Course vs. Coarse – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ July 25, 2017/ Uncategorized

course versus coarse

What’s the Difference Between Course and Coarse?

Course and coarse are homophones; they sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Course most often appears as a noun, but it can also function as a verb. Coarse acts as an adjective.

As a noun, course can mean a route, a part of a meal, or an academic class.

  • The hiking trail was too difficult a course for the average person. (route meaning)
  • The couple enjoyed a four course meal as part of their date. (part of a meal meaning)
  • The art students were required to take a math course, although most didn’t want to do so. (academic class meaning)

The verb course means to flow or to run in a current. In fact, course developed from the Latin word for current.

  • The river coursed down the mountain and to the ocean.

The adjective coarse means rough or crude. It can describe a material such as fabric, or the personality of a person.

  • The sweater was made of wool, and it was very warm. However, the material was coarse and not soft at all. (of a fabric)
  • The sailor cursed and swore at anyone who got in his way, and used coarse language even when he was in a good mood. (or a person)

Although these two words have completely different meanings, people still confuse them often because of their identical pronunciations.

Let’s look at how to use these words in context.

Using Course in a Sentence

When to use course: As a noun, course has three main meanings, each of which can be broken down further into more nuanced meanings.

Definition 1: a route or way to go

When to use it:

  • You can use this to refer to a path or road
  • It can also mean the way that a situation develops, or the passage of time.
  • It also describes a plan to deal with an issue.
  • It is a name for certain sports fields.


  • Wait, this is the wrong direction. We’re way off course.
  • Over the course of two hours, she saw many marvelous things.
  • Because of the high crime in this area, the best course of action is to hire more police officers.
  • He spent the day at the golf course.

Common expressions:

  • course of action: a plan to solve a problem
    • The man had no money, no job, and no food, so his only course of action was to steal.
  • a matter of course
    • Security checks all people entering the airport as a matter of course. It is nothing personal.
  • over the course of (amount of time)
    • Over the course of the next four years, all the university students will develop academically as well as in their personal lives.
  • par for the course: typical or average
    • Don’t worry if you gain weight when you first start college. It’s par for the course, and happens to almost everyone.
  • collision course: a dangerous way to go
    • The reckless boy was on a collision course towards disaster.

Definition 2: a dish served as part of a meal

  • When to use it:
    • Use this if the meal arrives in several parts, which is common at fancy restaurants.
    • Use to describe an appetizer, entree, main course, and dessert.
  • Examples:
    • The restaurant critic didn’t like his appetizers, but he loved the main course.
    • I’m not hungry enough for a four course meal.
  • Common expressions:
    • main course
      • The wedding reception had two options for the main course: fish or chicken.
    • (number) course meal
      • It was a very expensive restaurant, and it only offered six course meals.

Definition 3: A series of lectures in a subject.

  • When to use it:
    • Usually a course describes classes that occur for a set time period, such as a year, semester, or shorter period.
    • It is more common to describe subjects taken at university.
  • Examples:
    • All the emergency responders need to take a refresher course on CPR.
    • I’m majoring in Ecology so all of my courses are related to that field.
  • Common expressions:
    • coursework
      • I thought this would be an easy class but there is a lot of coursework.
    • course schedule
      • The professor designed the course schedule to fit the students’ needs.

There are also a couple idioms with course.

  • of course: certainly
    • Of course we will help you by giving you directions. We’re happy to help!
  • in due course: when the timing is appropriate
    • You are only 12 years old. Of course you can get a job, in due course, but not now.

As you can see, course has a few different usages that might seem intimidating. Luckily, coarse does not have such an expansive definition.

Using Coarse in a Sentence

When to use bare: Coarse is the opposite of fine, so it describes cloth that is made with thick fibers and usually feels scratchy. It can also describe an impolite person with an uncouth manner. Sometimes it describes food ingredients with large particles or grains.

For example,

  • He had no money for beautiful clothes; he could only afford a coarse shirt and some pants.
  • I don’t want to invite her to the wedding. Her coarse manner will offend the older guests.
  • This recipe calls for coarse grained salt.

Although this can describe something tangible as well as abstract, both meanings are similar.

Remembering Course vs. Coarse

When sounding out the word in their head, many people get confused by which spelling to choose. That’s because these words are homophones, and they sound the same.

Given this fact, try to remember the difference with this mnemonic device. The word course has the word our inside it. Roads, meals, and sports are all things we often do together, with our friends. This is our course to our home, this is our course at dinner, and this is our race course.

Additionally, coarse has the word arse inside it. Arse is another word for buttocks. It is often not polite to talk about this topic. In other words, to talk about an arse is coarse.

Outside Examples

  • On a course that had always got the better of him in recent years, in-form English golfer Tommy Fleetwood hit a faultless 5-under 66 to win the French Open by one shot ahead of Peter Uihlein of the United States on Sunday. –USA Today
  • Hours later, at about 5 p.m., Rauner reversed course, issuing the disaster declaration not only for Lake but for Kane and McHenry counties as well. –Chicago Tribune
  • The Long Island native, who said she has dealt with insecurities related to her breasts since she was little, was incensed by the man’s coarse comments but wanted to avoid “going all New Yorker” on him in the presence of her jogging partner, Lilly, her 18-month-old daughter pushed along in a stroller. –New York Daily News
  • Sites here are on coarse beach sand. It can often be foggy, windy and cool, which means you must pack warm layers even in the height of summer. –LA Times

Quiz: Coarse vs. Course

  1. It’s not at all unusual for some people to kiss each other on the cheek as a greeting; in fact, it’s simply a matter of ____________.
  2. These grains of sugar are too fine. I need something that’s a little more ___________.
  3. I need to speak to my father about his bad habit of using _____________ language around my baby. He needs to stop before my baby starts swearing!
  4. I’m so hungry I could eat a five _________ meal!
  5. My coworkers insult me every day. I’m not even surprised by it anymore. It’s just par for the ___________.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use course or coarse? Both of these words sound the same, but they have no overlap in meaning.

  • Course is a passage (either a physical passage or of time), part of a meal, or or a series of academic lectures.
  • Coarse means rough material or a harsh and impolite manner.

Remembering to use coarse for something lacking delicacy or refinement and course for everything else will help you always choose the correct spelling.


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