writingtipsIf you need another example of the confusion that reigns in the English language, I tackle another set of confusables today: choose – chose and loose – lose. Even though they look similar – normally a hint for rhyming words, there’s not a rhyming pair in the bunch.

You want to start with choose – chose? Good choice.

This is one of those irregular verbs, meaning it doesn’t make its past and perfect tense forms in the typical manner. Often the confusing form of an irregular verb is the perfect tense, but in this case the present tense—choose—is often used when the past tense—chose—is called for.

Present tense (now) – choose

Which candy bar will you choose?

Past tense (over, so yesterday, or any time before now) – chose

Bobby chose the Snickers.

Perfect tense (complete, done) – chosen

Once you have chosen the treat, we’ll head home.

And for good measure, the noun is choice.

Good choice. Let’s move on.

Another pair that I find writers confusing is lose and loose. And there’s good reason. Lose and loose come from two different word families, hence different meanings. Yes, it’s confusing that the spellings are so similar.

First – conjugations and definitions.

  • Lose – lost – lost
    • How did you lose so much money?
    • I lost my way.
    • I must have been lost in thought.
  • Meaning: unable to find someone or something, fail to win, fail to succeed.  Think of it as an epic fail.

Loose can be several parts of speech—verb, noun, or adjective, but it shows up most often as an adjective. So I’ll skip the conjugations. Depending on the part of speech, the meaning of loose may change slightly, but it will relate to release, let go, set free, not contained, not strict or exact.

This skirt is too loose. It feels like it might fall down.

          Billy hoped his loose tooth would come out so the tooth fairy would come.

The contractor gave us a loose estimate of the damages.

Now, let’s talk pronunciation, because this is another one of those situations in English where the spelling does not follow logic.

Lose rhymes with booze, snooze, and yes, choose. All ooze words, even though they are not spelled the same.

Loose rhymes with goose, moose.

Here’s a tip: Lose the second o when you need a member of the lose (verb) family. When you know you’re using an adjective, loose is your choice.

Sure hope I haven’t lost you.

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