Tear vs tier

Tear and tier are two commonly confused words that are pronounced in the same way but are spelled differently and have different meanings, which makes them homophones. Homophones are a group of words with different spellings, the same pronunciations, and different meanings. Homophones exist because of our ever-changing English language and are a challenge for those who wish to learn to speak English. It can be difficult to learn how to spell different words that sound the same, and homophones are commonly misused words. Said aloud, the difference is less important, because the words are pronounced the same. The way the spelling and definitions differ can be confusing even to native English speakers when attempting to learn vocabulary correctly. Proper pronunciation of spoken English may help the listener distinguish between homophones and understand the correct spelling; the words affect-effect are a good example, but the word pairs to, too and two, bridle and bridal, creek and creak, hoard and horde, toed and towed, or horse and hoarse, are indistinguishable from each other and are easily confused and are commonly misused. Pronunciation is usually more ambiguous, as English pronunciation may vary according to dialect, and English spelling is constantly evolving. Pronunciation may change even though the spelling doesn’t, producing two words that are pronounced in the same manner but have different meanings such as night and knight. Phonological spelling and spelling rules do not always work, and most people avoid misspelling by studying vocabulary words from spelling lists, enhancing their literacy skills through spelling practice, and learning words in English by studying a dictionary of the English language. English words are also spelled according to their etymologies rather than their sound. For instance, the word threw is derived from the Old English word thrawan, and the word through came from the Old English word thurh. Homophones are confusing words and are commonly misspelled words because of the confusion that arises from words that are pronounced alike but have very different usage and etymology. 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. Even a participant in a spelling bee like the National Spelling Bee will ask for an example of a homophone in a sentence, so that she understands which word she is to spell by using context clues. Homophones are often used in wordplay like puns. We will examine the different meanings of the homophonic words tear and tier, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

A tear is a salty liquid produced by the eyes. Sometimes, the word tear is used figuratively to mean sorrow or crying. Tears are said to fall in teardrops. The word tear is sometimes used as an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are tears, teared, tearing. The word tear is derived from the Old English word, tear.

A tier is a row, level, layer or rank. An auditorium may be set in tiers of seats. A cake may consist of tiers of layers. A club may have tiers of membership. The word tier may be used as a noun or as a verb to mean the act of arranging tiers. The word tier is derived from the Old French word tire, which means rank or order. Related words are tiers, tiered, tiering.


Kim Jong Un “is one of the most ruthless people on the planet and if he’s dead, I’m not going to shed a tear.” (The Charleston Post and Courier)

Terri Grabiak of the Village of Fenney was moved to tears May 8 when she got a hole-in-one while golfing at the Lowlands Executive Golf Course. (The Villages News)

A two-tier House of Commons could be created if Jacob Rees-Mogg is successful in lifting some of the lockdown restrictions around parliament, a cross-party group of MPs and activists have said. (The Guardian)

Raabe said the race has developed into two tiers among its six leading contenders, with the second grouping not far behind. (The Baltimore Sun)

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