Sole vs. Soul – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 31, 2017/ Uncategorized

sole versus soul

What is the Difference Between Sole and Soul?

Sole and soul are a pair of English homophones, which means the two words have the same pronunciation but different meanings. Therefore, in writing you cannot interchange the two words.

Sole has two main meanings. The first meaning is as an adjective that means one or singular. The second meaning is as a noun that means the bottom part of a shoe.

  • I am the sole woman in the engineering class, and my brother is the sole man in the nursing class. (adjective)
  • The soles of my shoes are completely worn out. (noun)

Soul also has two meanings. Soul’s first meaning is as a noun that means a person’s spirit or the non-physical aspects that make up a person. The second meaning of soul relates to African American culture. For this meaning, it can act as either an adjective or noun.

  • Harlem has some great soul food. (adjective)
  • Her body has died, and her soul has departed. (noun)

Now, let’s look at the specific ways to use these words, as well as how to avoid common mistakes.

Using Sole in a Sentence

When to use sole: Sole is an adjective that describes something that is singular as opposed to plural. It can also be a noun for a part of a shoe.

For example,

  • Her love for her dog is the sole thing keeping her from succumbing to depression.
  • The shoes are in great condition on the top, but the soles are completely destroyed.

People often use sole when referring to a single purpose that someone has, or to emphasize that a person or thing is the only one within a category.

Using Soul in a Sentence

When to use soul: Soul often has a religious connotation as it means the part of the body that goes to heaven after death for some religions such as Christianity.

However, people who are not spiritual may also use this word. For non-religious use, it can simply mean a person’s life force or essence. It can also act as an adjective to describe things coming from African American culture, especially food.

For example,

  • She has a gruff manner but a very kind soul.
  • A lot of soul food comes from the South, including collard greens and fried okra.

There are several idioms and expressions that use soul:

  • to bare one’s soul/to pour out one’s soul: to share very personal information with someone
    • I thought he had no feelings, but he bared his soul to me last night. If anything he feels too much!
  • eyes are the windows to the soul: you can judge people’s character or understand their thoughts by looking into their eyes
    • I know she’s never spoken to me, but I know she’s a good person. I looked into her eyes, and eyes are the windows to the soul.
  • lost soul: a sinner
    • The priest told his congregation to help bring lost souls to God.
  • don’t tell a living soul: don’t tell a single person
    • I told you my secret and I don’t want you to tell anyone else. I’m serious! Don’t tell a living soul.
  • brevity is the soul of wit: part of being clever is knowing how to say something quickly and efficiently
    • He thinks he’s so funny and smart, but he never stops talking! He doesn’t understand that brevity is the soul of wit.
  • the soul of discretion: a person who encompasses the essence of being able to keep a secret
    • Don’t worry. You can tell me anything. I’m the soul of discretion.
  • God rest one’s soul: respect towards a deceased person
    • I can’t believe Gary died. I know he drank too much alcohol. I guess it finally caught up to him. God rest his soul.

Remembering Sole vs. Soul

It is possible to use the spelling of these words to remember the meanings.

For example, sole is spelled with sol, like in the word solitary. The word alone also includes an l and an o next to one another. Sole, solitary, and alone all have similar meanings of being singular.

Also, because a sole is also a part of a shoe, remember that soles often develop holes. Both sole and hole end in ole.

Likewise, soul is spelled with oul, like in the word ghoul. A soul, or spirit, is another word for ghost, and ghoul is similar to a ghost.

Outside Examples

  • For after passing the Red Sox and taking sole possession of the division lead for the first time since June 21, having made up a full five games on Boston within nine days off a 7-1 rush that includes five straight victories, the Yankees can dream what would have been deemed the impossible back in April by lining up a starting rotation featuring Gray, Tanaka, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia one-through-four with Jordan Montgomery in the five hole. –New York Post
  • “There has been a lot of frustration I think by this board, from time to time, about the exclusivity and the sole source with Motorola, and you’re [paying], you know, $5,000 for a [portable] radio,” Supervisor Todd Spitzer told a Sheriff’s Department official who oversees the system. –LA Times
  • “He was like a gentle soul, which everybody loved … every keeper that worked with him, he was one of their favorite animals at the zoo,” Comedy said. –USA Today
  • Truly, accepting that a species is on its way out the door is a difficult and harrowing prospect. It hurts my soul. But in the broader battle to protect wildlife, acceptance is the smart move. –Denver Post

Quiz: Soul vs. Sole

Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either soul or sole.

  • He was an introverted person, so it was hard for him to bare his _____________.
  • The atheist didn’t believe that ____________ existed.
  • The opposing team unexpectedly got the soccer ball through the defenders, and then the goalie was the ___________ person between the opposing team and the goal.
  • I keep getting water in my shoe because of the hole in the ____________.

Article Summary

Should I use sole or soul? These two words sound the same, but they have totally different meanings.

  • Sole is an adjective that means only one or a noun that means the bottom part of a shoe.
  • Soul can be a noun that means a person’s spirit or an adjective that describes something relating to African American culture.

Make sure you are aware of this difference when choosing which of these words to use.

Quiz Answers

  • soul
  • souls
  • sole
  • sole