ESL and IELTS Help 4 U

Confusion 1

Posted on: August 20, 2010

From time to time I will write a post about some English words or rules that are confusing. Here are two for today.

1. loose or lose: There are two things to say about these words.

First, “loose” means the opposite of tight like in the phrase,  a loose screw. Loose clothing would be clothing that is bigger than your body and so moves as you walk. To let your dog loose means to untie it to let it run around.

“Lose” means to misplace something. So if I say I lost my wallet, it means I cannot find it. If I lost my sweater, I don’t know where it is.

The second thing to say is that the “s” sound is different in each of these words.

In the word “loose” the “s” is voiceless (come back for my next post on voiced and voiceless sounds). It’s a hissing sound like the first sound in the word “snake” or “sun.”

In the word “lose” the “s” sounds like “z” and is a voiced sound like in the word “zebra.”

2. desert and dessert: These two words mean totally different things. The desert is that dry, sandy place. It is a noun. The Sahara is the biggest desert in the world. The verb, desert, means to leave someone who needs some kind of help or assistance. He deserted her when she needed him the most.

Dessert is what is eaten after dinner and is most often sweet. We had cake for dessert.

But the more confusing issue with these words is pronunciation.

The noun, “desert” emphasizes the first syllable: de-sert. And the “s” has the “z” sound.

The verb “desert” emphasizes the second syllable: de-sert. Again, the “s” sounds like “z.”

Dessert always emphasizes the last syllable….de-sert. Again, the “s” has the “z” sound.

So, don’t be confused…,

study your English and

be happy….!


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