Because English is a hybrid language of Old German, Latin (via French), some Greek, and a smattering of others, there are a few words that have different meanings, but sound the same. We call these words “homophones” and they can be very confusing for people learning English and native speakers alike. Some of the most common homophones are:

  • there, their, they’re
  • it’s, its
  • aww, awe
  • councilor, counselor
  • meat, meet, mete
  • brake, break
  • right, rite, write
  • miner, minor
  • buy, by, bye
  • vain, vane, vein
  • cite, sight, site
  • rain, reign, rein
  • heel, he’ll, heal
  • raise, rays, raze
  • capitol, capital

There is no easy way to keep these straight other than simply memorising them. There are various mnemonics for some of these, but most of them just require practice. When in doubt, look it up. Typing “define:” plus a word in Google will give you the definition.