Learning English

Confused About “Lose” and “Loose”?

If you are an English language learner who has difficulty remembering the difference between “lose” and “loose”, you have plenty of company. It’s not uncommon to see college-educated, native English speakers use “loose” when they are supposed to use “lose”. Therefore, we will examine each word individually and go over some tips and tricks to help you keep them straight.

Pronunciation

The words “lose” and “loose” have a very similar sound. Depending on what your native language is, or which dialect of English you are using, the two words may even sound identical.

However, the “s” in “lose” has the same “z” sound as the “s” in “wise”, “because”, and “advise“. By contrast, the “s” in “loose” has the classic “s” sound that you hear at the beginning of words such as “sale” or at the end of words such as “chase” and “sense” and “goose” (which rhymes with “loose”).

How to use “lose”

“Lose” is a verb that has different meanings. We will look at each meaning below, along with some example sentences.

  • To fail to win or obtain a goal:

If the team doesn’t score within the next two minutes, they will lose this match.

I’m afraid our company will lose this bid for the XYZ Tech contract.

Without better weapons, the nation will lose the war.

  • To misplace something:

I hope Lily doesn’t lose her glasses again.

Put the envelope with the money in a safe place so you don’t lose it.

“I don’t care if I lose these bracelets,” said Mina. “They’re just cheap things that my ex-boyfriend gave me.”

  • To no longer have something/someone:

When Papi had his heart attack, we were so afraid we might lose him.

Did you lose weight?

If the two companies merge, many workers might lose their jobs.

Other forms of “lose”

Because “lose” is a verb, it takes on different forms—loses, losing, lost—depending on the subject or the time frame of the sentence. Oftentimes “loses” and “losing” are misspelled as “looses” and “loosing”, so be sure not to add that extra “o”.

A related word is “loser”, which is a noun that means a person who is unsuccessful or who hasn’t won something:

The loser has to give the winner one hundred dollars.

“I would never go out with a guy like Bob,” said Dora. “He isn’t in school. He doesn’t have a job. All he does is sit around the house and play video games. What a loser!”

“Loser” also is commonly misspelled with an extra “o”. Hence, “loser” becomes “looser”, which is incorrect. (You can find the correct way to use “looser” in the next section.)

How to use “loose”

In most cases, “loose” is an adjective. Like “lose”, it has multiple meanings. The two main ones are as follows:

  • Not tight/free from constraint:

These sandals are too loose, so I’m not going to buy them.

Pauly has very long hair, which he ties up in a loose bun.

The doorknob came off in my hand because its screws were loose.

Our goat is running loose across the neighbor’s property.

The rope is too tight. It needs to be looser. (This is the correct way to use “looser“.)

  • Easygoing/not strict:

The professor only gave us some loose guidelines about the final paper, so I am not sure what I am supposed to do.

Ivan’s parents are very loose. He gets to stay out as late as he wants and nobody cares if he gets bad grades.

This is just a loose outline of our annual report, so expect some changes over the next few weeks.

The rules in this dormitory are pretty loose, so it’s always messy and noisy here.

Sentences with both “lose” and “loose”

Linda worked really hard to lose weight, but now her favorite red jeans are too loose.

The dog’s leash is loose, so be careful not to lose him in the park.

Pepito’s loose tooth fell out, so he gave it to his mother because he knew she wouldn’t lose it.

The rope bridge over the river was very loose, and we were all afraid we might lose our balance and fall into the cold water.

Some tips and tricks

The next time you need to write either “lose” or “loose”, here are some tips and tricks to help you remember which one is which.

  • “Lose” is the opposite of “find”. It is also the opposite of “gain”. All of these words have four letters.
  • “Loose” is the opposite of “tight”. Both of these words have five letters.

Thus, when you go to write either “lose” or “loose”, think of these opposite words and the number of letters in each one. This can help you determine whether “lose” or “loose” is correct in the sentence you are writing.

If you still need some help, click the blue box below. One of our TextRanch editors will correct your writing and give you some feedback. Also, feel free to leave comments or suggestions for future blog posts below.

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