Correct English Grammar: Lose or Loose?

There is a lot of confusion between the correct usage of lose and loose and this could be because of the way the words are pronounced, both sounding as though they should contain the ‘oo’ spelling. So let’s start with a look at the way both words should be verbalised.

Pronunciation of Loose vs Lose

Loose

Loose rhymes with goose, moose and noose. If you are familiar with the cliché for Scottish pronunciation (or the Hoots Mon song) then you might remember this little rhyme:

There’s a moose loose aboot this hoose.

Have a look at the following video which puts the rhyme in a catchy tune, although be warned that once this gets into your head, there’s no easy way of getting it out again! (Skip to about 45 seconds for the rhyme).

It’s just a humorous take on the way the Scots pronounce mouse, about and house but it’s also a brilliant way to remember the correct usage of the word loose and the correct way of saying it!
Lose

Lose rhymes with booze, snooze and moos. Again it’s useful if you can make up a nonsensical little ditty to help you remember, such as this one:

Don’t lose your booze to the moos when you snooze.

The sillier the rhyme, the more you stand a chance of remembering it!

Definitions of Lose and Loose

Lose Definition

The correct definition of lose as quoted by the Oxford English Dictionary is this: verb meaning to be deprived of or case to have or retain (something).

  • I might lose my job.
  • If this venture doesn’t work, I will lose all my money.
  • Put your money in your pocket before you lose it.

The past tense of this verb is lost: I have lost my job.

Loose Definition

Loose is an adjective meaning: not firmly or tightly fixed in place; detached or able to be detached.

  • Look at my loose tooth!
  • The dog was loose with the lambs in the field.
  • Too much loose talk will lead to gossip.

The word loose can be used not just to denote something that is not firmly fixed but also an item of clothing that does not fit tightly, such as a loose fitting shirt. It can also mean relaxed or slack as in loose talk or someone with a loose stride.

Just remember that as loose is an adjective it must describe something, such as the way someone walks or talks or wears their clothes as well as specific objects.

Lose is a verb so it’s an action word, something that is done. Therefore if you lose your keys, that is an action taken, even if it’s not deliberate that has resulted in missing keys.
Lose is almost always used to denote something missing whereas loose describes something that is still there.

Hopefully this explanation will help you to understand the different meanings and pronunciation of the two words. Don’t forget that by far the easiest way to remember such difficult grammar rules is to invent a silly rhyming ditty.