Told vs tolled

Told and tolled are 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 told and tolled, the word origins of the terms, and some examples of their English usage in sentences.

Told is the past tense of tell, which means to speak or otherwise communicate facts, opinions, feelings, or news to someone. Told may mean to have communicated factual or fictional information; it may mean to have communicated a narrative or to have communicated a short list of facts. Related words are tell, tells. Tell is a irregular verb; the word told is derived from the Old English word, tealde.

Tolled is the past tense of the verb toll, which means to ring a large bell, especially by pulling a rope, or to cause something to ring with the sound of a large bell. Related words are toll, tolls, tolling. Toll is a regular verb; the word tolled is derived from the Old English word, tollen, which means to lure. Most probably, this refers to luring people to church by tolling the bell in the steeple.


Nancy New repeatedly acknowledged that someone told her to direct the money for the development of concussion treatment therapies. (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

Queen told she cannot ‘deprive’ Prince Charles of giving Camilla ‘dream’ new role (The Daily Express)

“The Doughboy Foundation has since promoted it as an annual remembrance of those who served in WWI and of the moment when the guns fell silent, and bells tolled on the Western Front … on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour in 1918, after four years of brutal combat.” (The Highland County Press)

A half-muffled tenor bell tolled in memory of Second World War veteran and Bishop’s Stortford campanologist Kenneth Westwood. (Bishop’s Stortford Independent)

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