also be used if somebody is upset, in the same context as ‘What’s the matter?’.


Formal: Thank you
Neutral: Thanks
Informal: Cheers, ta

You may know the word ‘cheers’ in the context of drinking alcohol, but it can also be used as a casual way of saying ‘thanks’. It is quite an impersonal word and can be used after receiving directions from a stranger, or if your friend lends you a small sum of money. However, it wouldn’t be the appropriate expression of thanks if you’d just received a Christmas present from your mother. Think of ‘cheers’ as a light version of ‘thank you’ for everyday use.

When you’re on a bus and are close to your destination, you will need to press a red “stop” button to tell the driver that you wish to get off. As you’re stepping off the bus you can thank the driver for your trip by saying: ‘Cheers, mate’. You will hear local Brits doing this a lot in the UK.


These are all common forms of address and terms of endearment in Britain. ‘Mate’ is used everywhere, but the others are usually associated with particular regions of the UK. For example, ‘duck’ or ‘love’ are commonly used in the north of England and ‘pet’ is used further north still and around Newcastle. ‘Babe’ is more popular in the south, where the word ‘geezer’ can also be used instead of ‘mate’ (for a man).

Although these words are commonly used in Britain, they are unlikely to be in your textbooks because they are informal and region-specific. It is fine to use these terms when speaking to family, friends or even with the staff of shops and cafes. However, you should avoid using them in formal or work situations because this can seem rude or sarcastic.


As you probably know, Brits are famous for saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ all the time! Politeness is an important part of UK culture, and this is reflected in the language. ‘Sorry’ is a formal apology that can be used in many situations – for example, if you bump into somebody (which, if you’re in London you will do a lot!). It can also be used in the same way as ‘Pardon’. For example, if you haven’t heard what someone has said, you can say: ‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that’ or just ‘Sorry?’. This is politer than saying ‘What?’, which can be seen as rude.

‘Soz’ is the informal or slang version of ‘sorry’. You can use this when you’re talking to friends or family members, but not in formal situations or with people you do not know.


2. Dining out

Britain’s multiculturalism means its food scene has expanded greatly over the years. From traditional fish & chips to Chinese takeaways – the UK has it all! These phrases will come in handy when you’re grabbing a bite to eat in London or elsewhere in Britain.


If you want to try some typical British cuisine and find yourself at the local fish and chip shop, you might be asked: ‘Do you want them opened or wrapped?’. This is a common way of asking whether you would like to eat your food now or later. Say ‘Open, please!’ if you plan to eat while you walk or perhaps in a park nearby. Say ‘Wrapped, please!’ if you would prefer to eat back at your hotel or apartment. Fish and chip shops usually serve their food with small plastic or wooden forks. If you are not given one of these with your food, you can say: ‘Can I have a fork please, mate?’.

English for tourism

Traditionally, fish and chips was sold wrapped in old newspapers, but now hygiene regulations state that fresh plain paper or other packaging must be used instead.


Some coffee shops and small cafes have two price lists; one for customers sitting or eating in, and another for those ordering food or drinks to take away. It’s usually a bit more expensive to sit in because you can then use the facilities (toilet, wifi, etc.). If you want to have your drink inside the cafe, you can say: ‘Can I have a coffee to sit in, please?’. However, if you’re on the move and just need a quick pick-me-up in the form of caffeine, then you can say; ‘Can I have a large cappuccino to take away, please?’. You may also hear Brits using American versions of these phrases, like: ‘A medium latte to go, please!’ or ‘Can I get this pizza to take out, please?’ (British English: ‘to take away’).


If you enter a cafe and are greeted with a sign saying “Waiter service” (or “Table Service”), you should find a table, sit down and wait to be served. Being “waited on” means the staff will bring your food directly to you, so you don’t have to go to the counter to order. This is a common practice in most restaurants and some cafes, but not in fast food chains. Pubs can go either way, but many will expect you to order at the bar where you can also buy drinks. If in doubt, look on the front of the menu for information or ask a member of staff: ‘Excuse me, should I order at the bar or will someone come over?’.

Travel words


When ordering food in English, you need to make sure you are using polite constructions. For example, ‘I would like…’ or ‘Could I please have…’ instead of ‘I want…’. If you sit down for 5 minutes and just listen to how locals communicate with staff at restaurants and cafes, then you will have a better understanding of the usual exchanges. Take a look at the table below for some common vocabulary and phrases:

Question (customer)Reply (waiter)
Can I book a table, please?Sure. How many (people) is it for?
Can we have table for 1/2/3/4, please?Of course! Is that table by the window ok?
Can we have the menu, please?Yes, I’ll bring one over for you now.
Can we have a few more minutes, please?Sure. Would you like to order some drinks first?
What do you recommend?Our chef’s specials are up on the board over there.
Can we share the…Sure. Would you like it on two separate plates?
I would like the… / Could I have the…I’m afraid we’re out of…, but we do have…
Excuse me, can we order more food/drinks please?No problem. I’ll be right over.
Have you got any ketchup and mustard?Yes, I’ll bring some over for you with your meal.
Can I have some salt and pepper, please?It’s just there behind your menu!
Can I just have a plain burger, please?A plain burger with nothing on. Sure.
Sorry, this is not what I asked for!Terribly sorry about that! I’ll check with the chef.

You’ll notice that Brits use the word ‘please’ at the end of requests and some questions. It is important that you also make an effort to do this when speaking English so that you do not appear rude. Customer service in the UK is usually good so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from staff. In London, many non-natives work in restaurants and cafes so you won’t always be communicating with Brits.

If you do not understand everything on the menu, try using the Google Translate app. With the Word Lens function you can get instant translations just using the camera on your mobile phone!


Splitting the bill

When you have finished your meal, call the waiter or waitress over to your table with a raised hand or by making eye contact and lifting your head. You can ask: ‘Can we have the bill, please?’. If you are sharing the cost of the meal, use one of the following phrases: ‘Can we split it between us, please?’ or ‘Can we pay separately, please?’. You will then need to chip in your share of the cash or say how much money should be charged to each card.

Cards and contactless payments

Most places will have a card machine. However, some small cafes may only accept cash, in which case there should be a sign clearly stating this. It’s a good idea to carry some cash with you, but to make most of your purchases by card. If you are unsure of the possible payment methods, you can ask: ‘Do you accept cards?’ or ‘Do you take card?’ (more informal).

Travel vocabulary

The most convenient way to pay for things nowadays is with a “contactless” card or with Apple Pay. If you use a smart phone, you can connect your debit or credit card to your mobile and pay for low value items with one easy tap. Paying with “contactless” enables a quick transaction. All you have to do is hold your card over the card machine, rather than using the old fashioned chip and PIN method. If you have a small wifi icon on your bank card, then your card is “contactless”. Before you pay for your food and drink with a card machine, you can ask: ‘Is it contactless?’.

Tips and service charges

It’s usual in the UK to leave a tip when you pay for a meal. This is about 10-15% in London, but may be a little less elsewhere in the country. If you have really enjoyed your meal and the service has been great, then you may wish to leave a more generous tip. Leaving no tip is generally considered rude or can be taken as a sign you are disappointed with the food or service. Before you leave a tip, make sure that the cafe or restaurant hasn’t already included a service charge on your bill (usually about 12.5%).

In pubs, you can tip the bar staff by saying: ‘Have a drink on me!’. Most of the time, they will pocket the cost of one standard drink rather than consuming alcohol at work (but there are exceptions!). You can also tip your taxi driver by saying: ‘Keep the change, mate!’ or ‘Let’s just call it a tenner!’ (£10).

Put it on my tab!

English for travel

If you’re in an old pub in London, you may hear some “regulars” (locals who often visit the place) ordering drinks and then asking the bar staff to “put it on my tab”. A tab is the total of your drinks at the end of the evening. If you’re going out with a large group and know that you will all be ordering more than one drink, then it might be worth “opening up a tab”. At the end of the night you can ask to “pay off your tab”, which will be the total cost of all your drinks. Most pubs will ask for a bank card to keep behind the bar as a deposit on your tab.

Some companies offer special deals or money off for UK and overseas students. Make sure you bring some form of ID that shows your student status, and before you make a payment, ask: ‘Do you do student discounts?’.

For more useful travel phrases about dining out, take a look at this mini guide from the BBC Learning English website.

3. Transport and getting around

Now that most of us have Google Maps on our phones, asking for directions may seem a little old fashioned. However, you may wish to learn some phrases to help you get around and use public transport in the UK. If you’re lost or just want to know the fastest way to get to the best sights, then locals may know some secrets that don’t show up in Google search results! You’ll find that most Brits you meet are more than happy to point you in the right direction and offer some friendly advice.


If you want to get to know a city, explore it on foot! This will give you a chance to see all the local places as they are enjoyed by its residents. You might even discover some “hidden gems” off the beaten track (away from other tourists). Take a look at these travel phrases to help you navigate the streets:

How do I get to…?Over the bridge, turn right along the embankment.
Do you know where X is?Yeah, it’s just down there, mate! (pointing)
How far is it to…?About 10 minutes if you cross by the (traffic) lights and keep going.
Is it far to…?Yeah, it’s a fair walk. / No, it’s pretty close.
Am I going the right way for…?Yep, just keep going! / Nope, you want to go left over there and then down to the end of the road.
Is it walkable from here?Yeah, it’s fairly close. You can walk it in 5 minutes.
Where’s the nearest…?Head up the road and it’s on your left.
Could you recommend a decent pub round here?Sure. The Nag’s Head is good. It’s just down that street on the right.

Brits often use the words ‘up’ and ‘down’ when giving directions. For example, ‘up the road’ or ‘down the street’. This can be confusing because the speaker doesn’t always mean ‘uphill’ or ‘downhill’. If you hear these words, you should take them to mean ‘along’ and pay attention to the direction shown by the speaker.


Public transport in most big cities offers an affordable way of getting from A to B. Start by asking: ‘Where’s the nearest bus stop?’ or ‘Where’s the bus station?’ (for coaches to other cities too). Pick up a bus timetable from a stand or tourist information centre so you know the route. On London buses, you can pay using a contactless bank card or with a Visitor Oyster Card. If you are planning a longer stay, you can buy a travel card that is valid for 7 days. A single standard ticket costs £1.50, though prices tend to increase year on year.

To stop a bus, you must be standing at a bus stop. Put out your arm to tell the driver you wish to get on. When you get on the bus, request your ticket with: ‘Can I have a single to X, please?’. If you don’t know the route, you can ask: ‘Can you please let me know when it’s time to get off?’. It may be best to sit downstairs closer to the driver on a double-decker bus, if you need help finding your stop. When you reach your destination, you can either say ‘Next stop, please mate!’ or ring the bell by pressing one of the red “Stop” buttons. On some buses you will then see an illuminated sign saying “Bus Stopping”.

For more information about bus travel in London, see this short guide.


London’s iconic “Tube” (or underground) is a great way of getting around the capital. It is the only real underground system in the UK, although some other cities have trams or over-ground trains they call “The Metro”. The Tube is the oldest underground system in the world and you will notice that its tunnels are small and its trains are often tight on space (especially at rush hour!). Navigating the Tube can be a nightmare for tourists so it’s best to pick up a map at the entrance to any station and then plan your route in advance. This Guide to the London Underground provides all of the information you need.

Most people buy tickets from a machine, but each station still has a small ticket office with a member of staff to assist you. If you are confused by the machines, queue up and use this option. You may find the following exchanges of use:

Can I have a single/return to X, please?That’ll be £10.40, please.
Can I put £10 on my Oyster Card, please?Thanks. That’s topped up for you now.
What time’s the next train to X?They run every 5 minutes until midnight.
Where do I change for King’s Cross Station?You want to get off at London Bridge, mate!

Have you seen the t-shirts with the phrase “Mind the gap”? This expression is famous and you’ll notice it a lot when using The Tube. It means: be careful of the space between the train and the platform – don’t fall down!

The original nickname for the London Underground was “The Twopenny Tube” because all fares on the Central Line cost tuppence. Today, we just call it “The Tube”.


Another London icon is the famous “black cab” (or taxi). Today, cheaper alternatives (like Uber) do exist and you can even order taxis using a mobile app with GPS. However, a trip to the British capital wouldn’t be complete without at least a short ride in a black cab! Cab drivers (or “cabbies”) are renowned for their banter (humorous small talk) and extensive knowledge of the city’s streets.

You can hail a cab from the roadside if its yellow/orange light is on. To do this, put your arm out and wave to the driver. Get into the cab and give the cabbie your destination: ‘The Hilltop Hotel via Piccadilly, please mate!’. The word ‘via’ is used to explain which route you wish to take and whether multiple stops are required. If you don’t have any cash on you, then you can ask: ‘Can we stop at a cash machine on the way, please?’.

Cabs can be very expensive, especially in London. Watch the meter to see the current fare. When you get into the taxi, the meter will not start on zero because a minimum charge is added immediately. Many taxis now accept cards so ask the driver if you wish to use this method of payment.

For more practice, check out this short series from the British Council about travel in London.

4. Essential British slang

English travel phrases

If you want to take your English a step further, why not learn some informal words and expressions used by the locals? These will help you to understand more of the conversations taking place around you. Using slang can also be a lot of fun, but make sure you know how and when to use it properly! Check out this short list of 10 UK slang words that will make you sound more like a Brit:

Slang wordMeaningExample
DunnoDon’t know (contraction)I dunno what time he’s back.
BrillBrilliantThat new cafe round the corner is brill!
KnackeredVery tiredI’m knackered after that 10 mile run!
GuttedVery disappointedArsenal lost 5-0. I was gutted, mate!
GeezerSouthern form of ‘mate’ (friend)Who’s that geezer over there?
DodgySuspicious, criminal, not right, not working properlyThat neighbourhood’s really dodgy at night.
BoozerPubYou coming down the boozer later?
BogToiletWhere’s the bog?
CuppaCup of teaI could murder a cuppa! (really want one)
FootieFootballFancy watching the footie tonight? (want to)

If you would like to learn more about this topic, take a look at this list of British English slang terms.


5. How to be polite in English

Brits are famous for being polite, but this means they just use the right words and expressions to suit the situation. Anyone can learn to sound polite in English by using set phrases and a less direct style of communication. Let’s look at some examples:


Use additional modal verbs instead of just saying ‘give me…’ or ‘I want…’. For example, say: ‘I would like…’, ‘May I have…’, and ‘Could/can I borrow…’. These phrases sound less like demands and more like polite requests. You can also add the word ‘please’ if you want to be very polite: ‘Could I please have…’.


If you don’t understand someone, it’s fine to ask them to repeat what they have said. To do this politely, say: ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that!’, ‘Could you repeat that, please?’ or ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t understand.’. It may also be a good idea to ask the person to speak more slowly: ‘Could you speak a little slower, please?’ or ‘My English isn’t great. Would you mind speaking a bit slower, please?’.

English travel vocabulary


Brits often say ‘sorry’ even when they are not to blame! For example, if a person bumps into someone else in the street, BOTH Brits will apologise (not just the one who was at fault). This can be very confusing if you are a visitor to the UK. In this situation, the second ‘sorry’ just means ‘It’s fine – no problem’. By saying ‘sorry’ in this context, you are not pointing the finger of blame at the other person.

Being apologetic is another important feature of British communication. This means you will hear Brits using the following phrases a lot: ‘I’m sorry about…’, ‘Terribly sorry about…’, ‘Sorry, I’m late!’, ‘I’m afraid that…’, ‘Forgive me for…’I shouldn’t have…’. Listen carefully to how the local Brits speak with each other and then try some of these phrases yourself.


Brits use the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more frequently than most other nationalities. This means that visitors to the UK can seem rude if they forget to say these words with the same frequency. All polite requests should include ‘please’ and you should thank other people each time they do something for you. For example, take a look at this short exchange between a customer and a shop assistant:

– Can I have a National Lottery scratch card, please?
– That’ll be £2.50, please.
– Here you go.
– Thanks. That’s 50p change.
– Ta, mate. Thanks!


One stereotype of the British is that they have an eccentric sense of humour. It’s certainly true that humour plays an important role in UK culture. Visitors often complain that they never know when Brits are being serious and when they are “having a laugh” (joking)! If in doubt, it’s best to assume the other person is probably joking. Brits hate confrontation, especially in public. Therefore, in uncomfortable situations, you are likely to see them making jokes to lighten the mood.

For more information about etiquette in the UK, check out this post on how to be polite in English.