Loose vs. Lose

What is the difference?


Loose and lose are two commonly confused words in the English language. When do you use each one?

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Even though these two words have a similar spelling, their pronunciation is different.

Loose has a long "ooh" sound and ends with an "S" sound.

Lose also has a long "ooh" sound, but it ends with a "Z" sound.

We'll go over examples and explanations to learn the difference.


Loose

Loose is an adjective that is the antonym of tight.

Our clothes can be loose, or a part of a machine can be loose. This means that the part is not tight in its place.

Emily likes to wear loose, comfortable clothes

Emily likes to wear loose, comfortable clothes when she goes running.



Let's look at some examples with loose.

Examples:
  • You should buy shoes in a very precise size. If they're too loose on your feet, they won't be comfortable.

    - Your shoes should be exactly the right size. If they are too big, they will be uncomfortable.
  • I think the telephone cord is loose. It is moving a lot, and the sound is not very clear when I talk.
        - The telephone cord is not tightly secured in the telephone.
  • In many countries, it's common to see people wearing loose clothes because of the climate or traditions.

    - In many places, people wear clothes that are not tight because of the climate or local customs.

In many places, people wear clothes that are not tight because of the climate or local customs.

Loose can also mean informal or not strict when we are talking about rules, guidelines, or laws.

Let's look at an examples of this meaning.

Example:
  • The rules about the arrival time are pretty loose. As long as your work is done, you can come to the office when you prefer.

    - The rules about the arrival time are not strict, as long as you do your work.


Lose

Lose is a verb that means to be unable to find. We use it when we don't know where we left an object.

Remember that lose is an irregular verb. The simple past of lose is lost.


Henry lost his file!

Henry lost his file! He doesn't know where he saved it.

Examples

  • If you lose the keys, it will be a big problem. I don't have another copy. 
        - If you forget where you put the keys, it will be a problem.
  • Don't lose this ticket. You will need it to pick up your coat later.
        - Don't forget where you left this ticket.
  • Oh no, I lost my earring! Do you see it anywhere?
        - I can't find my earring!


We can also use lose when we are talking about a game or sports. In this context, it is the antonym of win.

Melanie really doesn't like to lose at tennis! Poor Bob!

Melanie really doesn't like to lose at tennis! Poor Bob!


More Tips

First, remember that these two words are pronounced differently.
Loose has an "S" sound at the end, and lose has a "Z" sound at the end.

Also remember that loose is an adjective, and lose is a verb.


We've seen that even though these words have a different meaning and pronunciation. They can be tricky, but now you've got it!

They can be tricky, but now you've got it!

These were the differences between loose and lose. Now that you understand, it's time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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