Easily Confused Words: Where vs. Wear

Where and wear are easily confused words. They are also homophones; this means they sound the same, but are spelled differently, and mean different things.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Where (pronounced “whair”) is an adverb. It is a word indication position or location, and in inquiries, asking about location or position. The location isn’t always literal, it can be hypothetical.

For example:

  • Where is the ketchup? I can’t find it in the cupboard.
  • I thought about writing a story where the princess rescues others instead of the traditional “damsel in distress”
  • Diana Ross famously sang “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” in the 1975 film Mahogany.

Wear (pronounced “”whair”) has multiple meanings.

  • As a verb, it can mean to adorn clothes, accessories or weaponry on one’s body. In a figurative sense, it can refer to facial expressions
    • Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”: “…Working on the highways and byways and wearing, wearing a frown”
    • Petula Clarke, “I Know A Place”: “Put on your best and wear a smile…”
  • As a verb, it can mean to fatigue or stress someone.
  • As a noun, “wear” can refer to types of clothing or accessories.

The following story uses both words correctly:

“Where is the suit I use for my interviews?” asked Wanda, “I need to wear it today.”

“I”m not sure. It might be at the cleaners,” said her assistant. 

“Are you kidding me? That was your primary tasking yesterday, Walda!”


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