Queen’s English – Those Pesky Homonyms

Homonyms, words that sound alike but are spelled differently, are sprinkled throughout English.  Here are some to test your ears

  1. Bill’s expression was marred by a nervous tic/tick.
  2. The resolution of the suspense peaked/piqued her interest.
  3. The story had two discreet/discrete endings
  4. The messenger might have borne/born the news more gently.
  5. The outcome did not auger/augur well for the next game.
  6. The ring contained a diamond of one-half a caret/carat.
  7. The villagers threw off the yolk/yoke of the invaders.
  8. Amanda was liberal in giving advise/advice.
  9. The captain gave his staff free rein/reign.
  10. The patient said his head felt like it was in a vise/vice.
  11. John awoke to regain his piece/peace of mind.
  12. The students knew they must toe/tow the line.
  13. New curtains complemented/complimented the room.
  14. The prisoners were summoned to role/roll call.
  15. Exhausted, Susan felt she’d been through a ringer/wringer.
  16. The father was loath/loathe to interfere in the dispute.
  17. The attorney claimed a breach/breech of contract.
  18. Charles was determined to prove his metal/mettle for the class.
  19. One instance lead/led to another.
  20. The author wrote the foreword/forward last.


  1. Tic. No bugs needed, especially a tick and its lyme disease.
  2. Piqued. To reach a peak is to achieve the maximum.
  3. Discrete. To be discreet is to be prudent and circumspect.
  4. Borne. You were born on your birthday.
  5. Augur. An auger is a drilling tool.
  6. Carat. A caret is an editor’s wedge-shaped mark to designate insertions of copy.
  7. Yoke. A yolk is part of an egg.
  8. Advice. Advise is the verb form; to advise is to give advice.
  9. Rein. To reign is to rule.
  10. Vise. Vice is moral depravity.
  11. Peace. Although in anger I might give you a piece of my mind.
  12. Toe. To tow is to pull.
  13. Complement. Though wrong here, to receive a compliment (praise) is usually a happy moment.
  14. Roll. A role is a part in a drama.
  15. Wringer. A ringer is one who with his bell clapper wakes up the village.
  16. Loath. To loathe is to hate.
  17. Breach. A breech refers to the backend of something such as a gun.
  18. Mettle. Metals are gold, brass, iron, etc.
  19. Led. Though it may be pronounced like “led”, lead is another metal.
  20. Foreword. Forward is a direction.

No worries  –  you’re not being graded.

– Ken Butera

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