Thursday, September 15

English teacher: how to use lose and loose

Time for another little lesson from the English teacher!

Several people have asked me to address the use of the words lose and loose. These words are easy to mix up, and I frequently see them used incorrectly.

First, the definitions of the two words.

Lose is a verb meaning to misplace or to come to be without something.

  • Did you lose your cell phone?
  • I think she's about to lose a tooth.
  • It's so sad to hear about a child's losing his mother.
Loose is almost always used as an adjective meaning free, not restrained, not fitting tightly.

  • I have lots of loose change in my purse
  • You have a loose tooth!
  • Those pants are really loose on you.
If you're a real stickler, you might also like to know that the word loose can also be used as a verb meaning to free, to unfetter, or to unfasten. This is a fairly old-fashioned use of the word, but it's still correct.
  • He will loose the captives.
I think that most writing mistakes with these words come about because of the way the words are pronounced. Lose is one of those English words that breaks all kinds of pronunciation rules. Lose looks as if it should rhyme with nose or hose, doesn't it? It doesn't seem possible that the sound of "oo" could be present in a word that has one "o" and a silent "e." So writers often throw in another "o." That's understandable. But words that have "oo" plus an "se" are pronounced with a hard "s" sound, not a "z" sound, such as moose, goose, noose, and caboose--just like the word loose, NOT lose.

Perhaps the best way to remember to use the word lose is to connect it with two words that are almost never misspelled: loser and lost. I'll bet you've never read about the TV show The Biggest Looser, do you? Nope. Everyone seems to know that the word is loser. And no one ever writes of being hopelessly loost; lost is a word over which no one struggles. So if you find it difficult to remember that the verb you want is lose rather than loose, just remember that you don't want to be a loser. The right word is just the root of the word loser: lose. Or remember this: You'd be lost without the right word. Lose is the root of lost.

So here's a little quiz for you. Fill in the blanks with lose or loose:
  1. I need to _______ 10 pounds.
  2. These jeans are so tight, and they're supposed to be really _______ on me!
  3. Let go of me! Turn me _______.
  4. I'm afraid I'll _______ my way in the dark.
If you answered 1. lose; 2. loose; 3. loose; and 4. lose; you've got it!

Please let me know if you have any questions about English grammar or if there's a particular point you'd like for me to address in one of these little lessons. I want these to be a blessing to you. Leave me a comment if there's a particular point of grammar you'd like for me to address. Feel free to email me (RichellaP (at) gmail (dot) com) if you have a specific question. I'd be happy to help if I can!


  1. Best english teacher ever! The looser/loost example was perfect! I have one for you. Being from the south, we use the word y'all a lot {I've also seen it as yall or ya'll}. I would love a little lesson on where the word came from and how and when it's appropriate to use it:)

  2. I would love it if you would give a lesson on using "I" and "me". One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing people use "I" when it should be "me". There's such an easy way to determine which is correct yet people can't seem to get it right. Also, I would benefit from lesson on when to use "was" and "were". I can't recall the rules for using these two words. Thank you!

  3. Woo Hoo got them all right!! I feel like I am back in school. I was terrible in engilsh, writing, spelling all of it. As you can tell by my comment. I would love to be a better writer, speller and know the ins and outs of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, punctuation.
    Thank you! :)

  4. Luckily, I've been using those words correctly. My mom majored in English in college and was the the editor of her college yearbook. So, you can just imagine that my grammar was corrected many times, while growing up. However, please don't judge my writing skills on my blog. I probably take too many shortcuts on that. Ha!

  5. I passed the test! =) I used to love English class growing up. Now I'm in PR so we have to have a strong handle on the English language - an art I fear is being lost on our younger generations.


  6. Another one that a lot of people I have seen use wrong is quite and quiet. Maybe you can do a post on that, too if you haven't already. It drives me nuts when they mean quiet and they use quite or the other way around.

  7. I see this mistake frequently and it drives me nuts! At the beginning of school I received an IEP (special ed document) where "lose" was spelled "loose" every single time. I wanted to point it out, but I didn't. (Probably should have!)

  8. Haha! As a fellow English teacher, I love that you do this! Thanks for stopping by my blog!


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I read every one; they make my day. If you have a specific question, please be sure your email address is attached to your profile or leave your email address in the comment; I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Every blessing!