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lose OR loose?

listen to pronunciation

These two words cause some confusion for many people. Even native speakers sometimes have to think twice when using them. Their spelling is similar, but their pronunciation and meanings are very different.

  • lose (verb): 1. be unable to find something 2. stop having something 3. fail to win
  • loose (adjective): not tight, not firm; not fitting tightly; relaxed

lose /lu:z/

Remember, the word "lose" is a verb, and it rhymes with snooZe. It has the idea of failure - failure to keep or get something. The verb lose is irregular, and its parts look like this:

past participle
present participle
lose lost lost losing
sounds like: /lu:z/ /lɒst/ /lɒst/ /lu:ziŋ/

Look at these example sentences:

  • Put your money in your pocket or you will lose it.
  • I've lost my watch. Have you seen it anywhere?
  • Our company is losing a lot of customers since we increased prices.
  • My doctor says I'm overweight. He wants me to lose 10 kilograms.
  • We're losing a lot of production time thanks to the bad weather.
  • Which country lost the American War in Vietnam?
  • England lost the World Cup to Germany.
Note that the noun from the verb lose is loss (plural losses). It rhymes with boss and bosses. Look at these example sentences:
  • Last year our company made a profit but this year we have made a loss.
  • His sister's death came as a terrible loss to him.

loose /lu:s/

The word "loose" is an adjective, and it rhymes with gooSe. If something is loose it is not fixed; it is free and unconstrained.

Look at these examples:

  • One of the car's wheels came loose and fell off.
  • Ten prisoners have broken loose and are on the run.
  • I need to go to the dentist. I've got a loose tooth.
  • Do you have this shirt in size S? This is M and it's too loose on me.
  • The climate here is hot and humid. You should bring something loose to wear.
Although loose is mainly an adjective, it can also be a verb - but this is not common. The expression "to loose something" means to free it, or release it, or make it loose. Here are some examples, but note that this usage is relatively rare:
  • For some reason the shark suddenly loosed its grip on the man and let him go.
  • The boatman loosed the ropes and cast off.

Listen to these sentences to hear the pronunciation:

It's easy to lose loose change.*

Loose change is very easy to lose.

Put your loose change in your pocket or you'll lose it.

If I lose weight, this shirt will be too loose on me.**

Your clothes get loose when you lose weight.

Losing weight makes your belt looser.

*loose change = small coins | **lose weight = get thinner

Check your understanding with our lose OR loose Quiz

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