Homophones: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shelley Vessels

Shelley has taught at the middle school level for 10 years and has a master's degree in teaching English.

Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings. Read the following lesson to learn how to tell homophones apart, how to tell the difference between 'problem pairs' of homophones and how to choose the right homophone in your own writing.

What Is a Homophone?

When you're writing, how do you know how to choose the right 'there,' 'their,' or 'they're?' It's a tough one, right? These words sound the same have entirely different meanings.

Homophones are words that have the same sound but different meanings. Homophones can be spelled the same or differently. For example, rose (the flower), rose (past tense of 'rise') and rows (a line of items or people) are all homophones.

Telling Homophones Apart

As we've discussed, homophones sound the same but mean something completely different. For example, the words 'write' and 'right' have two different meanings. One is a verb meaning to compose something. The other is a direction--the opposite of 'left.'

But how do you know which one is being used in an given sentence? Let's look at an example sentence:

  • The young men write their girlfriends love poems for Valentine's Day.

Since this sentence is written out, we know that we're talking about the verb 'to write.' But if the sentence were spoken, we would need to use what are called context clues. When you use context clues, you look at the words around the word you are uncertain of to find out what makes sense.

Since the young men are doing something with poems, it makes sense that the homophone 'write' is being used here (not the directional word that means the opposite of the direction 'left').

Problem Pairs

While some homophones are easy to figure out using context clues, there are some homophones that always give writers--especially young writers--a hard time. Let's look at a few head-scratchers:

There, Their and They're

  • 'There' refers to location and means 'in or at a place.' (Example: There is a bus in the parking lot.)
  • 'Their' shows ownership for 'they.' (Example: Their lockers were left open.)
  • 'They're' is a contraction for 'they are.' (Example: They're going to the dance on Friday.)

Its and It's

  • 'Its' shows ownership for 'it.' (Example: The kitten played with its toy.)
  • 'It's' is a contraction for 'it is.' (Example: It's important to floss daily.)

Your and You're

  • 'Your' shows ownership for 'you.' (Example: Teachers expect that you arrive on time to class.)
  • 'You're' is a contraction for 'you are.' (Example: You're going to need to study nightly to do well in Spanish class.)

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