Homonyms in English

Homonyms in English

One of the topics in English that can be talked about for a long time and is very entertaining is homonyms. If a word is written in a suspiciously strange way, but you know its pronunciation, then you have definitely come across one of them. 

In this article, we will get acquainted with homonyms in detail, with the help of examples we will see the difference between «a present» and «to present», and we will also deal with the so-called pseudo-international vocabulary, which can confuse any beginner in the world of learning English. 

First, let's read this: 

«Bare bears»  the name of the cartoon "Ordinary Bears" 

Sounds strange, but at the same time very interesting, right? Then about everything in order. 


What are homonyms 

Homonyms (from the Greek homos  the same and onyma  name) are words that either have a similar or the same sound, but different spellings, or are spelled the same, but differ in the meaning they carry. 

The topic of homonyms in English is required to be studied, since it can be confusing when speaking or reading a particular text. It is also worth mentioning the words borrowed into languages, which are called international vocabulary. But first things first. 


Homophones and homographs 

Having figured out what homonyms are, it will not be difficult to distinguish homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently) from homographs (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings). 

So, homographs include words such as, 

  • can – can 
  • flat – flat 
  • lie – lie 
  • book – book 
  • run – run 
  • mean – mean 
  • lead – lead 


  • die – dye 
  • cent – scent 
  • isle – aisle 
  • soul – sole 
  • route – root
  • cell – sell 
  • lie – lye 
  • pray – prey 
  • need – knead 

The presented examples will help to understand the big picture, but in order to consolidate the material, you can read special literature. Today there are a very large number of books that simply and humorously help to deal with the topic of homophones and homographs, provide a wide field for training with exercises, and also introduce unusual designs. 


International vocabulary 

An extensive subtopic to which borrowed words belong.

This group includes generally accepted terms of a particular field, words that came from the Latin language, as well as those that came into the language under the influence of another. This includes words such as: 

  • Alphabet
  • Accumulator 
  • Economic 
  • Bulldog 
  • Caravan
  • Element 
  • Energy 
  • Film 
  • Legal 
  • Minimum 
  • Philosophy etc. 

In other words, these words have the same meaning both in the language into which they were borrowed and in the original language. 

However, the presence of such words does not mean that all of them will be translated into other languages with the same meaning that comes to mind first. There is a special group of words with a catch. 


Pseudo-international vocabulary 

This big word is called that part of the vocabulary that we can mistakenly take for international.

In a narrow circle, such words are called false friends of the translator. Like false mushrooms. You can even say that it is easy to figure out a bad translator precisely because of these words. But sometimes errors of this kind can be found in seemingly professional translations. For example, in films or translations of lyrics. 

There are also words that have not only the meaning that we are accustomed to ascribe to them at first glance. That is, something like special – particular, specific, not just special. 


Some interesting things 

With the help of homophones, as a rule, a play on words is created in any language. Look at the following examples and think about how you could translate them into your native language in such a way that the pun is not lost. Perhaps there are equivalents in our language? 


– Why is it so wet in England? 

– Because many kings and queens have reigned (rained) there. 


– Good heavens! What's this? 

– It's bean soup. 

– I don't care what it's been. I want to know what it is now! 


Bring some water and water the flowers. 


Fish fishes fish in a fish tank. 


Interesting, isn't it? And it will be even more interesting when, knowing these words and remembering common mistakes in their translation, you will understand the meaning previously hidden from you. Knowing such nuances seems to open the door to the innermost realm of native speakers and those who speak it without any problems. And being a professional, it will be easy to identify a beginner by one single mistake.