Common English Homographs You Should Know

Common English Homographs You Should Know

 Homographs can sometimes be tricky when learning English. Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. The words may also be pronounced differently. Homographs are part of the types of words that you will learn in American English Language School’s ESL Program. For now, read on to see some common examples of homographs in the English language.

  1. Bare and Bare

The word bare can be used as an adjective to describe something that is not clothed, or bare can describe something that is basic and plain.


It is not good to walk around outside in your bare feet.

The room was bare and empty before they moved in.

The first sentence means that you should not walk around with your feet uncovered. The second sentence means that the room is plain and simple.

  1. Bat / Bat

The first bat is a piece of equipment that baseball players use when playing. They swing the bat to hit the baseball. On the other hand, the second definition of the word bat is a mammal. This bat is a little flying mammal that comes out at night.


He hit the ball with a bat.

The bat flew into the cave.

The first sentence uses the first definition of the word bat. You wouldn’t hit a ball with an animal! The second sentence uses the animal definition. A baseball bat does not have wings to fly.

  1. Quarter / Quarter

The first definition of the word quarter is a coin. A quarter is worth 25 cents. Another definition of quarter is each of four equal parts of something divided. There’s also another definition that means a period of 15 minutes.


After I bought my soda, I only had a quarter left.

They each ate a quarter of the pie.

Jim starts school at a quarter past 8.

The first sentence uses “quarter” to refer to money, or 25 cents. The second sentence means that the pie was split into “quarters”, 4 equal pieces. The third sentence uses “quarter” to refer to time (A quarter past 8 means 15 minutes past 8, 8:15).

  1. Bass / Bass

Bass can either mean a type of fish or a musical instrument.


The fisherman caught bass during his fishing trip.

Ted played the bass in his band.

Bass has two very different definitions. The first sentence uses “bass” to refer to a type of fish, and in the second sentence, “bass” refers to a musician instrument.

  1. Letter / Letter

A letter is a character from the alphabet, like “A,” “B,” “C,” and so on. The other definition for the word letter is a handwritten or typed message. You get out a piece of paper and a pen to write out and send letters to friends, family, and coworkers all of the time.


Since Ben kept mixing up his letters, he had to keep tracing the alphabet for his homework.

Wendy received a letter in the mail from her mother for Christmas.

The first sentence is using the word “letter” as the letter of the alphabet. The second sentence is using “letter” as a handwritten note that you can send and receive.

  1. Left / Left

Left can be used to describe a direction. It can also be used as a verb that means to leave somewhere, or it can also be used to mean leave behind or abandon something.

The map said that they needed to turn left at the next stop sign.

They left early in the morning to avoid traffic.

Harry left his cats at home with his brother while he went out of town for the weekend.

The first sentence is describing the direction that they will need to go. The second sentence means to leave their house. The last sentence means that Harry is leaving behind his cats for the weekend.

  1. Can  / Can

Can means that you are able or permitted to do something. The other definition means a cylindrical metal, steel, or aluminum container. You can even use the term informally to say that someone is fired.


Please come to work early tomorrow if you can.

She drank two cans of Coca Cola yesterday.

The first sentence is asking if the person is able to come into work early. The second sentence means the container.

  1. Bar / Bar

The word bar has a few different definitions. First, it can be a long rod or stick. Then, it can be a room or establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. Lastly, it can be used to prevent or prohibit something.


The bars of his jail cell were placed close together.

They met at a bar to get a couple of drinks for Leslie’s birthday.

He was barred from leaving the house.


  1. Watch / Watch

Watch can be used as either a noun or a verb. The noun form of watch means the little clock that you wear on your wrist. The verb form of watch means to watch or observe something closely. It can also mean to be careful of something.


His watch had stopped at 3:20 when it ran out of batteries.

Sarah likes to watch her son’s baseball games on Saturday mornings.

You should watch out for cars when you cross the street.

The first sentence uses the noun form of “watch”: the device that tells us the time of the day. In the second sentence, “watch” means that Sarah is observing her son’s game. The last sentence means uses “watch” to mean to be careful. You should always be cautious when crossing the street.

  1. tie / tie

Tie is used as a verb and a noun. The verb form means to fasten or knot something. Using tie as a noun means you are talking about the material that men wear around their necks to look professional for work.

He tried to tie his tie on his own, but it came undone.

The first “tie” is being used as a verb to knot the material together. The second “tie” is being used as the actual material that people wear around their necks. 

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Published on December 8, 2020

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