loose OR lose?

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.

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:

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.

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:

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.

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