Friday, July 5, 2013

Get It Right: Rain, Reign, And Rein

As we are sticklers for grammar, spelling, and generally getting things right, we could no longer bite our tongues on this whopper of a common mistake in English. The three words in question, reign, rein, and rain,  are known as homophones, meaning that they are pronounced the same.

Homophones are an interesting element of language, especially in spoken language where context is the only way to distinguish one from another. However, thanks to the written form of languages, writing systems, and orthography, these words can be distinguished from one other. Let's have a look at the differences between the three so that you can get it right.

Rain, rain, go away; come again another day.
Rain

Most people should be aware of this one. Rain, put simply, is a weather system in which water falls from the sky due to a chemical process known as evaporation and condensation, in which elements change their state from the liquid form to a gaseous form, then back again. If you remember geography or science lessons in primary school, then you should have no problem with the water cycle. If you're British, you should be more than familiar with rain.

Reign

The second of our homophones is reign. Reign is the noun for the period of time in which a monarch or a sovereign is in power. Given that yesterday was the celebration of the end of British rule in the US, you should see this word more and more frequently in the news over the coming days, giving you a fantastic opportunity to become familiar with the difference.
Reindeer can also be controlled with reins, especially
for delivering Christmas presents to good children.

Rein

Our final homophone is the word rein. As this word is written almost identically to reign, this is where a lot of confusion arises. Rein is a noun and it describes the harness that is used to "drive" a horse. Unless you are a jockey, work frequently with horses, or are a cowboy, you probably won't use this word as frequently as the other two options, so make sure that when you do, you get it right!