Flew, Flu or Flue?

This week’s grammar tip will help decide the right choice of flew, flu or flue. They’re pronounced the same way and each has a different meaning.

When you are writing a sentence that will include either flew, flu or flue, you’re quickly reminded of how quirky our language can be. Each word sounds the same.

But each word has its own distinct meaning and you’ll look foolish if you choose the wrong one. So let’s take a look at each of the three.


Flew is a form of the verb fly. Fly is an irregular verb in that it takes on unusual forms in past and past participle tenses. The past tense of fly is flew:

Jon is going to fly to Geneva tomorrow.

Jon flew to Geneva Monday morning.

The past participle of fly is flown:

Jon has flown overseas several times this year.


Flu is a shortened form of influenza. Influenza or “the flu” is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system. You develop symptoms that include a stuffy nose, sore throat, congestion in your chest and fever. Some also have muscle cramps and generally feel under the weather.

Some people refer to having “the flu” when they really have a bad cold and not necessarily an infection from the influenza virus.

There’s an alternate use of flu that refers to a very different illness: the “stomach flu” is caused by different viruses and can involve diahrrhea, vomiting or both.

You don’t want either version of the flu.


Of the three words, this is probably the one you’d use least often.

In the old days, a flue referred to “a small chimney in a furnace connected to the main chimney.” But more recently, it refers to a valve that allows fumes and smoke to escape a chimney to the outside air.

An old sketch on The Andy Griffith Show featured comedian Don Rickles as a man who couldn’t quite find his unique talent. He winds up a prisoner in the Mayberry jail after selling cheap goods to the wrong person — namely the character of Deputy Barney Fife, portrayed by Don Knotts. At one point in the episode, Fife has Rickles’ character cleaning the furnace in the basement of the jail. When he lights the furnace, Sheriff Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) yells down through an air vent to make sure the flue is open.

Before the sheriff can explain what a flue is, thick black smoke and soot begins emanating from the vent.

So now you know the difference between flew, flu and flue.

Which sound-alike or look-alike words trip you up most often?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.