Coarse vs. Course

What is the difference?


Coarse and course are two commonly confused words in the English language.

They sound the same and are spelled almost the same, with only one letter that is different. However, that one letter makes a huge difference in their meanings. It's important to learn the difference between them so you don't accidentally accuse someone of being rude when you're actually talking about a race!

Let's look at some examples to help you understand the difference.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses


Coarse

Coarse is an adjective. When referring to objects, it means rough (meaning it has an uneven surface that is unpleasant to touch) or made up of large pieces. When referring to language or behavior, it means rude or inappropriate.

Examples:

  1. I prefer cookies made with coarse chunks of chocolate instead of small chips.
    (I think that cookies with big pieces of chocolate are better than those with regular chocolate chips.)

    I prefer cookies made with coarse chunks of chocolate instead of small chips.
  2. The dog needs a bath because its fur is so coarse.
    (The dog's fur is rough and unpleasant to touch because it hasn't had a bath recently.)

    The dog needs a bath because its fur is so coarse.
  3. She uses coarse language when she's upset.
    (When she is angry, she uses offensive words.)

    She uses coarse language when she's upset.
  4. His coarse behavior made him unpopular.
    (Nobody wanted to be his friend because he was so rude.)

    His coarse behavior made him unpopular.
  5. I use coarse sandpaper to remove large imperfections in the wood.
    (Sandpaper made from large, rough grains of sand is useful for removing large defects in wood.)

    I use coarse sandpaper to remove large imperfections in the wood.


Course

Course has many different meanings. For this lesson, we are only going to focus on the most common ones.

First, it can mean a path something or someone moves along. This path can be literal or figurative.

Examples:

  1. The course for the race is ten miles long.
    (The path the racers follow covers ten miles.)

    The course for the race is ten miles long.
  2. The storm knocked the boat off course.
    (The storm pushed the boat away from its normal path.)

    The storm knocked the boat off course.
  3. The argument changed the course of our relationship.
    (We said things during the fight that permanently changed the path of our relationship.)

    The argument changed the course of our relationship.

Second, it can mean a single class or a group of classes that all focus on a particular subject.

Examples:

  1. Anatomy is my least favorite course.
    (I do not like my anatomy class at all.)

    Anatomy is my least favorite course.
  2. I am about halfway through my course of study.
    (I have completed half of the classes I need to get my degree.)

    I am about halfway through my course of study.
  3. I have to buy too many books for all my courses this semester.
    (My classes require more books than I can afford.)

    I have to buy too many books for all my courses this semester.

Last, it can describe the way something happens over time.

Examples:

  1. You have to let the medicine run its course before you feel better.
    (You have to let the medicine work over time before you feel its effects.)

    You have to let the medicine run its course before you feel better.
  2. The robbery interrupted the normal course of the business day.
    (Being robbed is not a usual part of the business day.)

    The robbery interrupted the normal course of the business day.
  3. We negotiated the deal over the course of a month.
    (It took a month for us to reach an agreement.)

    We negotiated the deal over the course of a month.

There are many other ways to use course, but these three are the most common.


Tips

As you can see, coarse and course mean very different things. If you are ever confused about which one to use, just remember that coarse has an "a" in it and is an adjective. So, if you want an adjective, you want the word with the "a"!

Tips


A Story to Practice Coarse vs. Course

A few weeks ago, the mayor announced that the town was going to host a running race for the children on a grass course, but nobody expected the grass to be so coarse. The kids were so excited about the race, their school added a course called "How to Run Barefoot on a Grass Course" that prepared them for the race over the course of six weeks.

However, over the course of the course, there was no rain at all. This made the grass completely dry and so coarse that it hurt to touch it.

When the race began, the kids stepped on the coarse grass and began to cry. Some parents yelled at them for their coarse behavior, while others stepped on the grass themselves. When they felt how coarse the course was, they used coarse language to yell at the mayor.

The next day, the mayor announced that everyone tied for first place since the course was too coarse!

green grass


Quiz

Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.

Part 1

  1. Which of the following is a correct definition of course?
    1. Rough to touch
    2. Inappropriate or vulgar
    3. A path something moves on
    4. Made of large pieces

  2. Which of the following is a correct definition of coarse?
    1. A class
    2. A group of classes
    3. Rude behavior
    4. The way something happens over time

  3. Which sentence is written correctly?
    1. Over the coarse of the year, we grew apart.
    2. Her coarse of study is going to take a long time.
    3. The course fabric hurt my skin.
    4. I found a shortcut on the course.

  4. Which of the following is written incorrectly?
    1. Can you help me get back on course?
    2. Please don't use course language in front of my son.
    3. These vegetables are too coarse to use in the stew.
    4. His hands are coarse from chopping wood.

Part 2:

  1. Coarse is ___________.
    1. a noun
    2. a verb
    3. an adverb
    4. an adjective

  2. In this lesson, we focused on examples where course is ___________.
    1. a noun
    2. a verb
    3. an adverb
    4. an adjective

Part 3:

  1. She designed the obstacle ___________ to be extra challenging.
    1. course
    2. coarse
    3. coarsed
    4. coursed

  2. Her language is so ___________ I can't even talk to her.
    1. coarsely
    2. coarse
    3. coursely
    4. course

  3. I am going to get in shape over the ___________ of a year.
    1. coarse
    2. course
    3. courses
    4. coarses

  4. The ___________ has five classes about being a better doctor.
    1. coursed
    2. courses
    3. course
    4. coarse


Answer Key

1. C | 2. C | 3. D | 4. B | 1. D | 2. A. | 1. A | 2. B | 3. B | 4. C


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