With words that originate from a variety of cultures and contexts, English has few obvious spelling rules. As result of the strange and wonderful history of English a single letter can account for some interesting – and commonly confused words – word pairs. K, especially the silent kind (as in knife), is one such letter and here are a few of the most common mistakes to look out for:
Know / No
These two are pretty hard to confuse but, in the age of instant messaging and texting, native speakers do occasionally take a shortcut with the four-letter know and write it as the two-letter no. Just because native speakers do it does not make it right, however! Though the two sound the same they look nothing alike and the verb (know) should always have four letters – silent k and all.
Knew / New
These two words are more commonly confused, both rhyme with “shoe” and may sound exactly the same but there the similarities end. The k in knew, though silent, makes this the past tense of the verb “to know” (mentioned above), while the three-letter new is adjective meaning recent or fresh. To keep things straight just remember the following helpful hint: “A K is a very important letter – you just never knew it!”
Knead / Need
Although the k and a might throw you off, both of these sounds-alikes rhyme with “seed.” The five letter version, however, is only ever a verb,* while the four letter version can be both a verb and a noun. In that case “to need” is the same as “to require” and, in like manner, “a need” is the same as a requirement. Keep them apart using following trick: You may only see knead in a baker’s recipe but when you do you will certainly need it!
*And a very specific one at that, as it means to mix and combine bread dough.