When to Use Lesson or Lessen

Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature. He has taught college English for 5+ years.

The homonyms 'lesson' and 'lessen' can cause confusion but it is easy to tell them apart if you remember their parts of speech. This lesson will walk you through how to use the noun 'lesson' and the verb 'lessen'.

A Lesson on Lesson and Lessen

So we are about to start a lesson on the words 'lesson' and 'lessen', which are homonyms, or words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. But why is it a 'lesson' and not a 'lessen'?

Because this lesson is a thing, meaning it is a noun, or a word that refers to a person, place, or thing. 'Lessen', on the other hand, is a verb, or action word. An easy way to remember this difference is that 'lesson' has an 'o' in it, like 'noun'. And 'lessen' has an 'e' in it, like 'verb'.

Nouns and verbs are two of the classifications of words known as parts of speech. Every word belongs to one or more of these groups (other ones include adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions) and they describe a word's job in a sentence. So 'lesson' will always be used to refer to a thing, while 'lessen' will always be used to show action.

Start the Lesson

The noun 'lesson' refers to a specific amount of teaching or education, like this lesson right here. A lesson can be relatively small, like this one, or large, like a whole semester spent studying Hamlet. Here are some other examples of 'lesson' in a sentence:

  • The kindergartners' school day includes lessons on writing letters, counting, and art.
  • Ms. Johnson gives piano lessons in the afternoon.
  • Today, class, we are going to begin a lesson on World War II.

Today class, we are going to begin a lesson on World War II.

It can also be used outside of the school context to refer to something someone has learned:

  • My dad taught me a lesson about responsibility by grounding me for a month.
  • After nearly falling into the tiger cage at the zoo, I learned my lesson about ignoring warning signs.

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