Does anyone have a good way of remembering when to choose lose instead of loose?

I often find myself mistakenly using loose in emails and such when I really mean lose (which, in my mind, should be pronounced loss).

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    clarification: by "should be pronounced loss" do you mean "should rhyme with dose" or "should rhyme with boss"? Wouldn't a purely rule-based phonetic expectation for a word spelled lose be to rhyme with dose? – nohat Jun 14 '11 at 20:15
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    @jp2c Great question! What the world really needs is a Mnemonic for "brought/bought." I am physically ill when people accidentally use "bought" when they mean "brought"! :) – Fattie Jun 14 '11 at 20:30
  • @nohat: No, I mean that every time I encounter the word lose, I say loss in my mind. Lose should have the same mnemonic as close whereas loose should rhyme with Jews (no religious offenses intended). – jp2code Jun 14 '11 at 21:27
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    Your mind is pronouncing lose the wrong way. Lose rhymes with clues, not with close. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jun 14 '11 at 22:38
  • Yes, I just need a good way to remember that when it comes to my emails. :) – jp2code Jun 15 '11 at 13:18

One suggestion for remembering lose is to pronounce the word out loud:

If it has a voiced Z sound, then it’s “lose.” If it has a hissy S sound, then it’s “loose.”

Of course, this might not help if you think of loss when you see lose.

Some other suggestions for remembering lose rely on spelling:

One way to remember the difference between the two words is to think that "lose has lost an 'o'".

or further mnemonics and a lose-loose quiz here:

Loose with its two "o's" should remind you that there is too much space so something is "loose" as in a pair of loose (or roomy) pants.

I agree with @kiamlaluno, though: You hardly ever want to use "loose" as a verb in modern writing. If you intentionally use "loose," it's usually as an adjective: "My shoelace is coming untied; it's loose." If you can remember to check whether you're trying to use the word as a verb, that's probably easier than any of these mnemonics.

  • I agree that it's rare to see it as a verb, but it is valid in that form: "to loose" is synonymous with "to release" or "to let loose". It was common in archery before powder weapons were developed; "firing" an arrow wouldn't make sense until you'd become used to "firing" a firearm. – KeithS Jun 14 '11 at 21:26

A noose could be loose, I guess. Bonus if you think of "Gallow's Pole". Suggested poem:

"If the noose is loose you win. Otherwise, you lose".

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    Make a mnemonic from it: If your noose is loose, you win; otherwise you lose. – mgkrebbs Jun 15 '11 at 0:53
  • Eh, "the noose is loose" is enough of a mnemonic in this case where you have only a binary choice. But your suggestion is good. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jun 15 '11 at 2:39

As verb, loose means

  • set free, release
  • untie, unfasten
  • relax one's grip

If the verb you are using doesn't have one of those meaning, then you are probably using lose.

I am losing the game. (It's not I am loosing the game.)
I have lost appetite. (It's not I have loosen appetite.)
The ropes were loosed. (Differently, it would mean you had some ropes that you don't find anymore.)

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    The questioner is looking for a fun Mnemonic reminder .. not a definition. – Fattie Jun 14 '11 at 20:29
  • @Joe Blow The OP asked for a way to remember which word to use; he didn't write anything about a fun mnemonic reminder. – kiamlaluno Jun 14 '11 at 21:55
  • @kiamlaluno: Well, it's true the OP didn't specifically ask for fun. But he asked for a mnemonic, and basically just going over the definitions and parts of speech are not likely to be a net gain in ease of remembering. – John Y Jun 14 '11 at 22:14
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    @John Y Actually, the OP asked for an helper. I took he meant a help on remembering when to use loose and lose. – kiamlaluno Jun 14 '11 at 22:36
  • @kiamlaluno: Yes, exactly, and my point is that what you have offered is, in my opinion, not particularly easy to remember for someone who is having trouble with those two words. – John Y Jun 15 '11 at 2:22

Alas, I don't know of any quick mnemonics. I think most people are either just very good at these words, and don't need any special tricks; or they are perennially having trouble.

I assume you know the difference when you hear them, right? So you somehow have to remember that loose both looks like and rhymes with goose, moose, and noose. Interestingly (and unfortunately), I can't think of anything lose both looks like and rhymes with, but probably best is to try to associate it with hose and nose, to at least get the 'z' sound.

Yeah, this isn't really an on-the-spot mnemonic; more of something to just practice and try to train yourself with. Hopefully it's "catchier" than straight-up memorization of the two words, at least.

Hmm... still kind of on the weak side, but does it help to see them both in a single (vaguely plausible) sentence? Like

Make sure to tie it real tight, because if it's loose, you'll lose it.

Um, that's all I got.


loose is loose and hence has two o's.

lose has lost an o and hence is just lose!


Loose has two Os to get lost in, when you Lose an O, the items go.

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