Easily Confused Words: Pour vs. Pore vs. Poor

Pour, pore, and poor are homophones and easily confused words. They all sound alike, but they are spelled differently. They also mean different things.

The spell-check application of most word-processing software programs wouldn’t catch one of these words being mistaken for another. Why? Because spell-check is programmed to look for misplaced letters and words that aren’t words in its dictionary. If it’s a word and it’s spelled correctly, spell-check keeps searching. If you typed one word when you meant another, spell-check can’t detect that error.

Pour is a verb. It means to release liquid from a container over another surface. Bartenders pour drinks. Builders pour concrete. Gardeners pour water from a can over their plants. Ice creamery staff pour hot fudge over sundaes. Breakfast diners pour gravy on their biscuits, cream in their coffee, and maple syrup on their pancakes.

Pore is a noun. It means one of the holes in your skin’s surface. People don’t really think about their pores until one becomes infected or the pores on their nose and cheeks enlarge with age, giving their skin an “orange peel” appearance.

Pore can also be a verb. As a verb, it means to examine or study intensely or in great detail. When someone pores over legal documents or other complicated written material. When a tailor pores over a dress or suit for proper fit and length.

Poor is an adjective. It means to be without money, or other resources. Put another way, it means the opposite of wealthy. It can also indicate bad condition, like a scratched CD, goods being sold “as-is”, or a broken chair left by the roadside. All those damaged objects are in poor, versus mint, condition.

The following sentences uses all three words correctly:

Terrified of being a poor student, law student Erica was seen poring her reading while pouring cup after cup of strong coffee.

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