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Lose or loose?

24 Oct

Another suggestion from Sorcha this morning – I really appreciate when people come up with ideas for these, so please keep them coming … (and watch out for Ron Usage and his Wrong Usage, coming soon with those troublesome single words!).

So today, we’re going to look at lose vs. loose. I do see this one a fair bit, although the two words are not really that similar or connected.

To lose something means to mislay it, to forget where you put it down, or to end up without it. “He tends to lose his gloves when they fall out of his pocket”; “I always lose the keys somewhere in the house and I can’t come out until I’ve found them”; “she would go on to lose her fiance in the First World War”.  The past tense of lose is lost. Something can’t be lose, it can only be lost.

To loose something (as a verb) means to set it free, but it isn’t often used. “She loosed the horses into the paddock”. More often, it’s used as an adjective: wobbly, not secure, not firm, not tight. A loose tooth; “This printer cable is working loose and that’s why you can’t print”; “She wore a loose and flowing dress”. The past tense of the verb loose is loosed, but again, this isn’t used much. The more common verb is to loosen – “He loosened his tie as the evening got hotter” and this means to make less tight, rather than to set free, although you can also loosen the horses into the paddock.

“His loose tooth fell out, and he managed to lose it somewhere around the house.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here and the index to them all so far is here.

 
 

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