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Consider that someone say this:

Right, write.

These two words are homophones, that is, they have the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning.

They have the same pronunciation, so in listening if someone say the above sentence, how can I recognize that he has exactly said "Right, write."? and for example, he hasn't said any of these sentences:

Right, right.

Write, write.

Write, right.

Since these sentences have the same pronunciation, so there is no difference between them in listening and this is exactly my problem that how can I recognize that speaker has exactly said each of these sentences.

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    I believe it will depend on the situation. The speaker should modify their words to ensure the listener comprehends without causing confusion. Aug 13, 2023 at 5:38
  • "Write, write" and "right, right" cannot be distinguished, apart from the context (no problem there, if you're in an exam room waiting to start). But both "write, right" and "right, write" will usually be distinguishable because the word right won't take any stress in each of these cases. It will occur in the pre-head in the first sentence and the tail in the other "right, write" and "write, right". Aug 13, 2023 at 7:30
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    Not to complicate things, but "Wright," with the same pronunciation, is also a relatively common name in English, and "rite" is yet another word that sounds alike. As with any language, context is necessary. Where understanding is critical, and context is lacking, ask for clarification. It helps when the homophones represent different parts of speech--but this is not always the case. "Write" is a verb, but "Wright", "right", and "rite" can all be nouns, though "right" could also be an adjective, adverb, or even a verb. Once one is more fluent in the language, it's easier to discern the usage.
    – Biblasia
    Aug 13, 2023 at 9:10
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    No one would say this with the expectation that they could be phonetically distinguished. It would either be clear from context or an intentional double meaning. Aug 13, 2023 at 10:57
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    These sentences are somewhat contrived to be honest, and I don't think any English speaker would actually say them, except perhaps as a joke. Homophones are rarely used in isolation like this - there's usually always some context.
    – Billy Kerr
    Aug 13, 2023 at 11:13

1 Answer 1

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You do so in exactly the same way you do in your native language, from context.

Now you may say "we don't have words that sound the same but are spelled differently" but that's irrelevant. You do have words that sound the same (and may have the same spelling). And you do have no difficulty distingishing them by context.

Context can come in several forms.

  1. How common a word is:

If you say "She has lovely hair/hare" it could refer to the hair on her head or the meat of the rabbit-like animal. Can you guess which is far far more common? You can't tell from the pronunciation but you will guess right 99.9% of the time

  1. Other information given in the language.

If you say "That hair/hare has long legs and a little nose" You can guess that it means the rabbit-like animal, because hair doesn't have legs or noses.

  1. Grammar

If you say "Write/Right your name, please." The first word needs to be a verb, the only verb that fits is "write".

  1. Intonation and stress. The intonation patterns in speech help you to parse a sentence, and understand what the function of each word is, and that then helps you to understand which meaning is intended. "write, right?" could be a question (it's not really complete), but it would have question intonation, rising on the word "right".

  2. The wider context.

It's possible to have sentences that are really ambiguous, which can be understood from the wider context. These are often used for jokes, in which the twist comes from changing the context. Here's a joke:

My little daughter loves her toy duck, so took her to the park and we went to the pond, and she started saying "Daddy, duck! Daddy duck!!"

What did you say?

Nothing, I got hit in the back of the head by a cricket ball.

The joke here comes from the fact that the context changes so you change your understanding of the word.

In your specific example, the only acutal sentence is "Right, write" This is a single word sentence "write (imperative)" with a filler "right" meaning something like "I'm alright". The others aren't sentences. I suppose you could have "Right, right" with "right" meaning "turn right". But are you in a car or about to start an essay? The context would make it clear.

There are jokes which play on the senses of "right/left" and "right/wrong". But these are jokes.

Actual ambiguity which is unintentional, and can't be understood from context is very very rare. If it does occur, there is no shame in asking for clarification.

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  • The first "right" could also be in the sense of "you are correct" if in response to a previous question or comment. A: "So you think that we should put the device into write mode?" B: "Right, write." Aug 13, 2023 at 13:09
  • Yes I suppose so, I think you'd by hard pressed to find a remotely plausible situation in which a person would actually be misunderstood.
    – James K
    Aug 13, 2023 at 14:56

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