Lose – Loose – Loosen – fix a common English mistake

Learn the differences in meanings and use of the words lose, loose and loosen with some jokes along the way.

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Lose Lose Loosen Video Script

So what’s the problem?
Oh, Doctor, I’ve lost my memory!
Really? When did this happen?
When did what happen?

These words are easy to muddle up so in this lesson we’re going to sort them out. Let’s start with lose. Lose is a verb. When we lose something, we no longer have it or we can’t find it.

This is the only key we have so don’t lose it.
OK.

Now loose. Loose is an adjective. If something is loose it’s not firmly fixed. It can easily become separated.

I’ve got a loose tooth.

Notice the pronunciation. Lose. Loose. They sound very similar, don’t they, but the final sound is different. Lose ends with a /z/ sound. It’s voiced. /lu:z/ /z/. There’s vibration here. /z/ Loose ends with a /s/ sound. /lu:s/ /s/. It’s unvoiced. /s/. No vibration.
Lose is an irregular verb. Lose lost lost.

What’s the matter?
I’ve lost my passport.
Oh. It’s in your hand.
Oh, thank you.

We can lose physical objects like passports, keys and glasses. And we can lose more abstract things too. See how many lost things you can spot in this conversation.

So tell me. How did your problems start?
Well doctor, I lost my job a couple of years ago.
Uhuh.
So I applied for new jobs and when I went for interviews, they were very stressful. I started to lose my nerve when nobody offered me a job. So then I started to lose heart. I felt terrible. I lost confidence in myself and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I lost touch with a lot of my friends. I think I’m losing my mind doctor. Doctor? Are you listening?
Oh sorry, I’ve lost my pen.

How many expressions did you spot? First there was losing a job.

Well doctor, I lost my job a couple of years ago.
Uhuh.

So when you get let go, fired or made redundant, you lose your job. Another one.

I started to lose my nerve when nobody offered me a job.

If we lose our nerve we become frightened or afraid of doing something. Great. Two more.

So then I started to lose heart. I felt terrible. I lost confidence in myself and I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

If we lose heart we become discouraged and if we lose confidence, we stop believing we can do things well or be successful.

I lost touch with a lot of my friends. I think I’m losing my mind doctor. Doctor, are you listening?

When we lose contact with people we stop communicating with them. And when we lose our mind, we become crazy and insane. Those are just a few things we lose. Can you think of any more? Tell us in the comments.
Now, another word you might confuse with lose is miss. In some languages people say lose in expressions where we’d say miss in English. We’ve made another video about that so if you’re not sure, check it out.
OK, let’s lose lose and look at loose now.

The copier’s not working.
Hmmm. Oh, I think the power chord is loose.
Oh, thank you!
You’re welcome.

Loose means not firmly attached, or not attached at all. If clothes are loose, they don’t fit your body tightly. Loose means free to move around.

Can I help?
Yeah, I’d like a five-pound bag of potatoes.
I’m afraid we don’t sell them in bags. We only sell them loose.
That’s OK.

Loose is an adjective, but we also have a verb: to loosen. It means to make something lose and it’s a regular verb. Loosen, loosened, loosened.

That was a wonderful meal.
I’m so full, I have to loosen my belt.

So loosen means to make loose or to untie. And can also say ‘to set things loose’ – untie them and set them free.
When I take Carter out for a walk I have him on a leash. But when we come home, I set him loose. Free!
So let’s review. There’s loose – an adjective – it means not attached, free to move around.
And then there are two verbs. There’s the irregular verb lose – that means we no longer have something or we can’t find it.
And there’s the regular verb loosen and that means make something loose. Got it?
Have a look at this sentence. Which word should you use here? Let’s see.

What are you looking for?
Oh, I lost the remote.
Ah.

We need lost here – the past form of lose. Great, now another one. What word should you put here? Let’s see.

How was the meeting?
I’m glad it’s over so I can loosen my tie.
It was tough then, eh?
Yeah.

You need the verb loosen here – to make something free to move around and not tight. And one more. What word is missing here? Let’s see.

Shhhh. I don’t want to wake Vicki. Who’s that? It’s only me. It was a loose floorboard

Did you get it? You need the adjective loose here. Great! So now you know how to use these words in English.
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One thought on “Lose – Loose – Loosen – fix a common English mistake

  • January 7, 2017 at 5:50 pm
    Permalink

    I’m lose weight . It not easily become separate. It is correct or no?

    Reply

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