Loose or Lose – Which Is Correct?

The words loose or lose are commonly confused, but learning which is correct will help you write stronger.

The words loose and lose have similar spelling, but they are not actually synonyms or homophones. They have different pronunciations and different parts of speech. When you get loose vs. lose mixed up, you look like a poor writer of the English language.

Yet this is also one of the more common mistakes in English writing. So before you write bout that loose tooth or lose tooth, make sure you know which word to use.

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Should You Use Loose Or Lose? Here’s What You Need To Know

Loose or lose – which is correct?
The words loose and lose have different pronunciations and different parts of speech.

So should you be using loose or lose when talking about teeth? Is someone who ends in last place a loser or a looser? The definitions of these words can help you keep them straight.

Definition of Loose as a Noun

The word loose rhymes with the word goose. It is an adjective, which means it describes pronouns and nouns. 

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, loose means “not rigidly fastened or securely attached” or “not tight-fighting.” it can also mean “lacking in restraint or power of restraint” or “not dense, close or compact in structure or arrangement.”

Though there are many specific definitions, the key is that the word loose means to have the freedom to move or to be free from restraint. Here are some example sentences:

  • After the weight loss, her loose clothes became a problem.
  • The loose bolt made the car dangerous to drive.
  • Please check for loose seatbelts before launching the roller coaster.

Definition of Loose as a Verb

Loose can also be a verb that means “to free from restraint” or “to make loose.” Here are some examples of this verb form:

  • Loosen the strap and then step out of the harness.
  • She was loosing the other prisoners’ binds before making her own escape.
  • He loosed his tie and got comfortable on the couch after a long day at the office.

Common Phrases that Use Loose

Several common phrases are used in English that have the word loose as part of them. Some of these include:

  • Loose ends
  • Loose cannon
  • Loose change
  • Loose tooth
  • Loose lips

For each of these, the correct word is loose.

Loose as an Adverb

Finally, loose has another use as an adverb. This is a rare use but still correct. When used in this way, the word means “in a loose manner.

Here are some example sentences:

  • They played loose with the rules until the cops came to call. 
  • Her loose-flowing hair was a distraction.

Definition of Lose

Loose vs lose
Lose means “to miss from one’s position” or “to suffer loss or deprivation”

The word lose is always a verb and it means “to miss from one’s position” or “to suffer loss or deprivation”. When you misplace something, you lose it.

The word lose is pronounced with a z sound, similar to the word snooze. Some examples of the word used in a sentence include:

  • Do not lose your car keys again.
  • If you lose your first love, you may find happiness again, but it may take some time.
  • The team will lose the game if they do not step up to the plate.

This is an irregular verb that is conjugated as follows:

  • Lose
  • Losing
  • Lost
  • Have lost

How to Choose the Right Word 

So how can you choose the right word between loose and lose? If the word is an adjective or adverb, the correct spelling is always loose.

If the word is a verb, you have to think a little more closely. If it means to untie or unbind, you would use loose. If it means to misplace or not win, you would use lose. 

A Final Word on Loose or Lose

Nothing can bring out the “grammar police” quite as quickly as adding an o to the word when you actually mean lose. To avoid embarrassment and show your grammar skills, make sure you know how to use them correctly.

Remember, lose has “lost” the extra o. Thus, the meaning of the word lose is to misplace something. It can also mean the opposite of winning.

Otherwise, the spelling is loose. Keeping the two words straight really is that simple.

FAQs on Loose or Lose

Is it loose or lose?

These commonly confused words in the English language can be tricky to keep straight, but they do have different meanings. If you are making something less tight or constrained, use the word loose. If you are misplacing something or failing to win a game, use lose.

What Is The Difference Between Loose, Lose And Lost?

Loose means to make something less tight, and it can also be an adjective or adverb that indicates an item that is free of constraints. Lose means to misplace. Lost is the past-tense form of the verb lose.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.