Common English Homographs


In the previous two lessons we covered homophones, words with identical pronunciations but different spellings and different meanings.


Homographs, on the other hand, are words with identical spellings but different meanings and sometimes different pronunciations. While the distinction between homographs is usually obvious in spoken English, the difference in written English is often dependent upon the context in which a homograph is used.



The verb close (/kloʊz/) means to cover, to shut, to seal, etc.


The adjective close (/kloʊs/) means to be in physical or emotional proximity of someone or something. This version of close can also indicate similarity between two people/objects or that a goal is about to be reached.


Please close the door to the basement.

Amanda and Mary have been close friends since elementary school.



The verb live (/lɪv/) means to be alive, to exist, or to inhabit a particular place.


The adjective live (/laɪv/) is used to indicate something that is alive, active, or is happening at this very moment. A “live specimen” of an animal is one that is living. A “live wire” has electrical current running through it. A “live broadcast” transmits an event to viewers or listeners in real time.


Carter and Kathy live in Smyrna.

The event will be broadcast live this afternoon.



The noun lead (/led/) refers to the chemical element or the type of metal.


The verb lead (/liːd/) means “to guide.”


Because it is highly toxic, lead is banned from virtually all new products.

Mountain climbers often hire local experts to lead them through dangerous terrain.



A minute (/mɪnɪt/) is 60 seconds of time. It can also be used informally to refer to any short period of time.


Minute (/maɪˈnuːt/) is an adjective meaning “extremely small” or “very careful and detailed.”


Do you have a minute to talk about this week’s report?

There is a minute chance of rain today.



The irregular verb read has the same spelling in the past and present tenses but different pronunciations for each.


The present tense read (/riːd/) means to look at and understand printed words and symbols. In other words, what you are doing right now. The past tense form (/red/) indicates completion of this act.


Please read chapters 6 and 7 before tomorrow’s lesson.

I read all of the Harry Potter novels when they first came out.



The verb wind (/waɪnd/) can mean to twist or wrap something up or can indicate the presence of many bends and twists.


The noun wind (/wɪnd/) is the English word for air that moves quickly due to natural forces.


Local roads in Metro Atlanta often wind confusingly through both old and new neighborhoods.

A sudden gust of wind blew the pile of freshly-raked leaves all over the patio.