Loose vs. Lose: Simple Tips to Remember the Difference

Did you loose your keys or did you lose your keys? It may not seem like there's a big difference, but loose and lose have different meanings, functions and pronunciations. Learn which is which with these tips about loose vs. lose.

loose versus lose dog climbing fence loose versus lose dog climbing fence

Loose and Lose Have Different Meanings

A big difference between loose and lose is what they mean. It may seem like the words are interchangeable, but a quick look at their definitions tells a different story. Take a look at the basic meanings of the words loose and lose:

  • loose - something that is not tight
  • lose - to misplace something or fail to win

As you can see, the words are quite different. You can't loose a baseball game, and you can't fix a lose screw in your dresser. Just one "o" can make a huge difference!

How Loose and Lose Function Differently

Another way that loose and lose are different is their grammatical function. Loose is an adjective that describes a noun, while lose is a verb that describe what a noun is doing. You can't use one in place of the other for this reason as well as their different definitions.

Using Loose in a Sentence

There are several ways to use loose correctly in a sentence, as long as you are using it as an adjective. It can describe a noun that is not tight, or a noun that is no longer secured. Some examples include:

  • The loose dog ran up the street after jumping over the fence.
  • These pants are too loose in the waist.
  • A loose board in your staircase can be dangerous.
  • Isaac wiggled his loose tooth, hoping it would come out.
  • The rules in this company are pretty casual and loose.

If you want to use loose as a verb, you need to change it to loosen. Now it means "to make something loose or not tight. Take a look at these sentences that use loosen:

  • At the end of the day, Ted loosens his tie and takes off his watch.
  • Tap the sides of the pan to loosen the cake.
  • You really need to loosen up and relax.

The next time you're confused about loose vs. lose, consider whether you'd use loosen in the same context. You know that there's no such word as losen, so hopefully, you'll be able to spell the word correctly!

Using Lose in a Sentence

You can only use lose as a verb or as the verb in an infinitive phrase. It can describe the action of misplacing or not having an item anymore, or not winning a game or competition. Check out these sentences that include lose:

  • I hope my team doesn't lose the game.
  • Jeff wanted to lose a few pounds.
  • Dad is afraid that he will lose his hair before he's 40.
  • Poker can be fun, unless you lose money.
  • Did you lose your house key again?

Changing the form of lose could allow you to use it in other ways. Losing, for example, works as a participle, which is a verb that functions as an adjective. Lost could work in the same way. For example:

  • Hannah felt like she was fighting a losing battle.
  • The losing team doesn't want to return to the field.
  • I can't stop thinking about that lost dog on the poster.

When you change the form of lose, it makes the difference between lose and loose even more obvious. Any computer spellcheck will catch loosing as an incorrect word, so you can follow its lead and pick the correct spelling.

Loose vs. Lose: Pronunciation Differences

The last way to tell the difference between loose and lose is the way you say them. A listener may not hear you leaving out that important "o," but they can definitely hear you mispronounce the last consonant sound. You say the words as follows:

  • loose - loo-ss (rhymes with moose)
  • lose - looz (rhymes with muse)

If your head is spinning over the differences in these words as they're written, try saying them out loud. While they both have that long /o/ sound, there's no mistaking the /s/ in loose and the /z/ in lose. It's an easy way to make a quick correction.

Don't Lose Your Mind Over Grammar

Clearing up the difference between loose and lose is a great first step toward becoming a better speller, but don't stop there! Once you're sure you don't want to lose your keys, take a look at these tips to remember the difference between desert and dessert. Or if you really want to up your grammar game, avoid mistaking the tricky words invoke and evoke.

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