Usage Thursday: Loose Vs. Lose

I see loose confused with lose all the time, although more often in student papers and working drafts than in published material. It’s worth discussing here, as often when the mistake is corrected, the writer doesn’t understand what error he or she has made. Confusion arises because lose has an oo sound but not the double o spelling usually associated with that pronunciation.

Loose, pronounced loos with an s sound at the end, is an adjective that describes something that is not fastened or attached. It can also be used as a verb that means to let or make something loose.

Jim tied his pony to the fence with a loose knot.
Derrick loosed his horse into the corral.

On the other hand, lose, pronounced looz with a z sound at the end, is a verb that describes misplacing or being unable to find something or failing to win.

Don’t lose your ticket to the game.
Jim loses at one-on-one basketball to Derrick all the time.

Resources

“loose.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 2 October 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loose>.

“lose.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Merriam-Webster Online. 2 October 2008 <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lose>.

Wilson, Kenneth G. The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993. Bartleby.com. 2 October 2008 <http://www.bartleby.com/68/12/3712.html>.

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