Loose vs. Lose – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ September 2, 2017/ Uncategorized

loose versus lose

What’s the Difference Between Loose and Lose?

These two words look and sound similar. However, their definitions are quite different and can never be interchanged.

Loose can act as a verb, adjective, or adverb. It either means the opposite of tight or to set free.

  • The girl decided to set loose all the kangaroos from the zoo.

Lose is a verb that means to cease to have possession of something, often accidentally.

  • People lose their cell phones every day, which is why it is important to have an app for tracking your phone.

By understanding each word in context, you can avoid the error of confusing one for the other. Now, let’s go over a few ways you can use these words in your sentences.

Using Loose in a Sentence

When to use loose: Loose is an adjective that means not tight or free from attachment. It can also be a verb that means to set free.

For example:

  • Don’t wear loose pants while riding a bike or they might get caught in the gears. (adjective)
  • The chickens got out of their enclosure, so they’re all loose. (adjective)
  • There’s an intruder on our property! Loose the hounds! (verb)

There are many idioms and expressions that use loose, some of which are included below:

  • on the loose: running free
    • Several felons escaped from the prison and are currently on the loose.
  • a loose cannon: a reckless person
    • He doesn’t have the right personality to be a soldier. He’s a loose cannon. We need someone who will always follow orders.
  • to tie up loose ends: to bring closure to a situation
    • I’m almost done with the project. I just have to tie up a few loose ends.
  • loose lips sink ships: rumors can have disastrous consequences
    • Loose lips sink ships. Someone told his wife that he was cheating, so she ended their marriage.
  • to play fast and loose: to act recklessly or carelessly
    • I’m going to close our joint account. I’m sick of you playing fast and loose with our money!

Be careful not to use loose to describe a person because it has a slang definition that means promiscuous. Most people would consider this use of loose in this way to be vulgar and therefore inappropriate for most situations.

Using Lose in a Sentence

When to use lose: Lose is a verb that can mean to become deprived of something or the opposite of win.

For example:

  • She lost her life in a tragic boating accident. (first definition)
  • If we lose at the Superbowl, I’ll lose my bet. (second definition)

There are also many idioms and expressions that use lose, some of which are shown below:

  • to lose one’s head: to become angry or show other strong, negative emotions
    • I’m sorry I started that fight at that bar. I don’t know what happened. I just lost my head.
  • to lose face: to become ashamed
    • I’m sorry I didn’t tell you that I stole that money from you. I didn’t want to lose face in front of all our friends, so I waited until we were alone to tell you.
  • lose touch with reality: to be unable to distinguish real life from fantasy and imagination
    • My parents have completely lost touch with reality. They think that they can leave their house unlocked and no one will ever rob it.
  • no time to lose: a big hurry without a moment to waste
    • Please try to go faster. We’re going to be late. There’s no time to lose!
  • to lose one’s temper: to become angry
    • I know you don’t like spending time with my family, but try not to lose your temper when they say rude things.

One of the earliest definitions of lose was synonymous with to perish.

Remembering Loose vs. Lose

When trying to remember the difference between loose and lose, it may help to think of the spelling for each.

Loose ends with oose, just like the word moose. They also both end in an s sound. A moose is always free to run around wherever it wants. In other words, a moose is always loose. Furthermore, a moose is a wild animal and a person cannot own a moose. Therefore, one can never lose a moose.

Alternatively, you could remember that both lose and whose end in the letters ose and a z sound. If you find something without an owner, like a wallet that has fallen on the sidewalk, you might ask Whose is this? In other words, for the things one person might lose, another might ask whose it is.

Outside Examples

  • The loose collection of favorites includes a tabletop Sol LeWitt sculpture, a set of “Inflammatory Essay” posters by Jenny Holzer, a suite of John Baldessari screenprints, a painting on paper by Ed Ruscha, a few pieces by Robert Heinecken and several by Bas Jan Ader. –LA Times
  • I know tourists feel leery of bringing cash with them, but I’ve traveled all over the world with a sturdy money belt tucked into my undies so, even if it came loose, it wouldn’t fall out, and never had a problem. –OC Register
  • “The first game’s always the toughest,” said Rutter, playing in his fifth tournament of the summer for Rancho, which has yet to lose in 17 games. “If you win, it gives you a little confidence, a momentum boost. –LA Times
  • Once you have chosen an adviser, be sure to stick with him even if he lags the market over a year or two, or even loses money. –USA Today

Quiz: Lose vs. Loose

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either lose or loose, in the correct form.

  • You will ____________ the trust of your friends if you keep lying to them.
  • Be careful. A bunch of animals escaped from the zoo and are on the ___________.
  • ___________ clothes are more comfortable for sleeping.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use loose or lose? Both these words share a similar spelling and a somewhat similar pronunciation. However, there is no overlap in their definitions.

  • Loose describes something that is free or not tight, or the act of setting something free.
  • Lose is about not winning, or it can mean the opposite of find.

Be careful to know which definition is appropriate when each word

Answers from Quiz

  • lose
  • loose
  • Loose