Flair vs. Flare – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ July 26, 2017/ Uncategorized

flair versus flare

What’s the Difference Between Flair and Flare?

Flair and flare are homophones; they sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. Both words can act as nouns in a sentence, but only flare can function as a verb.

Flair has two main meanings. The first is a natural ability. The second is something that adds style.

  • She had a real flair for poker. She was able to win money easily without any formal training.
  • The restaurant required the servers to add flair to their uniforms through the use of buttons and stickers.

The noun flare is a bright, burning light. It often burns for just a short time and can be a signal that you are lost or in danger. The verb flare is similar. It is the action of the light blazing.

  • After the boat capsized far out at sea, the sole survivor signaled for help with the use of a flare. (noun)
  • The firecracker flared brightly and loudly, scaring everyone. (verb)

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

Let’s look at some of the ways to use these words in English.

Using Flair in a Sentence

When to use flair: Flair can mean either an innate talent or style. When it means an aptitude, it uses the structure subject + conjugated have + a flair for + skilled area.

For example,

  • She never worried about locking herself out of her house or car because she’d always had a flair for picking locks. (innate talent meaning)
  • His apartment looked so empty. He decided to buy a nice rug to give it some flair. (style meaning)

Interestingly, this word’s origins come from the Latin word flairier, which means to reek.

Phrases That Use Flair

There is one main idiom for this word, and several collocations.

  • to have a flair for the dramatic: to be overly emotional about small issues.
    • All her friends were sick of her because she had a flair from the dramatic. No one could stand spending time with her when she was always making a huge deal about every little thing.
  • add flair: put flair someplace it wasn’t before.
    • The couple bought some nice curtains to add flair to their windows.
  • a dash of flair: a little bit of flair
    • The woman added a flower to her hair to give her look a dash of flair.

Using Flare in a Sentence

When to use flare: Flare’s noun form and verb form have the same meaning. They are a bright, burning flame which quickly extinguishes and to burn brightly before quickly extinguishing respectively.

Occasionally, people use flare to describe something that starts suddenly and intensely, such as an old injury that suddenly began causing pain again.

For example,

  • The team of rescuers shot a flare into the sky as a signal to the helicopter when they found the lost and injured campers. (noun)
  • The shooting star flared across the night sky. (verb)
  • The man was limping because his old knee injury had flared up yet again. (pain from an old injury meaning)

Phrases That Use Flare

There are also some common expressions and collocations for flare.

  • flared pants (sometimes simply flares): pants which extend outwards starting at the knee.
    • Flared pants are back in fashion again.
  • solar flare: part of the sun, near a sunspot, burns more powerfully temporarily
    • Scientists claim that solar flares can affect Earth in several ways.
  • nostrils flared: the holes in a nose briefly get bigger, usually out of anger.
    • They could tell he was angry because of the way his nostrils flared.
  • temper flared: to become suddenly angry.
    • The old man’s temper flared whenever he saw someone walking through his lawn. He really hated that, and would immediately yell at the perpetrator.

The examples show that flare can be used literally for actual fire or light, as well as figuratively for an emotion that burns with intensity.

Remembering Flair vs. Flare

There are a few different options to help you remember which spelling goes with which definition.

For flare, you can remember that it most often refers to a flame. Flame and flare have the same spelling except for the r and the m. Alternatively, glare is another word that means a bright light. Glare and flare both end in the letters lare.

For flair, you can think about the word hair. People often style their hair. Flair means style, and hair and flair both end in the letters air.

Outside Examples

  • The movie’s most obvious inspiration is “Shaun of the Dead,” but while writer-director Tudley James has a disarmingly light touch and some stylistic flair, this “Granny” ultimately isn’t clever or funny enough. –LA Times
  • Then again, the music entirely owes its existence to the ’80s. As does Francis’ stretched falsetto and calculated flair. –Chicago Tribune
  • Now, Syndergaard is on the disabled list with a partially torn lat muscle and still a month away from picking up a baseball. Cespedes spent time of his own on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring that still seems to flare up on occasion. –New York Post
  • But in that intense environment with drivers on edge waiting for “the big one” – like Saturday night during the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway – tempers flare, which makes for great eavesdropping on their radio channels. –USA Today

Quiz: Flare vs. Flair

  1. For safety purposes, you should always keep a ___________ on a boat.
  2. Tempers always ____________ during the Thanksgiving holidays, when family members who haven’t seen each other for a year are forced to spend hours upon hours together.
  3. Your outfit is so drab and boring. At least add some colorful shoes for a dash of ______________.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use flair or flare? Both of these words sound the same, but they are never used interchangeably.

  • Flair relates to a natural talent or to fashion.
  • Flare relates to a bright flame or light, or to something that starts suddenly and intensely.

Also, flair is always a noun, and flare can act as either a noun or a verb.


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