Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with a passion. Learn More

Loose = Lose?

I have noticed dozens of examples of people, mainly on the Internet, typing the word “loose” when what they really mean is “lose.” For instance, “I didn’t want to loose the car keys.” Do you know when or how this annoying mistake came to be? It seems like it has only been going on for the past year or so, but it could be longer.

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Yes, it is indeed annoying. I see it all the time, and many people even argue that they are right. Some people even ask me, "Hey, how do you spell 'lose'? With one O or two O's?"

I just assumed that this has been going on forever, but you might be right, maybe it's relatively recent.

Dyske Sep-16-2009

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I'm inclined to lump "loose/lose" in with "your/you're/ur (and even 'yore'!)" and "there/there/their". While it's easy to confuse them, there's really no excuse.

I don't remember seeing the "loose/lose" problem until fairly recently.

egkg Sep-16-2009

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well, I believe the reasons behind this phenomenon (which I have been observing at least for 5 years now) to be, primarily, laziness, ignorance, and mispronunciation. Universal availability of the Internet, with English being the primary language--but still, second language for I think the majority of its users--of all informal Internet communications, certainly is a factor that increased the commonness of this error. If the communication you are making is a) quick, b) insignificant, and c) performed with less than perfect command of the language, you start making this kind of mistakes. your welcome ;-)

Remek Sep-16-2009

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I think it's based on comparative spelling.

Nose, chose, hose, rose, etc., all make an "oh" sound. Noose, loose, moose, etc., all make more of an "ooh" sound. So when people go to spell lose, they think of the "ooh" sound and add an extra o.

It's something my friends have done for a long time, although it seems to have become a more common problem over the past few years.

My favorite error I saw this week was a person who asked me for "moar" forms. Heheh.

jeri Sep-16-2009

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When I see: “I didn’t want to loose the car keys.” I imagine the "s" in "loose" being pronounced unvoiced. I picture someone not losing their keys, but setting them free to roam about on their own (with some regret, of course). Thank you so much for the chuckle I'm having right now.

porsche Sep-16-2009

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I agree with a lot of what has been written here. The problem lies, in part, with the basic inconsistency between spelling and pronunciation in English. In general, an "e" at the end of a word after a consonant indicates that the vowel before the consonant is to be pronounced "long." Thus we have "nose" and "rose," "hope" and "scope." And then we have "lose," which violates the general rule.

In addition, there are many words that rhyme with "lose" that are spelled nothing like it:


None of these follow the rule cited above. To complicate matters, we have "choose" which rhymes with "lose," and "moose" which rhymes with "loose." It is no wonder some confuse the spelling of "lose" and "loose." (Spell-check is little help, since both are, in fact, words.)

However, I doubt that primarily non-native speakers of English confuse the two. In my experience those who have had to learn English as a second language often are more proficient in it than "native speakers." I once had to explain to an Argentinian that if she used the word "penultimate" in its correct sense of "next to the last" she would be misunderstood, as most Americans think it means "beyond ultimate."

The solution is education. Without it we looze.

douglas.bryant Sep-16-2009

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In summary then: it's simply a spelling mistake.

Given the vast numbers of folks who can now write directly onto the Web without having to be vetted by any editor or proofreader, you should not be surprised at the exponential increase in misspelled words.

Get used to it!

JJMBallantyne Sep-22-2009

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It's much older than the past year.

1598 SHAKES. Merry W. V. v. 239 This deceit looses the name of craft.
1667 MILTON P.L. II. 607 To loose In sweet forgetfulness all pain and woe.

goofy Sep-22-2009

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You sure those are mistakes, goofy?
Generally, one would be said to be holding on to one's pain and woe. Thus, to be rid of it, it must be loosed, no?
As for the first example... I can't even guess at what it means to determine if the usage is correct. However, using Google to find it, it shows up as "loses" not "looses."
That led me to use Google for the second one, as well, and that also came up with more "lose" than "loose." (There was one "loose.")

bjhagerman Sep-23-2009

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I think this is another case of "oops-by-spell-check". Most spell-checkers will not highlight a correctly spelled incorrect word. MS Word 2007 will when ever it can: type in "I did not want to loose my dog" and the word 'loose' gets the blue wobbly line.

However, even if that's a legitimate explanation, it doesn't prevent me from wincing whenever I see it.

Andrew1 Nov-29-2009

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That's odd, considering that "I did not want to loose my dog" is exactly as correct as "I did not want to lose my dog; the only question is which meaning you wanted. Would MS Word highlight "lose" if it was used, too?

bjhagerman Nov-29-2009

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Well until I came to this page it had been annoying me, but perhaps it is about to become grammatically correct in countries that are doing it most [I see it on the internet so I don't quiet know where it is coming from] because it has become so common.
Loose, if you look at it, looks like 'lose'. Although it will be confusing for those of us who are smart. :P

zpsh1 Dec-15-2009

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I'm sure the vast majority of "loose" spellers are indeed native English speakers. I have no idea what causes it, either. "Win" and "lose" are some of the basic vocabulary words a kid learns. It's used in sports and competition all the time. There's just no excuse for it. There's not too many words ending in "-ooze," but no one spells "booze" as "boose."

Mixing up words like "their" and "there" are a little more understandable, since they sound alike and people might sound words in their head as they type.

And geez, how many people spell the Eminem song as "Loose Yourself"? It makes me wonder if people saw the title of Nelly Furtado's album and wondered why she called it "lose."

And yeah, "loose" can technically be used as a verb in its own right, but it seems more or less an obsolete usage.

titomail Dec-27-2009

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Interestingly, mistaken uses of homophones are almost certainly used by native speakers, because mistaking two words that sound similar but are spelled different is usually the result of having learned the word orally without seeing it on paper, and if you think about how we learn words, students of a foreign language are much more likely to see the word written than someone who heard the word many times before seeing it written.

Sam4 May-19-2011

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By the way, "Mixing up words like "their" and "there" are a little more understandable" should read: "Mixing up words like "their" and "there" IS a little more understandable".

Stavros K. May-19-2011

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Yeah, maybe I misunderstood but how and why "loose" and "lose" pronounced "looze" could be called a homophone?

Anyway, I'm a grump. I hate sloppy use of language. It smacks of carelessness. The biggest problem (for them) I see, apart from the irritant aspect (to me), is that if the site is business orientated, I don't want to do business with them. I'd rather do business with someone who took a bit more care over their image by having a rudimentary understanding of English. How grumpy, irritating, patronising, snobbish and understandable is that!

PhilThePub Nov-14-2011

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What a bunch of inconsiderate fools you all are. I'm English and yes I sometimes confuse the spelling of the word lose with loose. It's not because I can't spell or don't know the meaning of either of those words, it just happens. People can't remember every single aspect of the English language at any given moment of the day. Get over it. If the English language had more consistency these problems surely would not arise.
I suggest that you think before you jump to conclusions and show some consideration.
So long, you heartless morons.

crumble Oct-31-2012

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@crumble - I was going to to take you to task and suggest that this wasn't really an example of inconsistency, but on checking words ending in "-ose" you do seem to have a bit of a point - there isn't really a clear pattern, at least not at first glance.

But when we dig a bit deeper, there does indeed seem to be a pattern. Apart from choose, all -oose words seem to have a soft "s" - "goose, moose, noose, footloose". I imagine the fact that choose is different might have something to do with the preceding double consonant.

But in any case, I would have thought that the difference between "lose" and "loose" was pretty basic, and not exactly an obscure "aspect of the English language".

I also think Sam is right; I don't see many foreign learners making this mistake. And the same goes for "there, their, they're" and "your, you're". But judging by how many times these are dealt with on native-speaker grammar sites, they do indeed seem to pose a problem for some native speakers.

Warsaw Will Nov-01-2012

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It's odd that 'to' and 'too' are confused so much on line, as in "He went to far." It's very minor. It's just rum that it happens so much.
Crumble, we just enjoy language here. We like kicking the subject around. If you don't, that's all right too.

Skeeter Lewis Nov-01-2012

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