Today we’re going to look at homophones. These are words which have the same pronunciation (sound) but different meanings and spelling.
Oggi vedremo gli omofoni, parole che si pronunciano allo stesso modo ma che hanno significati diversi e si scrivono in modo diverso.
Let’s start with some very basic ones: “I” and “eye”.
“I” is the first person singular subject pronoun.
I live in Naples.
(Io) vivo a Napoli.
We use our eyes to see.
I like your eye colour.
Mi piace il colore dei tuoi occhi.
Let’s take a look at some more words and try to remember them to avoid confusion.
“ate” is the past simple form of the verb “to eat”.
Here is an example with “ate”:
We ate pizza for dinner last night.
Ieri sera abbiamo cenato pizza.
“ate” is pronounced in the same way as “eight” (8).
Here’s an example with the word “eight”:
I have eight cousins.
Ho otto cugini.
“it’s” is the contraction of “it is” and “it has”.
It’s (=It is) sunny today.
C’è il sole oggi.
It’s (=It has) been sunny all week.
C’è stato il sole tutta la settimana.
“its” is a possessive pronoun.
The dog ate its food.
Il cane mangió il suo cibo.
“to hear” is a verb which means “to perceive sound by the ear” while “here” is an adverb of place meaning “in or towards this place”.
Look at an example of each word:
I cannot hear you. Please speak louder.
Non riesco a sentirti. Potresti parlare un pò più forte?
Come here please!
Per favore vieni qui!
Try to remember these simple words and it will help you speak and write in English better!
Cerca di ricordare queste semplici parole cosí potrai parlare e scrivere meglio l’inglese!
Now we are going to look at some more homophones:
Let’s start with the words “flower” and “flour”.
a flower (countable): un fiore
Last week I received a beautiful bunch of flowers from a friend.
La settimana scorsa ho ricevuto un bellissimo mazzo di fiori da parte di un amico.
flour (uncountable): farina
I need to buy a bag of flour before I make the biscuits.
Ho bisogno di comprare un pacco di farina prima di fare i biscotti.
Another couple of words which are spelt differently, have different meanings but sound the same are “allowed” and “aloud”.
allowed is the past simple and past participle form of the verb “to allow”. “To allow someone to do something” is ““permettere a qualcuno di fare qualcosa” in Italian.
Here are two examples with “allowed”. In the first one “allowed” is the past simple form and in the second one it is a past participle in a passive structure.
His parents never allowed him to play in the streets when he was a kid.
I suoi genitori non gli hanno mai permesso di giocare in strada quando era piccolo.
You are not allowed to smoke in here.
Non si può fumare qui.
When you say or read something aloud, you speak so that others can hear you. A synonym of “aloud” is “out loud”.
Stand in front of the rest of the class and read your poem aloud.
Mettiti in piedi e leggi ad alta voce la tua poesia a tutta la classe.
Now let’s look at some more homophones: “pear” and “pair”.
a pear: una pera
a pair: un paio
Look at a couple of examples:
I ate an apple, a pear and an orange yesterday.
Ieri ho mangiato una mela, una pera e un’arancia.
Last Saturday I bought a new pair of shoes.
Sabato scorso ho comprato un nuovo paio di scarpe.
The following list of 5 pairs are combinations of words we often get wrong – not just beginners, even advanced students.
Assent and Consent
Both verbs mean agreement, but let’s look at their definitions:
assent – to agree to or approve of something (such as an idea or suggestion) especially after carefully thinking about it.
consent – to agree to do or allow something : to give permission for something to happen or be done.
So you see, one means to agree enthusiastically, and the other is to agree neutrally.
Breach and Breech
They sound the same, but are not!
breach – a failure to do what is required by a law an agreement or a duty : failure to act in a required or promised way.
breech – this word means the lower part of the body first. It is usually only used to describe a birth in which a baby is born with the feet or buttocks coming out of the mother first instead of the head.
So if a company is not acting as it promised it would in a contract, it is breaching the contract, not breeching. That would be very strange, right?
Compelled and Impelled
One is a voluntary action, the other isn’t. Do you know which is which?
compelled – to force (someone) to do something.
impelled – to cause (someone) to feel a strong need or desire to do something.
So if a thief steals diamonds from an old lady and feels guilty, maybe he will be impelled to giving it back. But if he doesn’t feel guilty and is caught by the police, he will be compelled to go to prison!
Infectious and Contagious
We often use these words like synonyms, but in fact they have their own, very different, meaning:
infectious – capable of causing infection, capable of being passed to someone else by germs that enter the body and suffering from a disease that can be spread to other people by germs.
contagious – able to be passed from one person or animal to another by touching.
So, infectious diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses that get into the body and cause problems. Some infectious diseases spread directly from one person to another. Infectious diseases that spread from person to person are said to be contagious.
Deserts, Deserts and Desserts
The first one, pronounced deserts, sounds like the last word, desserts. However, the second word is pronounced desert. OK, now we all understand how to say these three words, let’s find out what they mean and make sure we don’t get them confused!
deserts – punishment that someone deserves
deserts – an area of very dry land that is usually covered with sand and is very hot.
desserts – sweet food eaten after the main part of a meal.
Very similar words, with very different meanings.
Now we are going to look at three words which are spelt differently, have different meanings, but are pronounced the same, i.e., they are homophones. These words are “two”, “to” and “too”.
Oggi studieremo tre parole che si scrivono in modo diverso e che hanno significato diverso, ma che si pronunciano nello stesso modo, che sono cioè omofone: “two”, “to” e “too”.
Let’s start by looking at the easiest of these three words: “two”.
“two” (2) is a number. For example,
He has two flatmates. I have two sisters.
(Lui) Ha due coinquilini. Ho due sorelle.
“to” is used to indicate purpose, as in the following examples:
I went home during my lunch break to have a nap.
Durante la pausa pranzo sono andato a casa a fare un pisolino.
He is training every day to win the competition.
(Lui) Si allena ogni giorno per vincere la gara.
Here the “to” is followed by a verb.
“to” is also used as a preposition expressing motion in the direction of (a particular location), for example:
Yesterday I went to the supermarket.
Ieri sono andata al supermercato.
My parents went to Malta on holiday last year.
L’anno scorso i miei sono andati in vacanza a Malta.
“to” also has lots of other uses which you will discover as you study English.
The final word we are going to look at today is “too”.
“too” is usually used at the end of a sentence or clause and means “in addition” or “also”.
I love Chinese food and I love Spanish food too.
Adoro la cucina cinese, e anche quella spagnola.
Brad Pitt isn’t just good-looking; he’s a very good actor too.
Brad Pitt non è solo attraente, ma è anche un buon attore.
“too” is sometimes used before an adjective or adverb and in this case it means “more than what is wanted, needed, acceptable, possible, etc.”
I am too hot. He drove too fast and caused an accident.
Ho troppo caldo. (Lui) Guidava troppo velocemente e ha causato l’incidente.