Grammar: Lose or Loose?

Lesson 22: Lose or Loose?


Lose or loose?

A giraffe gets loose on the racetrack. Just another day at the races…

Even though the two words are pronounced a little differently, many people confuse lose and loose. (The s in lose is pronounced like a z). Let's explore how they differ...

Forms of “lose”

To lose is a verb, or an action. It means not being able to find something.

  • Example: I don't want to lose my expensive necklace on vacation.

Let’s talk about other forms of the word. If you’re describing a person, for example, who lost a race, then they’re the loser.

  • Example: My friend is a sore loser; she doesn’t like coming in second place. 

If you’re speaking about something that happened in the past, then lose becomes lost.

  • Example 1: Oh no, I lost my keys!
  • Example 2: I’m lost. Could you give me directions?

While you usually lose an object, you can also “lose your way”–as shown in the last example.

How “loose” differs

Loose is an adjective, so it's used to describe something. It means not tight or firm, and it can be used literally or figuratively.

  • Example 1: The harness was so loose that my dog slipped out of it. (literal)
  • Example 2: He’s a bit of a loose cannon; in other words, he’ll explode and get angry at random times! (figurative)

Loosely is an adverb (which describes an action). It can also be literal or figurative. As a side note, lose cannot be an adverb, with an -ly on the end. 

  • Example 1: The ribbons were loosely tied together. (literal)
  • Example 2: These two topics are loosely related. (figurative)