Function Word Homophones

Some of the most common function words in English are homophones; they are frequently misspelt as a result. Autocorrectors often correct any mistake, but they sometimes do the opposite, here are 10 examples:

1. its, it’s = /ɪts/

“its” is a possessive pronounce, whereas “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”.

“Where’s its lid gone?”
It’s in the dishwasher.”
“Let me see if it’s finished.”

2. there, their, they’re = /ðeə/

“there” is an adverb, “their” is a possessive pronoun and “they’re” is a contraction of “they are”.

There are two problems. Firstly, we don’t know their names. And secondly they’re coming over for dinner tonight.”

3. your, you’re = /jɔː,jə/

“your” is a possessive pronoun, “you’re” is a contraction of “you are”, both can be weakened to a schwa as in this recording:

“Can you pass me your wallet?”
You’re joking, right?”

4. here, hear = /hɪə/

“here” is an adverb, “hear” is a verb:

“I’m over here!”
“What? I can’t hear you!”

5. of, have = /əv/

Only a homophone when the ‘h’ in “have” is silent as an auxiliary verb. “of” is a preposition, “have” is an auxiliary verb:

“It’s made of stone.”
“I could have guessed that.”*

*An error that some English speakers make, particularly young learners, is to confuse the word “have” for “of” and then make it strong, producing something like “would of” /wʊdɒv/, which doesn’t exist grammatically. 

6. to, too, two = /tuː/

“to” is a preposition, “too” is an adverb and “two” is a number. “to” is only a homophone with these words when stressed.

“Where are you taking me to?”
“It won’t be too far.”
“More than two kilometres?”

7. he’ll, heel = /hɪəl/

“he’ll” is a contraction of “he will”, “heel” is the back part of the foot:

He’ll struggle to finish the match now.”
“Yes, an expert will need to look at his heel.”

8. for, four = /fɔː/

“for” is a preposition, “four” is a number. Only homophones when “for” is strong.

“What’s the long face for?”
“I’ve failed four exams!”

9. where, wear = /weə/

“where” is an adverb, “wear” is a verb.

Where did you put my sunglasses?”
“I don’t know, here you are, wear mine.”

10. I, eye = /aɪ/

“I” is a pronoun, “eye” is a noun.

I don’t know what to buy.”
“You normally have an eye for a bargain.”