There are many words that sound similar but have different meanings and are spelled differently. Then there are other words that even sound exactly the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Here are some examples:
1) custom vs. costume:
Custom refers to repetitive, traditional activities e.g.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead is a typical Mexican custom.
A costume is something that you wear e.g.
The costumes in Shakespeare in Love are very well made.
2) loose vs. lose:
Loose is the opposite of tight. It’s an adjective. Imagine Michael Jackson in Pavarotti’s clothes.
Lose is a verb and refers to objects that have disappeared. Example:
“I can’t find my wallet, I have lost it.”
3) guy vs. gay
This one can cause a lot of confusion. The mistake normally occurs in writing only, because students know the difference in pronunciation between guy and gay. They also know the difference in meaning:
guy = boy/ young man as in: he’s a very nice guy.
gay = homosexual (it used to mean something like: lively or bright, but that’s old fashioned and common in the works of, say, Charles Dickens.
4) earn vs. win
The problem with these two is that they are both translated into Spanish with ganar. Thus, you get questions like: “How much do you win?” when referring to your salary. However, you win money in the lottery and you earn (or make) money at your job.
5) I am agree
A common error among Spanish speakers is the translation ‘I am agree for Estoy de acuerdo. One should keep in mind that agree is a verb, whereas de acuerdo, as in estoy de acuerdo, is an adjective. Therefore, one should say:
– I agree
– He agrees
– We agree
And in past for example:
– I agreed