Home in or Hone in?

Q: My niece is always misusing the word “hone” when she should be using “home.” I know the difference, but have a tough time explaining it to her. Can you explain this rule for us? —Carol M.

No problem at all, Carol. This is a mistake people make all the time. Often people misuse the word “hone” by placing it in sentences where it doesn’t belong, but it’s a simple confusion that can be cleared up by understanding its definition.

The verb “hone” means “to sharpen or make more acute,” as in honing a talent. Alfred honed his negotiation skills to buy a new car at a very reasonable price. I hone my abs by doing 100 sit-ups a day.Generally, people drop it into sentences where they should use “home.”

In verb form, “home” (as in “to home in on”) means “to move or be aimed toward a destination or target with great accuracy.” Missiles home in on targets. The leftfielder homed in on the fly ball. “Forget about the abs!” I said as I homed in on a mouth-watering candy bar.

As a simple rule of thumb, if you write the sentence and need the phrase “in on” after the verb, it’s most likely “home.” If not, you probably need to use “hone.”

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6 thoughts on “Home in or Hone in?

  1. David Bourne

    You don’t seem to realize that “home in” and “hone in” do not mean the same thing. They have similar but distinct meanings. “Home in” means to get closer to like a missile homing in on its target, while “hone in” means to pay close attention to, or listen to, or concentrate on something. Trying to group the two sayings together as one and decide which one is “correct” is pointless and unnecessary.

  2. Melanie

    I could be wrong but I always considered to hone a verb, an action sharpen. : ; watch me as I hone my skills (well, I do hope I will hone my skills..).

    To home in on something brings to my mind the bee homing in on his beehive, smelling around for the way home.

    I will be following you Mr. Brian, you have a lot of information I need to brush up on!