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Please present your next idea.

Did you buy her a present?

No vacancies at present.

Do all the bold words have the same spelling, yet all of them have different meanings based on the context?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted


Note that the word has a different pronunciation in the first sentence [prəˈzɛnt] compared to the other two [ˈprɛ zənt].

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They are homographs -- different words that share the same spelling. Your first two examples

Please present your next idea.

Did you buy her a present.

are closely related. The present that you give is something you present to someone else. The noun is derived from the verb, and probably would have been presentation if there were any grammar police around at the time to control things.

The third is related to time, and unrelated to the others except by spelling and pronunciation. That word is a troublesome one, since it means "the current moment" in its noun form and "the immediate future" in its adverb form, presently. It is often misused in that form in the place of currently, so much so that it is more prevalent these days. That's not such a problem in the current corpus of literature, but it does make reading older texts (where "I will do that presently" means "it's on my to-do list") more difficult.

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Yes, they all have the same spelling, but not the same pronunciation. You could also include other examples such as:

I wasn't present when the vote took place.

We are trying to build not only for the present, but for the future.

The present manuscript is not good enough.

Before popping the question, I presented her with flowers.

The policeman asked me to present a proof of my identity.

I convinced him easily, he presented little resistance.

The opportunity presented itself, and I jumped on it.

He presented with fever and was quickly treated by his doctor.

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Thanks for these examples but you should probably have added pronunciation information as well as context. – ogerard Apr 13 '11 at 14:47

Also, in using the word to present someone with something (for instance), the difference in pronunciation makes it simply a homograph along side the other uses, while the the others are homophones as they are both spelled and pronounced alike.

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