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ESL Story: Difficult pairs: loose vs. lose

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Difficult pairs: loose vs. lose

Let’s start with the pronunciation of these two. ‘Loose’ can rhyme with ‘juice’ and ‘lose’ can rhyme with ‘whose’. So remember that: Whose juice? = Lose loose. And their functions? ‘Loose’ is an adjective and ‘lose’ is a verb. Now the meaning of ‘loose’ is ‘not tight’. If you sit on a chair that has a loose leg, the chances are that you won’t be sitting on the chair because having fallen off, you’d be lying on the floor. The reason could be that one of the screws attaching the leg to the main part of the chair is loose or has fallen out.

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Incidentally if we say someone has a screw loose, what we want to say is that they are a bit crazy, loopy, not all there. It’s not very polite to say that to the person concerned face to face but it’s only a harmless idiom. If you have loose change in your pocket or handbag, you’re referring to a quantity of coins you have to pay for the car park or the parking meter. And if you’re just sitting around (I hope not on a chair with the loose leg) or walking around and not doing anything in particular, you could be ‘at a loose end’ That suggests you’re a bit bored and desperately want to do something.

Now the verb ‘lose’ has a past tense and a past participle – ‘lost’. The simplest explanation of ‘lose’ is that it’s the opposite of ‘find’. ‘I’ve lost my front door key and can’t get into my own house. Honestly, officer’ You’re talking here to the police officer who’s about to arrest you because you’re halfway up the drain pipe. Incidentally the drain pipe is loose and coming away from the wall. Fortunately the police officer catches you as you fall and all is well. You can also lose your temper if you get angry and start shouting. You can also lose your memory after a bad shock like falling off a drainpipe. And of course the verb can be used without an object as in: I’m lost. That means you don’t know where you are or you are confused. Let’s hope you’re not the latter.

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Next:ESL Story: Difficult pairs: listen vs. hear

Author: Alan Townend


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