Though it may not always seem so, the English language favors short words over long ones. This is a mixed blessing for language learners. While short words are easier to remember and easier acquire than long ones – consider German, a language famous for lengthy nouns, an example of the contrary – this it also makes homophones – words that sound alike, like read and red – quite common. The letter M alone has two examples where no less than three words sound the exact same! Fortunately it is easy enough to keep them apart with just a bit of practice.
Meat vs Meet vs Mete
Despite the fact that these three words sound exactly the same – all rhyme with neat or sheet – they mean entirely different things. They are even different parts of speech! Meat with an a, for example, is a noun which refers to “flesh” (as in steak) while the other two are both verbs. The more common meet is used when you “encounter someone for the first time” while the less common mete means “to measure or distribute.” While context usually keeps the noun from the verbs, the fact that the spelling of the second verb “distributes” one e on either side of the “t” can help you keep them apart.
Metal vs Medal vs Mettle
While an expert ear can tell that these three nouns are pronounced slightly differently, for all intents and purposes they sound almost identical. Sound and meaning are different, however! A metal, for example, is a hard substance such as iron or steel while a medal is a flat disk made of metal given as a reward. Meanwhile, the longer mettle is roughly equivalent to “courage”. This can all be a bit confusing so try this helpful phase to keep things clear: Heroes often receive metal medals for their mettle! It might sound like a tongue-twister but it is also a clear way to see how each form is used!