Homophones: Pour, Pore

Why Should You Pore over Your Work and Not Pour Coffee over It?

by Owen Fourie

We all make mistakes. In English, we have a language in which errors are easily made, even by professionals.

I saw this in the text displayed in a You Tube video on English pronunciation:

You’ve spent countless hours studying English pouring over those grammar books.”

Oh dear! What was it that was poured over those grammar books? Coffee? Are they ruined? Have you gone off coffee?

What should have been written, of course, was “You’ve spent countless hours studying English poring over those grammar books.” The removal of one little letter makes all the difference between focus and inconvenience.

Here, we are dealing with homophones—words that have the same pronunciation, but they differ in meaning, origin, and spelling. Let’s make the distinction between pour and pore, pouring and poring.

Pour and pore are verbs. In this article, we are concerned with their use as verbs.

Pour can appear as a noun in combination with another word giving us the word downpour, which refers to a heavy fall of rain.

Pore is well known as a noun referring to any tiny hole that allows the secretion of fluid or gas. We see such openings in our skin, in the skin of animals, in the leaves and stems of plants, and we speak also of water seeping into the pores of a rock.

Pour and pouring

These words simply describe the act of emptying a container of liquid or a granular substance into a smaller or larger container or over something. It can be applied more broadly and metaphorically.

  • She poured her coffee into a mug to enjoy it on her way to work.
  • Pour the sugar from this sack into those sugar pots for the separate tables.
  • The children are pouring water on the sand to make mud pies.
  • They are pouring as much money as they can into their project to make it the best in the class.
  • When there is conflict, you can trust her to solve the problem because she seems to know how to pour oil on troubled waters.

Pore and poring

These words simply describe the act or state of focusing intently on the subject matter in hand or the condition of thinking carefully about something.

  • To do well in your exams, you’ll soon be poring over those texts and lecture notes.
  • Someday, you will pore over the matter of your future in order to make the best choices.
  • The jury took a long time as they pored over all the evidence.

No association with poor

The word poor cannot be associated with pour or pore. It cannot be taken as a homophone because there is a slight difference in pronunciation.

Using as many of these words as you can in one sentence can be fun. Here are two examples:

  • Stop poring over those manuscripts and pour a drink for this poor beggar.
  • Oops! Did that poor beggar really pour his coffee over your manuscripts and make sweat ooze from your pores as you tried to save as many of those documents as possible?

Poring over this article will help you to use these words correctly. Uh…coffee is strictly for drinking.


Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome. Are you struggling with homophones or any other aspect of grammar and correct usage? Ask here for clarification.

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