Commonly Confused Words: Poor, Pour, and Pore

 

There are several words in the English language that cause confusion among both native and non-native English speakers. Some of these words are confusing because, for many accents, they sound alike but have different meanings in addition to different spellings. Words that sound alike but have different meanings are known as homophones.

 

Some individual words can even be used in several different ways (e.g., a word can be used as both a noun and a verb), which adds to the bewilderment. Three words that are homophones, or sound alike but have different meanings, are (a) poor, (b), pour, and (c) pore. These words sound alike in many accents but are spelled differently and have unique meanings. The section below defines each of these words and provides a few examples for each.

 

Poor

Poor is an adjective that refers to (a) lacking sufficient money to live at a comfortable or “normal” standard in a society, or (b) less than adequate or of a low or inferior standard (see Merriam-Webster for more details).

Examples: “Jo was too poor to afford a car.”

“The olive oil I found in the grocery store was a poor substitute for the oil I had purchased from the local farmer.”

“She was malnourished from eating a poor diet.”

 

Pour

Pour is a verb that means to (a) cause to flow in a stream, (b) freely supply or produce, or (c) give full expression to (see Merriam-Webster for more details).

Examples: “I poured the wine.”

“The water poured out of the faucet.”

“She poured her time into the project.”

“The company poured money into the marketing campaign.”

“I poured out my feelings to him.”

“She poured her heart into the book project.”

 

Pore

As a noun, pore is a small opening.  As an intransitive verb, pore means to (a) gaze intently, or (b) read or study attentively (see Merriam-Webster for more details).

Examples: “My pores were open from being in the sauna.”

“I pored over the receipts to find the one I needed.”

“He pored over the rules for the game.”

 

As you can see, these three unique words are homophones. Poor, pour, and pore sound alike but are spelled differently and have (several) unique meanings.

 

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