9.10.2012

Loose vs. lose

The copy editor is in.
I'm presenting occasional posts on the use of English,
not to be pedantic but just for the fun of language.

Dog running away from me...
If your gate is loose, you might lose your dog.

Ah, the two-Oed monster. It's so tempting for internet commenters everywhere to write loose no matter which word they mean. It must just be fun to type those double Os.

"Loose" is pronounced with a short S sound, the kind that sounds like a hiss. As in "sound" and "hiss," in fact.

"Lose" is pronounced with the Z sound that S can make, as in the second S in "sounds."

Once you can remember how each is pronounced, you probably can figure out which one you want at a given moment. "Loose" is usually an adjective or adverb, describing something that's unfixed or unbound. (It can also be used as a verb, meaning "to set loose.") To "lose" is always a verb, meaning to forsake or misplace something.

When in doubt, assume that if you're talking about an action (losing money, losing ten pounds, losing your keys), you need the one-O variety.

If you're describing something (loose change, monkey on the loose), you'll want ol' double-Os.

But how can you remember that two Os takes the ssss sound? Here's the best I can come up with: Two Os can make you think of two Ss, which would have that ssss sound. So if you're tempted to put in two Os, but it doesn't make sense to say "loosssse" in the sentence, then take your finger off the O button and lose the double Os.

Do you have a clever way to remember the difference between loose and lose? Do you remember the difference?

Requested by Amy of Anktangle.
Feel free to let me know your conundrums or pet peeves.
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