Easily Confused Words: Our vs. Hour vs. Are

Our, hour, and are are not homophones, but they come pretty close. ‘How so?

Depending on your family’s dialects, and where you live (in the US, UK, New Zealand, or Australia) all three words sound the same, or two out of three sound exactly the same.  Some pronounce all three “aher” or “arr”, some pronounce hour and our as “oww-er” and the other two “arr”.

Online, I see “our” typed for “are” and vice versa all the time. That’s actually what motivated this post.

Are is a form of the verb “be”, with two key uses. First, it is used as a present indicative plural verb, for example,  “Are we going to the movies today?” and next, it is a second person singular verb, for example, “Are you sure you are ready to leave the party?”

It is wrong to say: “are I” “are me” “are us” “are he” “are she” “are them” “I are” “me are” “us are” “he are” “she are” “them are”. If a reader sees this style of usage in literature, it is indicating someone who wasn’t formally educated. Too be fair, these less formally educated characters are full of street smarts and people skills.

When proofreading, it’s worth asking, “I typed ‘are’, but was the verb ‘is’ or another one already present? Did I mean ‘our'”?

Our is a possessive pronoun, indicating group ownership or relationship with the noun being modified, versus the singular ownership “my”.

While proofreading, it’s worth asking, “I typed ‘our’, but is this really an ownership scenario?”

Hour is a noun, meaning a 60 minute period during the day or night. While proofreading, it’s worth asking, “I typed ‘hour’, but did I mean a period of time? did I type a noun when I meant a similar-sounding verb, or a possessive pronoun?”

In closing,  here are some example sentences using all three words correctly: 

  • Are the hours I spent setting up for our party worth it? Will I be getting a thank you?
  • The movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” is almost two hours long. Are you ready to watch it now, or should we wait?
  • Paid time off (PTO) hours are non-transferable year to year, so we better take our vacation now, or risk losing that time off altogether.

Easily Confused Words: Peeked vs. Piqued

Peeked and piqued are homophones. They have an identical sound, but unique spellings and meanings. Spell-check doesn’t catch context errors like this one; it just checks that the user typed words that exist, and that those words are spelled correctly.

But “peek” means to look at something out of curiosity, usually it’s something concealed and not easy to view in plain sight. The curious party has to be snooping or prying into information, or things, that aren’t available for his/her current knowledge. For instance, tearing open the corner of gift-wrapped Christmas presents to see what’s inside, or looking into someone’s room or office because the door was left slightly open. “Peeked” is the past tense of peek.

Meanwhile, “pique” is a verb and a noun.

  • As a verb, it has multiple meanings. The most frequently used definition for the verb is to arouse interest, or to provoke attention. It can also mean to wound, or to create irritation.
  • As a noun, it means the state of being wounded or offended. Piqued is the past tense of the verb and noun forms of pique.

If it helps, usually you are peeking with your eyes because something piqued your mind’s interest.