For example, you say to me

My eye is sick

But I heard

My I is sick

I have read a 'homonym' article but it just show the words that have same sound on speaking. How to distinguish one word with another that has the same sound?

  • 1
    All languages have ambiguously sounding combinations of words. You distinguish the true intent of the speaker fromt the overall context. The sentence "My I is sick" is a very odd sentence. "My eye is sick" is less odd. "My eye hurts" is evel less odd. – CowperKettle Sep 15 '16 at 8:49
  • Context, common sense, perceived speaker intent, concatenation... – Alan Carmack Sep 15 '16 at 10:43
  • "My I is sick" is an ungrammatical utterance. The ungrammaticalness steers the listener away from that parsing. (My does not take a pronoun in the nominative case as complement, unless the pronoun is somehow coerced into a nominal by a special case, e.g. if Freud had said "The 'I'" instead of "The ego". But then it would be as if the pronoun were enclosed in quotation marks, and it would receive different intonation when spoken. Intonation patterns also guide the listener.) – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 15 '16 at 10:53
  • @TRomano: I don't see why I can't be used to mean something like ego (as in My ego is deflated). Since it's completely unnatural to say things like My tongue is sick anyway, I wouldn't leap to that interpretation if I thought the sentence had been uttered by a competent speaker. In fact, the only credible interpretation I can tthink of if we assume a competent speaker is My ai is sick (my pet three-toed sloth is unwell). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 15 '16 at 13:21
  • @FumbleFingers. You have to read more carefully, or beyond the first sentence. Nowhere did I say that I "cannot be used to mean something like ego". In fact, I said just the opposite. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 15 '16 at 14:11

Being able to distinguish homonyms in speech is something you need to practice. Once you get familiar with English, you'll be able to understand which word people mean based on the context.

For example:

Bob says to Anne

I had a great vacation last fall

There are multiple meanings for fall (even written the same way): 1. the season Fall, between summer and winter; or 2. to fall, where you trip or otherwise make contact with the ground in an unpreferred way.

Anne knows that you cannot have a vacation while falling down, but you can have a vacation during the season of fall. She understands that Bob means that he went on a vacation during this season.

In summary: There is no definitive guide to understanding which word people mean while speaking, while you learn English you will understand that some words are more probable in a certain context, compared to others.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.