Abbot and Castello: Teaching English Homophones, Homographs and Homonyms


Some of us may remember these comedians Abbott and Castello. This particular comedy sketch is very useful to learn what homophones, homographs and homonyms are all about.

Legendary Comedians who will teach you a thing or two about the English Language

Apparently, there are not enough permutations we can create with sound patterns to give each word a unique pronunciation. So when it comes to pronouncing certain words that sound and spelt the same way but have totally different meaning, a simple conversation can turn into an argument because of a misunderstanding of the meaning.
A homophone is basically a word that are pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning. The words may be spelled the same, such as rose (flower) and rose (past tense of “rise”), or differently, such as carat, caret, and carrot, or to, two, and too. Homophones that are spelled the same are also both homographs and homonyms.
A homograph is a word or a group of words that share the same written form but have different meanings. e.g “Gold is heavier than lead.” and “The teacher leads the class to the science lab.” The homograph is the word ‘lead’. The former means a type of metal (noun) and the latter means “to show the way” (verb).
A homonym is, in the strict sense, one of a group of words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings. Thus homonyms are simultaneously homographs (words that share the same spelling, irrespective of their pronunciation) and homophones (words that share the same pronunciation, irrespective of their spelling). e.g “He spots a leapord moving across the jungle.” The word ‘spots’ is also the spot on a leapord’s body and in this sentence is used to mean “sees or discovers”.

Words different in pronunciation, meaning and spelling

In this comedy sketch, you will hear this sentence over and over again. If you are not a native English speaker, you may wish to pause the video at different intervals as they speak really fast.

“Who’s is on first, What’s on second and I don’t know who’s on third.”


Who – as in reference to a person is also used as the Name of the baseball player.
What – as in reference to asking for an answer to a selection of number, action, condition etc is also used the Name of the baseball player
See if you can catch the joke. Abbot and Castello were famous comedians, so I am sure you will enjoy.

Tags: , , , , ,

Thank you for reading.

Without language, the only bridge left for us to communicate is our culture. Spread the word, save our culture, save our language.

2 Responses to “Abbot and Castello: Teaching English Homophones, Homographs and Homonyms”

  1. Eric Roth December 31, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

    Thank you for bringing this classic American comedy routine to a new 21st century generation of English language learners and English teachers!

    Homophones, of course, cause more headaches than laughs for many English students, and it behooves English teachers – of all levels – to teach homophones and the importance of context.

  2. Al Aloisi February 12, 2014 at 9:38 pm #

    Of course, I totally agree. My FREE web site http://www.homophone.com is being used all around the USA and in over 100 countries to help students of the English language learn and teach the use of HOMOPHONES. Feedback would be most welcomed, Thanks, Al Aloisi

Leave a Reply

Spam Protection by WP-SpamFree