Loose or Lose? They Aren’t Interchangeable!

You must make sure you’re choosing correctly between loose or lose because the two words, while similar in appearance, aren’t interchangeable.

Sometimes in grammar, it’s the little things that can be the most annoying. Such is the case when it’s time to pick loose or lose.

They’re pronounced differently and have different meanings, but they look so close that sometimes people might lose sight of the difference that extra O can make. (See what I did there?)

So let’s look at them one by one.


Loose can be an adjective or a verb. As an adjective, it means something that is not tight or not strongly held. As a verb, it means to release or untighten something.

A child can have a loose tooth as baby teeth prepare to fall out.
Someone who has shed some unwanted weight can find, quite happily, that their clothes now hang loose rather than snug.
A police officer may loosen handcuffs that are a bit too tight.

The adverb form is loosely: Someone who has lost weight can find that their clothes now hang loosely on their body.

The word dates back to the early 13th century.


Lose, on the other hand, means failing to win or misplacing or intentionally abandoning something.

A contestant can lose the jackpot on a game show by providing a wrong answer.
A busy executive can lose track of time.
A disorganized person might lose his keys.
A teacher might tell a back-talking student to lose the attitude.

This word also dates back to the early 13th century.

The past tense of lose is lost, and it’s that single letter difference that might be your best bet at remembering whether you should use loose or lose. Another way might be to just associate the word loser, which most would recognize as refering to someone who doesn’t win.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 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.