Pray vs. Prey – How to Use Each Correctly
What is the Difference Between Pray and Prey?
Pray and prey are two English homophones. This means that the words have the same pronunciation but different definitions and spellings. Because their definitions are completely unrelated, the two words are never interchangeable.
Pray is a verb related to praising or petitioning a god.
- Devout believers pray for salvation every night.
Prey can act as either a noun or a verb that relates to a predator hunting another animal to eat.
- Predators such as lions prey on the weakest animals, such as the very old, young, or sick.
Now, let’s go over the specific ways each of these words are used.
Using Pray in a Sentence
When to use pray: Pray acts as a verb that means giving praise to or communicating with one’s God or gods.
- The church congregation prays together at every Sunday service.
- Many people pray before going to bed and give thanks for the good things that they have, and ask for help with their struggles.
The praying mantis’s name is so spelling. It is not the preying mantis.
There are a few expressions that use pray:
- pray tell: please tell
- I see you are running against me for city council. What, pray tell, makes you think you’re a better candidate than me?
- pray over: to pray about something
- I’m not sure whether or not I should accept this new job. I’m going to pray over it tonight and make my decision tomorrow.
- I pray: I hope
- I pray it doesn’t rain tomorrow!
The last expression above shows that pray can be literal or figurative.
Using Prey in a Sentence
When to use prey: Prey can be either a verb or a noun.
As a verb, it means to hunt something. It usually refers to one animal hunting another for food. However, it can also refer to one or more people taking advantage of others who are weaker than them.
As a noun, it means an animal that gets eaten by other animals or a human who is a victim.
- Wolves prey on sheep. (verb)
- The bully considers the nerds to be her prey. (noun)
There are a couple of expressions that use prey:
- to fall prey to: to become the victim of
- The mother didn’t want her daughter to study abroad. She worried that her daughter would fall prey to pickpockets and other dangerous criminals.
- to prey on one’s mind: to bother or worry someone
- Our fight has been preying on my mind, and I realize I need to apologize for my poor behavior.
The most common collocation involving prey as a verb is prey on.
Remembering Pray vs. Prey
One way to remember the difference between these two words is to look at the spelling of each.
Pray ends with the letters ay, just like the word say. To pray to a god is similar to saying things to a god.
Likewise, prey begins with the letters pre just like the word predator. Predators prey on other animals.
- I petition God for my family and friends, asking for good health, prosperity and wisdom. I pray that the light of love will shine into dark hearts. –Wall Street Journal
- “I firmly believe God chose me to help bring two races together under one last name, Tomlinson,” the longtime San Diego Chargers running back said. “I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow.” –USA Today
- Typical pyramid scheme organizations in China prey on vulnerable or poorly-educated victims by luring them with the promise of well-paid jobs. –New York Daily News
- Berg would agree, advising BloKtek Capital clients to “set it and forget it” and not fall prey to the temptation to make short-term transactions. –New York Times
Quiz: Prey vs. Pray
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either prey or pray, in the correct form.
- Once you’ve run out of actions to take to fix your problem, all that’s left to do is to _____________.
- Who, _________ tell, is knocking on my door at this hour?
- The hyena spots its ______________ at the watering hole.
- The serial killer felt the urge to murder again, and began his search for his _________.
Should I use pray or prey? These two homophones sound the same when spoken, but they are never interchangeable.
- Pray is a verb related to communication with one’s God.
- Prey can be either a noun or a verb related to predation.
Using the information above can help to ensure that you don’t mix up these two different words.