Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Pore, Pour and Poor


Three little words that are able to create conversation, confuse a writer and enrich our vocabulary.  At first glance they seem to be homophones, all having the same sound but different spellings and meanings. However, say them again slowly and you will realise that the word poor has a subtle way of sounding slightly different.  It is not in the homophone group.  Then while you are working out the difference between pour and pore you will see that in fact pore has two meanings and that makes pore a homonym.  Just when you thought you had these words all worked out you find they are very different.

Getting to know more about these easily confused words will help the reader and the writer of the English language to understand their meaning and be able to use them more confidently. Each word has its own meaning according to its spelling.   Pore has two meanings depending on the context it is used in.  This is where the language traps lie.  The best way to establish a positive relationship with these words is to have as much information and knowledge about the meaning and use of each word. Analyse the words in context, know what part of speech they are, and see if they have other roles in the English language.  Find out if there are synonyms that will give an extra reference to understand how to use the word. Do they form part of any English idioms or do they have root word connections with other words?  Finally is there a way to visualise each word and so be more confident with using the word correctly.

Finding out about …….Pore:

  • Dictionary meaning:*
  1. Pore – (noun) a tiny opening in the skin.
  2. Pore – (verb) to be absorbed in reading or studying.
  • Parts of speech – using the word in a sentence:

Pore as a noun – Sweat came out of every pore on the runner’s body.

There are pores on plants, animals and people.

Pore as a verb – Students pore over their books to study for their exams.

It is possible to pore over anything if you are observing something intently.

  • Synonyms:

Using pore as a verb – study, examine, inspect, scrutinise, stare at, peruse.

Using pore as a noun – outlet, opening.

Idioms and other language uses of pore.***

‘To air one’s pores’ means to get dry naturally.

John and Mary jumped into the river and got out to ‘air their pores’ on the river bank.

Porous, meaning having lots of little holes that let liquid pass through, has its root in pore.

The use of the word pore as a verb, the action of this word, is probably the most misunderstood.  It is used incorrectly and confused with the homophone pour.

However, to coffee lovers this term ‘to pour over coffee’ has become an acceptable term as one pours the coffee and then contemplates the aroma and the blend.****

Finding out about …..  P0UR:

  • Dictionary meaning:*
  1. Pour – (verb) flow rapidly in a steady stream, prepare and serve a drink.
  2. Pour into – you can pour money into a company.
  3. Pour something out – pour out your emotions.
  • Parts of speech using the word in a sentence:

Pour is a verb – The stream of water pours over the waterfall.

There are different tenses to use –

Pour (present) pouring (continuous present)

Poured (past) was pouring (continuous past)

Will pour (future) will be pouring (continuous future)

(Just to name a few most commonly used)

  • Synonyms:

Stream, rush, spurt, gush.

  • Idioms and abstract use of pour:**

Sayings like – ‘offers of help pour in from everywhere’

Or – ‘pour scorn on somebody’ and ‘pour out your love’

Pour oil on troubled water – meaning to try and smooth over a disagreement’

‘It never rains but it pours’ meaning misfortune can happen often to some people.

These make interesting additional uses of the word pour.

Finding out about …….Poor:

  • Dictionary meaning:*
  1. Poor (adjective) lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal for society.
  2. Poor (adjective) of low or inferior quality.
  3. Poor becomes a noun when the noun that could follow it is dropped. For example a  poor person becomes known as the poor. *****

The church had a special outreach to feed the poor.

  • Parts of Speech – using the word in a sentence.

Poor as an adjective – The poor boy had no food or shelter so he hid at the bus stop.

Poor describing quality – The shoes were made of poor quality leather and soon fell apart.

  • Synonyms:

Using poor as an adjective – hard up, destitute, broke, penniless, poverty stricken.

  • Idioms and other language uses of poor:

Poor as a church mouse’ is used to describe a very poor person.  The expression came about as churches did not keep food inside the church building and so to live in a church would mean you had very little.

Poor can be used to describe all kinds of different things like:

A poor loser – not a good sport

A poor effort – somewhat lazy

Poor vision – not seeing well or not planning well

A poor view of something – disapproval

A poor relation – using poor in comparison to other items in a group.

Pour over’  versus ‘pore over’……….What is the difference?

This is probably the most easily confused in terms of usage and choosing the wrong word without thinking of exactly what the two words really mean.  Both these words can be used as verbs but understanding the action in context helps to remember how to use the word without confusion. Remembering that the verb pour involves liquid or something to be emptied out versus the verb pore that is to do with study or thought helps to clarify the difference.  One would not want to pour anything over precious books or study notes!

Calligrams are an interesting pictorial way of learning new words.  They have been used successfully to teach spelling to young learners and English as second language speakers.  Each word to be used has a picture clue to help make the word get easier to remember. Imagine if you turned the U of pour into a jug to remind you that this word means to pour liquid.  Then pore as a noun lends itself to converting the O into a spot and pore meaning to look over something could have the r sketched as a person looking over a book.  That’s three out of the four meanings catered for. Finally poor could be represented by a little mouse with his tail hanging down for the letter P and two OO’s would make coins. Thus poor would remind the reader of ‘as poor as a church mouse’ Calligrams will stick in your memory and eventually be the key that helps you to remember which word to use. There is a library of fascinating calligrams to be found on Leon’s Planet a website with ‘The Public Library of Calligrams’******

Finally, read this……

‘While contemplating the situation of the poor, she pored over dusty tomes in the hot library with sweat streaming from her pores as she poured herself a cold drink’ *******.

When you see all of these words in one sentence and write this sentence out for reference you will have a way to understand the difference in the use of each word.  It is especially good to see the words in context together with each other. Sounding similar but being different you can recognise their value as words individually and understand the difference between – pore, pour, and poor.

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References :

[0]*Oxford Dictionary



[3]****wikihowtomake pour-overcoffee

[4]*****meriamwebster.learner’s dictionary.com




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