This "The Langage Nerds" post illustrates many "same pronunciation different meaning" pairs of words. While most seem reasonable to me, I'm surprised by some, and wonder if there is some USA's bias or if it's really once again all due to my bad pronunciation.

Typically, are these always pronounced the same ? or only in American English ? or nether ?

  • hole / whole
  • exercise / exorcise
  • aisle / I'll / Isle
  • affect / effect
  • cereal / serial
  • catch up / ketchup
  • miner / minor
  • lightening / lightning
  • gorilla / guerrilla
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    In British English ketchup is pronounced as spelled. All the rest, yes, although careful speakers might pronounce exorcise and guerrilla differently. Jun 3, 2020 at 7:29
  • 1
    I am British, and I am careful about those, and also exercise, affect, lightening, and, yes, catch up (which is two words anyway) Jun 3, 2020 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


There certainly are a lot of homophones in English, though these are probably not the best selection: ones like bough/bow and ruff/rough are more interesting.

Here is a summary of my opinions as a UK English speaker.

hole/whole, cereal/serial, minor/miner, gorilla/guerilla and aisle/isle are identical when prounounced correctly.

exercise/exorcise and possibly lightening/lightning are similar in informal speech.

I'll is the same as isle when it is stressed, but when it is unstressed they are significantly different.

Listening to recordings of catch up and ketchup the phonemes are a lot closer than I expected, but the stress is usually on ket in ketchup and on up in catch up.

affect/effect are not the same under any circumstances.

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    As an AmE speaker, I pronounce affect and effect identically, except when affect used as a noun ("She shows an emotionless affect") and the first syllable is accented. Jun 3, 2020 at 13:20
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    @CanadianYankee Yes, you are right. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the pronunciation of effect is UK /ɪˈfekt/ US /əˈfekt/, and affect is UK /əˈfekt/ US /əˈfekt/, so affect and effect are identical in US pronunciation. Note that my answer relates only to the UK pronunciation.
    – JavaLatte
    Jun 3, 2020 at 13:52
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    Gorilla and guerilla are not identical when I say them, and I am a British RP speaker. Jun 3, 2020 at 16:39
  • @MichaelHarvey According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the two words are /ɡəˈrɪl.ə/ /ɡəˈrɪl.ə/. I have noticed that some people with exposure to Spanish (the root language of guerilla) or to French pronounce the first syllable with a Spanish accent /ɡeˈrɪl.ə/
    – JavaLatte
    Jun 4, 2020 at 12:31
  • I say gorilla with the -or like horrible, Morris, and the -ue in guerilla like in puerile. Jun 4, 2020 at 14:23

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