English is a funny language. One of my favorite quirks about it is the way words can be changed completely with just a simple alteration. Sometimes you can add or subtract one letter (as in “peas”, “pleas”, and “please”). Sometimes you can swap letters in a word (as in turning a “dog” into a “god”) or between words (as in turning a “barn door” into a “darn boor”). And sometimes, all it takes to alter a word is to change the way you say it. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty neat.

So just for fun, here’s a list of 20 words that completely change in meaning when pronounced differently. Enjoy!

Why English is Hard1) Bass – A BAS is a type of freshwater fish. A BAYS is a sound, voice, or musical instrument of the lowest possible range.

2) Close – To be KLOHS is to be nearby. To KLOHZ is to shut something that’s open.

3) Content – To be kən-TENT is to be satisfied or peacefully happy. KAHN-tent is whatever is contained within something.

4) Defect – A DEE-fekt is a flaw or shortcoming. To di-FEKT is to switch sides in a conflict.

5) Desert – To də-ZƏRT is to abandon someone or something. A DE-zərt is a dry and barren area of land.

6) Dove – A DƏV is a type of seed- or fruit-eating bird. DOHV is the past tense of “dive”.

7) Entrance – An EN-trəns is an access point or the act of entering a place. To en-TRANS is to capture someone’s attention by filling them with wonder and delight.

8) Intimate – To be IN-tə-mit is to be closely acquainted and familiar with someone. To IN-tə-mayt is to imply or hint at something.

9) Invalid – An IN-və-lid is a person weakened by sickness or injury. To be in-VA-lid is to be void, untrue, or otherwise not valid.

10) Lead – To LEED is to show the way, to be in charge, or to be superior. LED is a type of soft metal.

11) Object – An AHB-jekt is a material thing. To əb-JEKT is to express disagreement or disapproval.

12) Polish – To be POH-lish is to be of or related to Poland. To PAH-lish is to rub the surface of something until it becomes smooth and shiny.

13) Present – To be PRE-zənt is to be in a particular place. A PRE-zənt is a gift; the PRE-zənt is the period of time happening now. To pri-ZENT is to give something to someone.

14) Project – A PRAH-jekt is an enterprise planned to achieve a particular goal. To prə-JEKT is to move or extend outward.

15) Refuse – To ri-FYOOZ is to express unwillingness to do something. RE-fyoos is matter discarded as trash.

16) Row – A ROH is a group of people or things in a straight line. To ROH is to propel a boat through water with oars. A ROW is a noisy quarrel.

17) Sow – To SOH is to plant seeds in the earth. A SOW is an adult female pig.

18) Tear – To TEHR is to rip something. A TEER is a drop of salty water secreted from the eyes.

19) WindWIND is the natural movement of air in the form of currents. To WYND is to move around something in a twisting or spiral course.

20) Wound – A WOOND is an injury typically involving cut or broken skin. WOWND is the past tense of “wind” (WYND).

What are your thoughts on these words? What other words would you add to this list?

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