Pair vs. Pear or Pare? A Homophone Lesson, Illustrated

Let’s continue our homophones party with a lesson requested by a sweet elementary school class in New York City: “Pair vs. Pear and Pare!” These three words have the exact same pronunciation and sound, but VERY different meanings. In fact, it could be downright dangerous to mix them up. Let’s dive in to learn why.

Pair vs. Pear vs. Pare
Pair vs. Pear vs. Pare: What’s the difference?

“Pair” Meaning and Definition

The word “pair” can be either a noun or verb. As a noun, “pair” means: two things that go together. As a verb, “pair” means to put two things together because they match or fit in some way. The key image to visualize with the word “pair” is the number TWO.

Examples of “Pair” in Sentences:

“Pair” as a Noun:

Having just one pair of socks isn’t enough for the angry octopus — he needs FOUR pairs of socks, totaling eight coverings to keep all of his tentacle-covered feet cozy.

“Pair” as a Verb:

I like to pair together carrots with sea urchins in my cooking because the flavors compliment each other.

An example using "pair" correctly.
An example using “pair” correctly.

“Pear” Meaning and Definition

On to the next definition in the “pair vs. pear vs. pare” dilemma: PEAR! The noun “pear” refers to the sort of rounded-triangle-shaped fruit which is usually yellow, green, or brown — and is also delicious. (According to the Oxford University Press, pears are also distinguished by “sweet, slightly gritty flesh.” While that description is technically true, it also sounds kind of awkward. Gritty flesh?!)

Pear cartoon
My cartoon of the yummy fruit called a “pear.”

Example of “Pear” in a Sentence:

I like to eat pear slices every day, along with long slurps from a cup of coffee in order to wash down the GRITTY PEAR FLESH.

How to use the word "pare."
How to use “pare.”

“Pare” Meaning and Definition

On to the final tricky triplet in the “pair, pear, pare” trio: PARE. The verb “to pare” means to cut down something by taking small chops along the edges. It’s often used for small-scale whittling examples, like with fruit or nails. (Ex: a “paring knife” could be used to cut a small chunk of food like… a pear!) In English, “pare” is pronounced just like “pair” or “pear.”

Example of “Pare” in a Sentence:

I used a knife to pare down the sides of my pumpkin Jack o’ Lantern so it looked hilariously skinny — but then it came to life and screamed “ARGHH!” at me, thus terrifying me into dropping the knife and sprinting away, hollering, “Sorry!”

Meaning of “Pare” in Other Languages:

The word “pare” is confusing because it is a commonly-used word in other languages besides English, meaning something totally different than “cut down.” For example, in Spanish, “pare” means “stop” and is pronounced “pah-ray.” Meanwhile, in Tagalog (from the Philippines) “pare” means “a male buddy or best friend” and is pronounced like the Spanish version of the word. Languages are wild!

VIDEO: Pair, Pear, and Pare

Examples of Correctly Using Pair, Pear, AND Pare!

Let’s put all three homophones together into the same paragraph! Here goes:

I took a pair of pears out of the fruit bowl and started to pare them down into slivers. All of a sudden, a pair of snakes slithered into my kitchen. One of them demanded in an icy tone, “Hand us those pear slices NOW, or we’ll take your knife and pare those fancy long fingernails of yours into tiny stubs!”

My only problem with meeting those demands to “hand over” the pears: the snakes did not have hands.

Pair pear or pare
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Other English Lessons:

Enjoy this illustrated lesson on the homophones, pair, pear, and pare? Check out these other free ELA lessons, and feel free to comment below to request another!

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Lillie Marshall
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a Boston educator since 2003. She lovingly creates all the art on Educational Cartoon Site by hand. In addition to this site, Lillie runs and Stay connected to @WorldLillie through social media, and by subscribing to the monthly newsletter! [Learn More]

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