English can be a difficult language to learn, especially in terms of spelling. Besides the usual silent letters, such as "e" at the end of words, there is a class of words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. These are called homophones. They are just a small part of English and its spelling troubles.

Canva Design DAE6lfAKCgYEnglish has many examples of homophones: so / sew / sow, real / reel, to / two / too, buy / by / bye, and they're / there / their, to name a few. Understanding the sentences and context in which the words are used will go a long way toward getting the spelling correct, but you have to know which spelling refers to which meaning. Even native speakers sometimes get these mixed up.

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Another aspect of homophones that makes spelling difficult is the multiple pronunciations of vowels and vowel combinations. In the above example of so / sew / sow, if we contrast them with words that only differ by their first letters, such as no / new / now, we hear very different sounds altogether. "So" and "no" have the same long "o" sound, but "new" has an "oo" sound (long "u") compared to "sew" (long "o"), and "now" has a shorter "ow" sound.

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Here is a short list of homophone pairs that are good to learn:

accept / except (very similar)
ate / eight
air / heir
be / bee
by / bye
dear / deer
fair / fare
feat / feet
for / four
great / grate
hear / here
I / eye
know / no
meat / meet
one / won
our / hour
pair / pear
real / reel
scents / sense
sew / so
sight / site
there / they're
too / two
urn / earn
vain / vein
wait / weight
yoke / yolk


Learning homophones will help reduce confusion in conversations.

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