Grammar

Pore or Pour?

Are you about to pore or pour? The two words sound alike, but the spelling is a clue that they’re very different. Here’s how to tell the difference.

Pore or Pour: The English language, bless it, is filled with homophones: those are words sound exactly alike but have different spellings.

I suppose it’s one of the things about the language that keeps us on our toes. But it can also be one of those little annoyances that can turn very embarrassing if you choose the wrong word.

Let’s look at these two!

Pore

Pore can be a noun or a verb.

As a noun, it refers to a small opening, usually in an animal or a plant, and it’s most often used in reference to a person’s skin.

The beauty industry is constantly trying to sell products that promise to clean your pores so your skin looks more youthful.

As a verb, however, it means “to gaze intently; to read or study attentively; or to reflect or meditate steadily.”

The word over is often paired with pore when referring to someone who is studying something closely. A financial analyst could be said to “pore over” data to make sure a company is operating as it should. (It’s probably written a bit more often as “poring over” in this usage, however.)

Pour

Pour is a verb that can mean a rapid, steady flow (usually of some type of liquid) or the act of causing the same.

When it’s a heavy rain, one might say, “It’s pouring outside.” 
When a server is refilling your water glass, you could say, “He’s pouring more water.”

In the first sentence, the rainwater itself is doing the pouring.
In the second sentence, someone is pouring the water into the glass.

Keep in mind that you can use the phrase “pouring over” if one is causing liquid to be flowing on top of something.

So you have to be careful whether you’re thinking about liquid pouring over something or someone poring over something in research. The easiest way to remember the difference is to consider the alternate definition of pore: a small opening. Picture it as a tiny detail, the kind of thing someone poring over something might just be looking for.

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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.