Loose or Lose?

By Maeve Maddox

There’s no formula for what I do,” said King, who added that if he tried to analyze and formulate his approach to writing, he might loose his touch.

The word “loose” in this quotation from a site about publishing is incorrectly used. King might lose his touch.

The words lose and loose are often confused. Here are examples to illustrate their uses.

“Lose” is a verb.

The Cubs didn’t lose today’s game.
They lost the one yesterday.
They have lost three in a row.
I don’t like it when they are losing.

The word “loose” can be used as more than one part of speech.

“Loose” can be a verb:

Loose the dog from its chain.
The man loosed his pit bull on the intruder.
We have loosed all the raccoons from the traps.
The activists are loosing the monkeys from the lab.

“Loose” can be an adjective:

He prefers to wear loose clothing when exercising.
This screw is loose.

“Loose” can be an adverb:

The rancher turned the horses loose.

One more thing: The two words have different pronunciations. The “s” in “lose” has the sound /z/. The “s” in “loose” has the sound /s/.

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16 Responses to “Loose or Lose?”

  • Alice

    This seems so very, very, very third grade. Professional writers, or hope-to-be professional writers, need reminding of this? Sigh….

  • Daniel

    Alice, our audience is not composed 100% of professional writers. We write for people that want to improve their writing skills, whether we talk about bloggers, students, foreigners that are learning English as a second language, and so on.

    Sometimes even professional writers get stuff wrong though. The quotation mentioned on the article, for instance, was probably written by some professional copywriter.

  • Roshawn

    Excellent tip. I especially like the pronunciation reminders.

    Two thumbs up, Maeve!!

  • Incubus

    Thank you very much for this.
    I’m engaged in the English language a lot, but not being a native speaker things like that get overlooked easily.

  • Sarah :: Copywriting, Grammar and Spelling tips

    Alice, you would be surprised at how many professional writers do indeed need reminding of very simple grammar, spelling and usage rules.

  • mandy

    i have cleared this concept in my mind but i am lil bit confused about lose and loss and its pronunciation.
    please help me on this problem.

  • Maeve

    Mandy,
    loss [laws]
    lose [looz]

    or, as answers.com has it:
    loss (lôs)
    lose (lūz)

  • Alice

    I agree with the other Alice that it seems third grade level. I always cringe ever so slightly upon seeing them mixed up.

    Still, I’ve made pretty embarrassing mistakes. Very recent ones, too, so I can’t complain. What is my blackboard moment may be perfectly normal for others, and vice versa.

  • Nikki

    I’m still somewhat confused about certain usages. Does one lose weight or loose weight?
    And I must say DWT is doing a great job. Thanks for all the great tips!

  • Aziza Cloud

    Alice, if you are a native speaker, then feel free to complain whenever you are truly sure of your correctness. If not, then feel free to rcomplain whenever you are truly and triply sure of your correctness 🙂
    English is not French; there is no Academie Anglaise to determine what’s right or wrong. The consensus of educated grammarians sets the rule in the America and set the rules in the UK. 😉

  • David

    ““Loose” can be an adverb:
    The rancher turned the horses loose.”

    I’m having trouble with this one. “Loose” doesn’t describe the manner in which the turning was done. Surely “loose” in your example is an adjective in the same way that “free” is an adjective in this sentence:
    The rancher set the horses free.

  • Maeve

    David,
    Upon revisiting this post, I’m inclined to agree with you. I may have been looking at “turned loose” as a phrasal verb with the meaning “release”, but even then, the “loose” would be a particle and not an adverb.

    Thanks for calling my attention to it.

  • Jann Schott

    I figured out a way to straighten out the Lose/Loose mix-ups. I created this to help my daughters when I homeschooled them.

    One antonym of LOOSE is TIGHT. Each word has 5 letters.
    One antonym of LOSE is FIND. Each word has 4 letters.

    Hope this helps.

  • Danielle Gauthier

    The explanations are also excellent in preparing for grammar tests given by placement agencies. You would be surprised how confused you can become when you start panicking during a test. A good grammar review is the answer to passing your tests successfully.

  • Neil

    In reply to Nikki, you lose weight. If ever you have something and then have it no longer, be it money, weight, hair or anything else, you lose it. To loose something means to untie it and let it loose (eg, you might loose a sheepdog in a field of sheep).

  • Ulla-B Carlsen

    SIMPLE: Lose has LOST an O compared to loose, so means to mislay. Don’t confuse foreigners like me with grammar when it is not at all necessary!

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