Homographs Part 3

A homograph is a word that has two different pronunciations, and the different pronunciations have different meanings. The words in Homographs Part 1 have a change in vowel sound, and Homographs Part 2 deals with words that have a change in a consonant sound. However, the words here have a change in word stress.

One important thing to know is that changes in word stress often cause changes in vowel sounds, so in some of these words you may notice a vowel sound change, but that change goes with the shift in stress. The primary way that vowels change with word stress is by becoming weaker and reducing to Schwa when they are in a syllable that is not stressed. Here is an example:

OBject (noun – a thing):
–the first syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the strong syllable and has a Short-o sound

obJECT (verb – to voice disagreement):
–the second syllable is stressed, so the [o] is in the weak syllable and sounds like Schwa

(The capitalized letters show the stressed syllable, but this is not normal spelling).

Word-stress homograph examples

ADdress (noun – the location of a building)
adDRESS (verb – to write down an address OR to speak to a group of people)

COMpound (noun – something made of two or more parts)
comPOUND (verb – to combine or add)

CONtest (noun – a game or event of competition)
conTEST (verb – to challenge or dispute)

CONtract (noun – a written agreement)
conTRACT (verb – to make smaller in size)

DEcrease (noun – the total reduction in the amount of something)
deCREASE (verb – to become smaller in amount)

DIgest (noun – a compilation of information)
diGEST (verb – to break down food in the stomach)

ENtrance (noun – a place of access such as a door or gate)
enTRANCE (verb – to completely captivate someone’s attention)

EXtract (noun – something taken from a larger work or substance)
exTRACT (verb – to remove or pull out)

INcline (noun – a slope or hill)
inCLINE (verb – to lean, tip, or tilt something)

INcrease (noun – the amount that something has grown)
inCREASE (verb – to become greater or larger)

OFfense (noun – the players on a sports team that attack or advance)
ofFENSE (noun – an illegal act)

PERfect (adjective – something that is as good as it can possibly be)
perFECT (verb – to improve or make something as good as possible)

PREsent (noun – a gift)
preSENT (verb – to show or give something formally)

PROduce (noun – food that has been grown, such as vegetables)
proDUCE (verb – to make or create something)

PROject (noun – a large or extended task or piece of work)
proJECT (verb – to estimate, forecast or predict)

PROtest (noun – an group of people organized to display objection to something)
proTEST (verb – to express an objection)

REcord (noun – a written account of information)
reCORD (verb – to keep or store information for future use)

REfund (noun – the amount of money returned to someone)
reFUND (verb – the action of giving money back to someone)

REject (noun – an item that is defective or inadequate)
reJECT (verb – to refuse to accept something)

SUBject (noun – the topic of a conversation or a book)
subJECT (verb – to cause or force something to undergo a process)

TRANSport (noun – a system for moving objects or items)
transPORT (verb – to carry or move goods from one place to another)

UPset (noun – an unexpected defeat of a champion sports team)
upSET (adjective – to be disturbed or extremely unhappy)

This is not a complete list — there are many other words like this. Also, these definitions are not complete — they are just to help show how the meaning can change when the stress changes. Many of these words actually have several definitions.

Perhaps you noticed that these words start with a prefix, such as, “re-” “com-” or “in-“, for example. Most of the homographs that follow this alternating word stress pattern do start with a prefix.

So now that you know about these homographs, you can keep your eyes open for words with prefixes, and keep your ears open for changes in word stress, and that will help you be less confused with words that are pronounced in more than one way.


Homographs Part 2

Homographs are words that have two different pronunciations, and different meanings. The word pairs in Homographs Part 1 differ primarily in the vowel sounds. In this list, there is a change in a consonant sound rather than a vowel, and difference in the meaning is very slight.

There are not many words in this group, but it is good to know about them because there is a small change in grammar that goes with the small change in sound. In these pairs, the letter “S” alternates in voicing and switches between /s/ and /z/.


use — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “He would like to use your phone for a minute.”
use — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “I have no use for another vacuum, I already have three.”

close — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Please close the door quietly.”
close — (adjective, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Her house is close to mine.”

excuse — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Could you please excuse me for a moment?”
excuse — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “I don’t want to hear another excuse for not finishing your work!”

abuse — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “They were afraid that he would try to abuse the employees.”
abuse — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Drug abuse is often seen as a social problem.”

house — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “This apartment can house up to 6 people.”
house — (noun, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Their house is very old.”

Similar Words

In this next pair, the vowel spelling looks different but the vowel sound is the SAME!
lose — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “I don’t want to lose any more time waiting here.”
loose — (adjective, [s] sounds like /s/)
    “Don’t sit on that chair! One of the legs is loose.”

In this pair, the change in the consonant sound is visible in the spelling.
advise — (verb, [s] sounds like /z/)
    “Could you advise us about which car is best?”
advice — (noun, [c] sounds like /s/)
    “We need some advice about which car to buy.”

Even though these words follow the same pattern of  pronunciation, they are not considered to be homographs because of the change in spelling.

Homographs Part 1

Homographs are words with two different pronunciations, and different meanings. This particular list of homographs has some words that could cause some confusion if you aren’t aware of them.
Listen carefully to how these words are pronounced.

bass – a kind of fish
bass – the low notes in music (a homonym of “base”)

bow – to bend over
bow – loops made with ribbon or the stick part of a violin

buffet – to hit or strike
buffet – a meal with many dishes self-served

does – 3rd person singular of “to do”
does – female deer (plural) (a homonym of “doze”)

dove – a kind of bird
dove – past tense of the verb “to dive”

desert – to abandon (a homonym of “dessert”)
desert – a dry area of land

invalid – not valid
invalid – a person who is disabled

live – the verb meaning to be alive
live – the adjective meaning not dead

lead – to show the way
lead – a kind of metal (Pb) (a homonym of “led”)

minute – 60 seconds
minute – very small

mow – to cut grass
mow – a stack of hay

polish – to make clean and shiny
Polish – from Poland

resume – to start again
resume – a summary of experience

read – to understand written words
read – the past tense of “to read” (a homonym of “red”)

sewer – drain pipes for waste water
sewer – a person who sews

slough – to shed old tissue
slough – a swampy area of land

sow – to plant seeds
sow – a female pig

tear – to rip
tear – water produced by the eyes

wind – air movement
wind – to turn or twist something

wound – past tense of wind
wound – an injury

Pay attention to the vowel sounds in these words so that you can say the right pronunciation for the right meaning!