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Grammar Tips & Tidbits

 

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Homophone Potpourri Series

 

The English language brings with it a never-ending list of homophones, or  words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings.¹ Many spelling errors occur because of confusion between homophones, so this week's tip features a "potpourri" of homophones for your comparison.

The following definitions are excerpts from Dictionary.com. Example sentences are original content provided by Accu-Assist.
 

Cord vs. Chord
Common error:
  Incorrect:  He learned three new cords on the guitar today.

Correct:     He learned three new chords on the guitar today.
 
●   Cord: a string or thin rope made of several strands braided, twisted, or woven together. (n) Also: a small, flexible, insulated cable. (n)
  Example:  Drew ran the extension cord behind the TV.
 
●   Chord: a combination of usually three or more musical tones sounded simultaneously. (n)
  Example: Kendra's piano teacher required that she practice chords for 20 minutes each day.
 
Lead vs. Led
Common error:
  Incorrect:  He lead the horses to the barn.

Correct:     He led the horses to the barn.
 
●   Lead: a heavy, comparatively soft, malleable, bluish-gray metal, sometimes found in its natural state but usually combined as a sulfide, especially in galena. (n)
  Example: The paint must be tested for the presence of lead.
 
●   Led: simple past tense and past participle of lead. (v) - see below
  Example: Patrick led the discussion yesterday.
 
●   Lead: to act as a guide; show the way: You lead and we'll follow. (v)
  Example: Patrick will lead the discussion today.

Note: In this case, lead has a different pronunciation and is not considered a true homophone.
 
Base vs. Bass
Common error:
  Incorrect:  I could hear the base thumping from the neighbor's house until the wee hours of the morning.

Correct:     I could hear the bass thumping from the neighbor's house until the wee hours of the morning.
 
●   Base: the bottom support of anything; that on which a thing stands or rests: a metal base for the table.  (n)
  Example:  A group of vandals knocked the statue from its base last night.
 
●   Bass: low in pitch; of the lowest pitch or range: a bass voice; a bass instrument. (adj) Also: the bass part. (n)
  Example:  Jimmy sang bass in the quartet.
 
●   Bass: any of numerous edible, spiny-finned, freshwater or marine fishes of the families Serranidae and Centrarchidae. (n)
  Example: Emily caught a nine-pound bass during the family fishing trip last weekend.

Note: In this case, bass has a different pronunciation and is not considered a true homophone.
 

Remember, spell-checker won't catch these words if they're used incorrectly, so be sure to add the Grammar Tips & Tidbits Archive to your bookmarks or favorites folder for future reference.

 

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Sources:

1. Wikipedia contributors. "Homophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophone (accessed March 25, 2011).

2. Dictionary.com. http://dictionary.reference.com/ (accessed March 25, 2011).