Vein vs. Vain

What is the difference?


These two words can be confusing for students because they are homophones. This means that vein and vain have the same pronunciation, but their meaning is different and they also belong to different parts of speech.

Vein vs. Vain, What Is the Difference?

Here are some explanations that will help you understand the difference between these two commonly confused words.

Let's look at some examples to help you learn the distinction.

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

Vein

Vein is a noun. It refers to one of the tubes in your body that carries blood to your heart.

Another meaning is the thin lines on a leaf.


Here are some examples of how this word is used:

  1. Poor blood circulation can cause damage to your veins.

    Heart
  2. I could feel the blood pulsing through my veins.

    Exercise
  3. She behaved as if she had royal blood in her veins.

    Royalty
  4. He was so scared and he felt the adrenalin moving quickly through his veins.

    Scared
  5. Whenever she is angry, her veins start to swell.

    Angry Lady

The word vein can also be used to show a particular mood or manner.

  1. She talked to me in a sad vein about Her latest book.

    Sad Girl
  2. The letters he read to me continued in the same vein.

    Reading a Letter
  3. He drove really fast and continued in this vein until the police stopped him.

    Police


Vain

Vain is an adjective. We use this word to describe someone who is too interested in their appearance, abilities or achievements.

Examples:

  1. She is so vain. She spends hours in front of the mirror admiring her hair.

    Vain Girl
  2. Mrs. Shaw was so vain and she wanted everybody to look at her new dress.

    Dress
  3. He enjoyed listening to their compliments because he was vain.

    Vain Man
  4. They were so vain that they spent the whole night boasting about the competition.

    Boasting
  5. Laura is so vain. She likes being the center of attention.

    Center of Attention

The word vain is also used in the phrase in vain, which means unsuccessful or useless attempt. 

Examples:

  1. I tried in vain to start a conversation with him to cheer him up. He did not want to talk to me.

    Ignored
  2. The family tried in vain to pull the boat, but it was too heavy.

    Boat
  3. If the government doesn't make any changes, all our efforts will be in vain.

    Vote
  4. She kept calling him in vain. He didn't look back.

    Shouting
  5. He took a sleeping pill in vain. It didn't help at all.

    Taking a Pill


Tips

Although the words vain and vein sound the same, remember that they are different parts of speech. The word vein, which is a noun, can stand on its own and be the subject of a sentence, whereas the word vain cannot stand on its own to be a subject. It is an adjective.

Examples:

  1. Veins are important for good blood circulation.

    Circulation
  2. It was a vain attempt.

    Vain Attempt


A Story to Practice Vein vs. Vain

Ms. Emily Johnson is a nice elderly lady who lives alone. She is vain about her clothes and she likes when everybody compliments her. Despite being vain, Ms. Johnson is very friendly and adores children. Every Saturday Ms. Johnson makes cookies for the children in her neighborhood.

However, this Saturday she is not feeling very well. She tries in vain to get out of her bed and start making cookies. Unfortunately, Ms. Johnson is still in bed and she calls her doctor.

When he comes to her house, she makes a vain attempt to leave her bed. However, her legs are aching and shaking. The doctor examines them and says: "Ms. Johnson, you have a light problem with your blood circulation and the veins on your legs. You should do more physical activities to improve your circulation. The problem with your veins can be solved, and you shouldn't continue in the same vein. Try to start today."

Ms Johnson decides to listen to her doctor.  She is feeling much better now as she is making cookies for the children.

Baking Cookies


Quiz

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

In the following sentences choose the word which you think is correct.

  1. His car was old and he tried in _________ (vein/vain) to start it.
  2. They kept admiring themselves and everybody called them _________ (vein/vain).
  3. He continued in the same _________ (vein/vain) although everybody told him to stop.
  4. It was a big plant with green leaves that had large, visible _________ (veins/vains).
  5. John is so _________ (vein/vain). He thinks every song is about him.
  6. She was so angry that the _________ (vein/vain) in her forehead bulged and she began to sweat.
  7. She spend the whole afternoon admiring her new shoes. Don't you think it is _________ (vein/vain)?
  8. He felt the adrenalin coursing through his _________ (veins/vains).
  9. We tried in _________ (vein/vain) to get there on time to find out that the shop was closed.
  10. She decided to speak with him in a more serious _________ (vein/vain) hoping that he would understand how she feels.


Answer Key

1: Vain | 2: Vain | 3: Vein | 4: Veins | 5: Vain | 6: Vein | 7: Vain | 8: Veins | 9: Vain | 10: Vein


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