English Lessons


Homonyms in English - Part I

In English, there are many words that sound and are spelled the same, but they have different meanings. These are called homonyms. It may sound confusing, but in this first lesson in the series, we'll look at some examples to help clarify the differences so that mixing them up can be avoided!


A good example of a homonym is the noun "rose" (the flower) and the verb "rose" (the past tense of "to rise"). Take a look at the two examples of "rose" and their different meanings:


A sprinkling of rose petals.

Caption 32, English Afternoon Tea - Victoria Sponge - The Royal Connection

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The verb "to rise" has many meanings, such as "to get out of bed," or to assume a standing position" after lying or sitting down. It can even mean "to return from the dead" as shown in this example:


He was crucified on Good Friday, and on Sunday, after that, he rose again.

Captions 20-21, Holidays and Seasons with Sigrid - Easter

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The noun "bank" can mean either a financial institution or "a raised portion of seabed or sloping ground along the edge of a stream, river, or lake." 


Two people have a bank account together: a joint account.

Caption 25, The Alphabet - the Letter J

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My favorite place, uh, is probably the, uh, BFI on the south bank of the Thames [river] here in London.

Caption 19, Chris - I.T. Professional - Learn About His Work in Information Technology

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The word "bow" has a multitude of very different meanings, both as a noun and a verb:


Tie a ribbon in a bow

When you meet the queen, you bow

Captions 48-49, English with Annette O'Neil - Words

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The noun "bow," in this case the bow on a wrapped birthday gift for example and the verb "bow," as in bending from the waist in honor of somebody, are pronounced differently. Watch the video above to hear the pronunciations.


Yeah, I got two orcas off my port bow. [Port bow equals left front side]

Caption 38, National Geographic WILD - Killer Whale vs. Great White Shark

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In this case, "bow" is a nautical term meaning the front of a boat or ship.


Bow hairs are being shredded like crazy!

Caption 45, Sting - Symphonicity EPK

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Here the noun "bow" referred to is the bow of a violin.


Further Learning
To find more instances of homonyms like these, have a look at Yabla English and see if you can find more examples. Perhaps you know some already that confuse you again and again — the Yabla videos can help you put these words in an everyday context! 


Traveling by Train in English

Last month we discussed terms relating to air travel, so this month we'll review some of the basic words related to train travel. Trains are not as commonly used in the United States as they used to be, but there are still a number of regular passenger trains running, especially on the the East Coast. In the United Kingdom, trains are still a standard mode of transportation, of course, as they are in the rest of Europe.


Firstly, the vehicle that you use to travel with: 


We have many people coming on the train from Manhattan.

Captions 24-25, Surfshop in Long Beach - Long Island

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In the above example, the "train" referred to is probably the subway. New Yorkers often refer to the subway as "the train," unlike Londoners who refer to their local trains as "the tube."


Next, the place you leave from:


We will pick you up at the train station.

Caption 56, The Apartment - Maggie's visit - Part 1

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Then the action you carry out on the train:


… and then taking the train down to Basel, Switzerland.​

Caption 11, Sigrid - An American in Italy - Part 1

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You can "take a train" or "ride on a train" or "travel by train," among several possibilities. 


Next are the lengths of steel upon which trains travel:


When train tracks or roads intersect or meet, it's often called a "junction."

Caption 26, The Alphabet - the Letter J

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A junction is also called a "crossing." Train tracks are also called "rails," hence another term for trains in general: 


We'll have to go to the railroad.

Caption 83, The New 3 Stooges - Hairbrained Barbers

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When you travel by train, you may not always have a ticket reservation and may need to buy a ticket at the train station. To find out when your train leaves, you will need to look at a schedule: 


If we have a variation in a schedule, it means the schedule changes.

Caption 33, The Alphabet - the Letter V

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A train schedule is also called a timetable: 


There is no need for a precise timetable today.

Caption 57, Brexit - David Cameron resigns as UK votes to leave

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With a train schedule or train timetable you can be certain of catching the right train at the right time! Only history will show, however, if with Brexit, Great Britain has indeed "missed the train." This expression can also be used metaphorically!


Further Learning
Go to this page and see some other examples of words relating to train travel in English, and then go to Yabla English to find other examples of train travel words used in a real-world context. Note in the above link the use of British English terms "single ticket" and "return ticket." In US English, a "single ticket" is a "one-way ticket" and a "return ticket" is a "round-trip ticket."

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