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Grammar Tips & Tidbits


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Homophone Potpourri Series: Part II

The English language brings with it a never-ending list of homophones, or words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings.¹ Many spelling errors occur due to confusion between homophones, so this week's tip features a "potpourri" of homophones for your comparison.

The definitions that follow are excerpts from Wiktionary.org. Example sentences are original content provided by Accu-Assist.

Ring vs. Wring:

●   Ring: A round piece of (precious) metal worn around the finger. (noun)

    Example: She wore a diamond ring on her finger.

●   Ring: To produce the sound of a bell or a similar sound. (verb)

    Example: Did you hear the doorbell ring a moment ago?

●   Wring: To hold tightly and press or twist.  (verb)

    Example: I'll wring your neck if I find out you're lying!

Rein vs. Reign

●   Rein: A strap or rope attached to the bridle or bit, used to control a
    horse or other animal.  (noun) 

    Example: Pull the reins when you want the horse to stop.

●   Rein: To stop or restrain a horse. Also used figuratively, as in
    to "rein in" or to give "free rein."  (verb)

    Example: She was given free rein to decorate the house
    as she pleased.

●   Reign: The exercise of sovereign power. (noun)

    Example: The king's reign lasted for thirty years.

●   Reign: To exercise sovereign power, or to rule as a monarch. (verb)

    Example: The king reigned over all of Europe.

Did you know?
The phrase "free rein" is often mistakenly spelled "free reign," which is quite understandable since the phrase sounds as if it could mean that you're giving unlimited power to another party. However, the saying actually means that you're giving another party the freedom to do something without restraints―or free of reins. Admittedly, there's a fine distinction between meanings, but it's the difference between using the right word or the wrong word in this well-known phrase.

Did any of these homophones take you by surprise?
I'd love to hear about it! Just email me to let me know which ones were new to you.

Remember, spell-checker won't catch these words if they're used incorrectly, so be sure to add the Grammar Tips & Tidbits Archive to your bookmarks or favorites folder for future reference.

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1. Wikipedia contributors. "Homophone." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophone (accessed June 1, 2007).

2. Wiktionary contributors. Wikipedia, The Free Dictionary.
    http://www.wiktionary.org/ (accessed June 1, 2007).