Loose or lose: what’s the difference

Loose or lose

If you’re looking at the title of this post and scratching your head, then this post is for you. Loose and lose have different meanings, however, if you look at a lot of written material today, you’d think they could be used interchangeably.

But never make that assumption, young Grasshopper.

Loose is (often) an adjective that means not tightly or firmly in place, relaxed. (It is also used less often as a verb meaning to set something free).

Lose is a verb (to lose) that means to be deprived of or cease to have or retain.

Thanks to good diet and exercise, my pants are loose for the first time in ten years.

That loose rope is going to slip from around the moose’s neck.

Don’t lose sight of the kids in Disneyland.

Lose the cape. Who are you? Dracula?

I’m going to lose ten kilograms then we’ll see whose pants are loose.

That extra o in loose makes a world of difference to its meaning and to its pronunciation. The confusion between loose and lose may in fact come from pronunciation and the wonderful way the English language works. Loose is pronounced the same as moose but not choose (which has the z sound in lose).

I’ve seen one trick to help people remember the difference and that is to think that lose has lost an o. Personally I find that a bit confusing because I’d then want to spell lose as lse. But if the trick works for you, use it.

Rule of Thumb
Loose: adjective (mostly) to describe something that is not tightly or firmly held in place. Rhymes with moose.
Lose: verb that means to no longer have something. Rhymes with whose.

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