This week we’re going to cover an additional six commonly-used English homographs. Recall from our last lesson that homographs are words with identical spellings but different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. The homographs we’ll be looking at this week are especially challenging because they have identical pronunciations. In other words, the differences in meaning are entirely dependent on the contexts in which they are used.
The noun date can refer to either a type of fruit or a specific day on a calendar. It can also mean a pre-arranged meeting, usually of a romantic nature. The verb date can mean to determine the age of or to be involved in a romantic relationship:
The fruit basket contained dates and figs.
Have we set a date for the staff meeting?
I can’t go to the game on Saturday. I have a date.
The archaeologists are trying to date the artifacts that they discovered during the dig.
Did you hear that Chris and Kathy decided to date?
This noun has two very distinct meanings. The first is a cooling device with spinning blades. The second is derived from the word “fanatic.” In this context, a fan is an admirer of someone or something:
Please turn the fan on. I’m really hot.
My girlfriend is a fan of Major League Soccer, especially the New York Red Bulls.
The noun fly refers to a type of winged insect. The verb fly means to “move through the air” like an airplane, bird, or (confusingly) a fly:
The fly was attracted to the watermelon in the picnic basket.
Birds fly by flapping their wings to create lift.
When used as a verb, left is the irregular past tense of “leave” (to abandon, depart, go away from, etc.). When used as an adjective, adverb, or noun, left indicates the direction opposite of right:
The teacher accidentally left her flash drive at school.
To reach the English Island from the south, turn left at the shopping center with the Dunkin’ Donuts. If you are coming from the north, turn right.
A net (noun) is an open-meshed fabric with a wide variety of uses, including catching balls at sporting events and serving as a trap for animals. Net (adjective) is what remains after all deductions and expenses have been taken into consideration:
That girl is always running around the neighborhood trying to catch butterflies with her net.
The company has a net income of over one million dollars.
Pupil can be either the black dot at the center of the eye or a synonym for the word “student”:
Dilated, or widened, pupils are a common symptom of a concussion.
Devon is a brilliant but undisciplined pupil who often forgets to do her homework.