What is a homophone?

Homophones
Homophones are tricky words which sound the same but have different meanings and are sometimes spelled differently (there, their and they're, for example). We explain how your child will be introduced to homophones in the classroom and tricks you can try at home to help them master homophone spelling.

What are homophones?

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

Some homophones are pronounced the same way and spelled the same way but have different meanings (homonyms). For example:

rose (the flower) and rose (past tense of the verb to rise)
book (something we read) and book (to schedule something)

Some homophones are pronounced the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings. For example:

wait (the verb) and weight (how heavy something is)
they're (they are) and their (belonging to them) and there (adverb of place)

What is a homonym?

Homonyms are a kind of homophone, words that are written and said the same way but have different meanings. Examples of homonyms are book (something we read) and book (to schedule something) or spring (the season) and spring (to jump up).

What is a homograph?

Homographs are words that are written the same way, but pronounced differently (for example, to wind a clock but blowing wind). Homographs are not homophones (because they don't sound the same).

Homophones learned in primary school

Children have to learn a set list of homophones under the national curriculum. They are often given a list of homophones to learn for their spellings. Your child will learn the following homophones in each year:

Year Homophones
Year 2 there, their, they're
here, hear
see, sea
bare, bear
one, won
sun, son
two, to, too
be, bee
blue, blew
night, knight
Years 3 and 4 accept, except
affect, effect
ball, bawl
berry, bury
brake, break
fair, fare
grate, great
grown, groan
heel, heal, he'll
knot, not
mail, male
main, mane
meat, meet
medal, meddle
missed, mist
peace, piece
plain, plane
rain, rein, reign
scene, seen
weather, whether
whose, who's
Years 5 and 6 licence, license
practice, practise
prophecy, prophesy
father, farther
guessed, guest
heard, herd
lead, led
morning, mourning
past, passed
precede, proceed
principal, principle
profit, prophet
stationary, stationery
steal, steel
whose, who's

Teaching children homophones helps them to widen their vocabulary by learning the meaning of new words and also provides an opportunity to practise and improve spelling.

Teachers teach homophones in a number of ways:

  • 'Fill the gap' worksheets showing homophones used in the context of different sentences.
  • Writing lists of homophones on a class display for children to see every day.
  • Sending home lists of homophones for children to learn for spelling tests.
  • Encouraging children to write sentences containing a pair of homophones.
  • Homophone games involving cards with words written on them (matching the pairs of homophones or matching a word to its definition).

Find homophone worksheets and activities to download  in our spelling worksheets.