This week is the one-year anniversary of the Bespeaking Blog! Crystal and I would like to thank you guys for being so supportive of us over this year and for reading so faithfully every week. We hope that you’re more confident in your English skills, or at the very least you have a better understanding of the English language. And now…on to some tricky pronunciation!
This week we’re focusing on funny English pronunciations. These ten words are commonly confused (even by native speakers) partly because they are spelled the same and pronounced differently, or are spelled in a similar way. We’ll clear up the pronunciation and spellings so that you’re not confused anymore and can say or write these words with confidence.
Live / Live
Have you ever gone to see a band pay live (adverb)? Do you live (verb) in New York City?
This pronunciation can seem confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Live (adverb), such as the band example, rhymes with ‘five’. The word live comes from “alive” and has to do with seeing something in person, or “in life”-as in, not dead.
Live (verb), on the other hand, rhymes with ‘give’. To live is the action of living: where you live, who you live with, and what you do. Try using these two words in a sentence to see the difference and don’t confuse the pronunciations!
Read / Read
You might want to read this sentence again (present tense). And just a second ago you read the previous sentence (past tense).
We read (verb) something, like this pronunciation blog or a book, and in this sentence, read is in the present tense form. The pronunciation for this verb sounds like the word ‘tea’ or “he” with a long eeee.
Read (past tense), on the other hand, is the past tense of read, and is pronounced the same as ‘red.’ This one might take a bit of practice to get the hang of, but we know you’ll be able to do it! If you like learning things in threes, the past participle is also spelled read and is pronounced the same as the past tense: “red”.
Breath / Breathe
Take a deep breath and breathe in the fresh air! The pronunciation of these two words can be easily confused due to their spellings- even for native English speakers!
A Breath (noun, which rhymes with ‘death’) is the air you take in when you breathe (verb). Amazing scenery can take your breath away, for instance. Breathe, on the other hand, has the long eeee sound at the end as in the words ‘freeze’ or ‘sneeze’. This is the verb to describe the physical act of air going in and out of your body. As you breathe, you’re taking breaths in and out.
Don’t stress about the difference between breath and breathe. Take a breath and decide carefully which word you want to use.
Strip / Stripe
Do you know the difference between strip (verb and noun) and stripe (noun)? The key to this pronunciation is in how you pronounce the ‘i’.
Strip, which rhymes with ‘trip’, can mean two things: either the noun strip (a long, narrow piece) of something, such as a piece of paper, or the verb to strip something off like the sheets of a bed, or if you strip off your clothes before you get in the shower.
Stripe (rhymes with ‘ripe’ or the ‘i’ in “hi!”) is also a long, narrow band, however, it’s different from a strip in that a stripe is usually in alternating colors on a wall or clothing. The American flag has 13 stripes, for example.
Gait / Gate
Do you know what a gait is versus a gate? They have the same pronunciation but have very different meanings.
Gait is the way someone walks. You know how sometimes you can spot a friend or family member in a crowd based on the way they walk? You’re able to pick them out by their gait.
A gate, on the other hand, is a small door in a fence or a wall. Have you ever passed through a gate with a distinctive gait? Tricky, tricky!
Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to the Bespeaking Blog! We’re so glad to have you here on our birthday!
As always, if you have any suggestions for future blogs, or words you’d like to add to this list, let us know in the comments below!
Erin Duffin lives in Berlin (but not for long!), is a live English teacher, yoga and breath instructor, and is an expert at recognizing one’s gait! (See what I did there??)