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Difference Between Loose and Lose

Loose vs Lose

The words “loose” and “lose” have completely different meanings and different pronunciations. However, non-native English speakers often confuse the two because they have similar spellings and the pronunciation difference is not very strong. This article will give you the definitions of “loose” and “lose” along with some sample sentences and pronunciation guides.

Loose is an adjective pronounced /luːs/, with a long “oo” sound and a soft “s,” almost like some “c” sounds. There are multiple definitions of “loose”; here are the most important, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:

“not firmly fixed where it should be; able to become separated from something.”
“not tied together; not held in position by anything or contained in anything.”

The two above definitions are similar. The comparative form is “looser” and the superlative form is “loosest.”
Collocations: “[to be] loose,” “[to come] loose,” and “[to break] loose.”
Sample sentences:
Jane likes wearing her hair loose.
The door knob has come loose; it must not be fixed on very well.
Look – Jimmy has a loose tooth!

“not fitting closely.”
The opposite of this definition of “loose” is “tight.”
Sample sentences:
Her shirt is very loose; did she lose weight?
He prefers to wear loose jeans.

There are some common idiomatic phrases with “loose.” They are:
“[to have] a loose tongue”: Someone “has a loose tongue” if he or she talks too much about private matters.
“[to let/cut] loose” means to break out or relax in an uncontrolled way. Teenagers might “let loose” by partying on the weekend after a week at school.

While loose is an adjective, lose is a verb with the forms lose-lost-lost. It is pronounced /luːz/. Notice that “lose” has the same long “oo” sound as “loose,” but the final sound is different, a buzzing “z” rather than a soft “s.” The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary gives a few key definitions for “lose”:

[transitive verb] “to be unable to find something/somebody.”

A synonym for this definition is “to mislay.”
Collocations: “[to lose] something/somebody,” “[to get] lost.”
Sample sentences:
I always seem to lose my keys.
Jane lost her friend at the fair.

[transitive verb] “to have something/somebody taken away from you as a result of an accident, getting old, dying, etc.”
Collocations: “[to lose] one’s job,” “[to lose] something/somebody,” “[to lose] one’s life” (to die or be killed).

Sample sentences:
Jack lost his job last week; he was fired.
Millions of people lost their lives in the war.

I don’t want to lose my hair as I get old.
[transitive or intransitive verb] “to be defeated; to fail to win a competition, a court case, an argument, etc.”
Collocations: “[to lose] something,” “[to lose] to somebody.”

Sample sentences:
The soccer team lost to a better team.
Based on the polls, the candidate will probably lose the election.

As you can see, “loose” and “lose” have different meanings and parts of speech (“loose” is an adjective and “lose” is a verb). What is difficult for non-native English speakers is the pronunciation. “Loose” rhymes with “moose” and “goose.” “Lose” rhymes with “choose” and “blues.” If you practice the pronunciations carefully, you will eventually start to hear the difference. Don’t forget that the words are spelled differently, too!

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1 Comment

  1. This is the first time I have read an explanation on the difference between lose,loose and lost and felt that I got it. I have been confused for years about the meaning of these words, although use them frequently while speaking.

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