Brought vs bought

Brought and bought are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation and may be considered confusables. Confusables is a catch-all term for words that are often misused or confused; there are many confusing words in the English language that may be easily confused for each other in spoken English and written English. Two words or more than two words, even if they are common words, may be confused because they are similar in spelling, similar in pronunciation, or similar in meaning. These commonly confused words may be pronounced the same way or pronounced differently or may be spelled the same way or spelled differently, or may have different meanings or have almost different meanings; they may be homophones, homonyms, heteronyms, homographs, words that have a similar spelling, or words that have a similar meaning. Sometimes, confusables are word constructions that are not proper English words. Confusables often confound native speakers of English, and they may be difficult for ESL students and those learning English to understand. Confusables are misspelled, misused words that have a different meaning from one another and may be nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, or any other part of speech. Spelling rules in English are not dependable; there are many exceptions. Often, the best procedure to learn new words and commonly misused words and commonly confused words in English is to make word lists of English words for the learner to study to understand the difference in spelling and meaning. To learn new words in the English language, one must not only study a spelling words list, one must know the meaning of words in one’s vocabulary word list. It is also helpful to memorize how to correctly pronounce words and to know the etymology of new words or where they are derived from. A spell checker will rarely find this type of mistake in English vocabulary, so do not rely on spell check but instead, learn to spell and learn the definitions of words. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a confusable in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Confusables are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the confusables brought and bought, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Brought means to have taken someone or something from one place to another; to have conveyed something; to have attracted or compelled something or someone; to have caused a result; or to have caused something or someone to be in a particular condition. The word brought is the past tense of the word bring, derived from the Old English word, bringan, which means to convey.

Bought means to have purchased something. The word bought is the past tense of the word buy and is derived from the Old English word, bohte, which means to purchase something. Note that bought and brought are commonly confused, not because they are similar in meaning or they are difficult to spell, but because the letter “r” is sometimes omitted or added as a typographical error.


A 184-year-old monumental tree knocked down in a storm four years ago in Istanbul has been brought back to life as a result of comprehensive efforts by authorities. (Hurriyet Daily News)

The bodies of 24 sub-Saharan migrants, among them two minors, who are believed to have died of thirst and hunger as they tried to cross from the west coast of Africa to the Canary Islands, were brought to land by Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service Wednesday evening. (AP News)

A busy real estate firm involved in several wide-ranging redevelopment projects in the Bay Area has bought a big site in San Jose that’s anchored by a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. (Mercury News)

One of the largest pensions in the world recently bought more shares of the maker of iPhones, and loaded up on large-cap stocks that lagged behind the market in 2020. (Barron’s)

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