Grammar GuideSpellingWhat is the difference between "loose" and "lose"?

What is the difference between "loose" and "lose"?

What is the difference between "loose" and "lose"?

The words loose and lose are often confused because of their similar spelling. In this article, we explain the difference between them.

Lose means to cause (something) to cease to be in one's possession, often because of unfortunate or unknown circumstances, events or reasons when used as a verb.

For example:

  • If we don't score soon, we'll lose the match.
  • I'd better not lose my keys again.

Loose means not fixed in place tightly or firmly when used as an adjective, and to let loose, to free from restraints when used as a verb.

For example:

  • His tooth was loose.
  • She let loose after her last exam.

A good way to remember the difference is that lose has lost an O. Imagine the O dropping out of the word. Another way is that loose is spelled like loo. Imagine sitting on a loo that is not firmly fixed to the wall. It wobbles all over the place, and then you fall off. Strong mental images like this will really help you to remember the difference.

Out of the two words, lose is the most common.

Should I use a loose cannon or a lose cannon?

The correct expression is a loose cannon. These phrases are often confused because they appear similar.

Should I use all hell breaks loose or all hell breaks lose?

The correct expression is all hell breaks loose. These phrases are often confused because they are easy to mistype.

What's the correct phrase, lose your lunch or loose your lunch?

The right expression is lose your lunch. These phrases are often confused because they look similar.

Should it be lose your mind or loose your mind?

The right expression is lose your mind. These phrases are often confused because they look similar.

Some synonyms of loose are: let go of, informal, loose-fitting, weaken.

Some synonyms of lose are: decline, misplace, mislay.

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The definitions in this article were adapted from Wiktionary.

Dictionary Definition of looseDictionary Definition of lose

Examples of loose in a sentence

As he pulled on the window's iron bars to see whether any were loose, Theacute;
- The Paris Option by Robert Ludlum
Wearing it loose is more flattering, but is a pain to deal with.
- Touch of Darkness by C. T. Adams; Cathy Clamp
She couldnt have been happier if Ted Bundy were loose in the Bay.
- Nothing gold can stay by Dana Stabenow
Especially on a lonely street in the middle of a snowstorm with kidnappers still on the loose.
- Mystery Bride by B. J. Daniels
Bond pulled the grille loose from the flex and got-down from the chair.
- Doctor No by Ian Fleming

Examples of lose in a sentence

I'll lose everything this time.
- The heart of Devin MacKade by Nora Roberts
A man can lose a third of his life in sleep.
- Demon Lord of Karanda by David Eddings
Excellent—didn’t lose anyone along the way!
- The Hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff
His hands were numb, and he knew that he could lose his grip at any second.
- Beyond belief by Roy Johansen
But sometimes, you know, when you get too hungry, you lose your appetite;
- Cropper's cabin by Jim Thompson

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