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Different words that are pronounced exactly the same way are called homophones. Some of them are homographs as well as homophones, but only some; many sound the same and are spelled differently. Look at these three words, for example:

fair1 [far] fair2 [far] fare [far]

All three have the same pronunciation and so are homophones. But only fair1 and fair2 are homographs.

Some homophones may look something alike even when the spelling is not exactly the same. Very often, though, there is not much resemblance between them. Notice the spelling differences in the words in this list:

rain, reign, rein   [ran] brake, break        [brak]

peal, peel flour, flower no, know nice, gneiss

[pel] [flour] [no] [nis]

Remember that homophones may have the same spellings, or similar spellings, or completely different-looking spellings. It is the pronunciation that matters.

There are some words that are neither homographs nor homophones but that do look and sound pretty much alike. Often it is very easy to get them mixed up and to say or write the wrong one.

Your dictionary has a special way of straightening them out for you. At the end of a main entry, the confusing group of words is sorted out in a special note. Here is a sample, which you would find with the main entry for decent:

german vienna teacher

* Decent, descent, and dissent look and sound rather alike but are not related. Decent [de'sant] is from a Latin word meaning fitting and still means fitting or proper. Descent [di-sent'] comes from a Latin verb meaning to climb down, and it still means a coming down. Dissent [di-senf] is from a Latin verb meaning to {eel opposed or apart. It is now either a noun meaning disagree­ment or a verb meaning to disagree.

Do you see how the note makes clear the differences in spelling, pronunciation, and meaning?

Notice that it is introduced by a special sign •*. (You will find that this book uses * to point out several kinds of extra informa­tion that add to what the usual parts of the entry tell you. The other kinds will be explained later.)

Now suppose that you had looked up the main entry for descent. How would you know about the special information that is given under decent? At the end of the descent entry there is this note:

See decent.

And with the dissent entry there is the same note:

See decent.

Both of them send you to the right place to get the full explanation. Notes like this are called cross-references, and they are well worth following up if you wish to get the most from your dictionary.

The Right Synonym

Another kind of note marked * helps you with the differences between synonyms. Syn­onyms are words with meanings that are very much the same but not exactly so. The words themselves do not necessarily look or sound at all alike.

немецкий интенсивный курс

When it is important for you to recognize these differences in meaning, a synonym note is printed at the end of one entry and cross-references are printed at the end of the others. In the following example, the note appears with the entry for reason and the cross-references with purpose and motive.

* Reason, purpose, and motive explain why people behave in certain ways. When your teacher asks why you did not do your homework, he wants a reason, such as "I was sick," or "I lost the assign­ment." The purpose of homework is to give you practice in learning by yourself, but your motive in doing it may simply be to get good grades.