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Getting to Grips with Homographs Posted by on Jan 14, 2012 in English Grammar, English Language, English Vocabulary

Last week we had a look at homophones.  As a quick reminder, a homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word but has a different meaning and sometimes a different spelling.  Today we are going to take a look at homographs.

A homograph is a word that has the same spelling as another word but has a different meaning.  Let me give you an example.

The violinist, who had a black bow in her hair,  moved her bow back and forth really quickly as the song finished.  Then she took a bow.

As you can see, I have used the word “bow” three times.  While each time the word is spelt the same, each time the word has a different meaning:

  • red bow = (pronounced [boh]) any separate piece of looped, knotted, or shaped gathering of ribbon, cloth, paper, etc., used as a decoration, as on a package, dress, or the like.
  • blue bow = (pronounced [boh]) a rod having horsehair drawn tightly between its two raised ends, used in playing instruments of the violin and viol families
  • green bow = (pronounced [bou]) to bend the knee or body or incline the head, as submission, salutation, recognition, or acknowledgement

For some practise, take a look at the following sentences.  I’ve underlined the homograph for you.  Read each sentence, and then write another sentence that changes the meaning of the homograph.  I’ll post some example answers in a later post.

1.  The old castle had a large, square keep.
2.  She won a new bike in the prize draw.
3.  That dog loves when you throw a stick.
4.  The paper has a large tear in it.
5.  The lady ground the coffee beans in a grinder.

Answers from the Homophone post:

1.  Anya asked is she could come to the concert too, but we only have two tickets.
2.  They are getting their coats from the cloakroom over there.
3.  We can’t tell whether the weather will be dry or wet.

One fine day when the sun was shining way up in the sky, a pair of hares came hopping by. Watching them from behind a fir tree was an enormous grizzly bear. He had been keeping an eye on them for about a week from his cave in the hills. Now here was his chance for a piece of succulent hare pie for dinner.

He crept from his hiding place and charged at the hares. They took to their heels and ran for the main road. Luckily a passing van stopped and gave the hares a lift and saved their skins.

The hares looked over their shoulders to see the bear stamping his feet with rage. As they turned back they noticed some dead pheasants in a sack. The van driver was a poacher and was thinking, “I rather fancy a nice tasty hare and pheasant pie for dinner tonight,” as he reached for his gun.

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