A pun is a "play on words." Puns are meant to be clever and funny. Many jokes are actually puns.

man laughing

A pun is a type of figurative language in the English language.

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

Sometimes puns are difficult to understand, even for native English speakers.

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There are two ways to create a pun:
  1. Use words that sound the same but have different meanings.


    • red/read
    • two/to/too
    • need/knead

  2. Use a word that has multiple meanings.


    • fly = insect
    • fly = move through the air
    • saw = past tense of see
    • saw = a tool that cuts wood

Let's look at a few examples of puns:

How do celebrities stay cool?
They have many fans!

This pun is using two words that have multiple meanings: cool and fan

Cool can be defined as:
  1. cold (not hot)
  2. awesome and popular

A fan can be defined as:
  1. something that you use when you are warm
  2. someone who likes you and supports you

So, this pun has two meanings.
  1. Celebrities do not get hot because they can cool themselves with fans.

    hand-held fan

  2. Celebrities are popular because they have many people who like them.
cheering fans

Here is another example of a pun:

When she got married, she got a new name and a dress.

This is a pun using words that have the same sound but different meanings.
  1. When a woman marries, she changes her name and she buys a wedding dress (a dress).

    bride with dress

  2. She also moves out of her parent's home to live with her husband, so she gets a new address.


American English puns

Math teachers have lots of problems.
  • problems = math equations or puzzles
  • problems = troubles, difficulties

Two silkworms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
  • tie = finishing the race at the same time
  • tie = a necktie worn by men, sometimes made from silk
man with tie

I used to work at an orange juice factory, but I was canned.

  • canned = fired; released from a job
  • canned = put into a can like juice

To write with a broken pencil is pointless.
  • pointless = stupid, worthless
  • pointless = does not have a sharp tip
broken pencil

A backwards poet write inverse.
  • inverse = backward, opposite
  • in verse = in rhyme

The thief who stole the calendar got 12 months.
  • There are 12 months on a calendar.
  • The thief could be put in prison for 12 months for stealing.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
  • Time flies like an arrow. = Time flies (moves) fast like an arrow moves fast.
  • Fruit flies like a banana. = Fruit flies (insects) like to eat bananas.

Why did the turkey cross the road? To prove he wasn't chicken!
  • chicken = an animal
  • chicken = scared

I used to be twins. My mother has a picture of me when I was two.
  • twins = two identical children
  • two = an age; two years old
  • two = two people

This was an overview of puns. Now that you understand, it is time to practice! Get our ESL Books.

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