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Berth vs. Birth (Grammar Rules)

This post looks at the differences between berth and birth with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Berth and birth are homophones that have very different meanings. One word is most closely tied to creation, while the other has to do with transportation, sleeping, and providing plenty of space.

(Common Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them.)

So let's look at the differences between berth and birth and when to use each.

Berth vs. Birth (Grammar Rules)

Berth vs. Birth

Berth can be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, berth refers to a safe distance (usually for moving ships); the place where a ship is anchored; a space for a stationary automobile; a place to sleep (especially on a ship, train, or other vehicle); and/or a job or position. As a verb, it means to bring into, allot, or come into a berth.

(How to Write a Travel Memoir.)

Birth can also be used as a noun or verb. As a noun, birth refers to either the act of being born (or created) or a state resulting from being born (for instance, I'm a Buckeye by birth, because I was born in Ohio). As a verb, birth means to bring forth, whether that's a child, an idea, or a book.

Make sense?

Here are a couple examples of berth and birth:

Correct: Since he was muddy, she gave a wide berth as she passed around him.
Incorrect: Since he was muddy, she gave a wide birth as she passed around him.

Correct: She's been an amiable person since birth.
Incorrect: She's been an amiable person since berth.

This might not be the best way to remember these terms, but this is my trick. I take the "i" from "birth" to think of how I personally have a birthday and/or I might create something. Then, I connect the "e" in "berth" with the double "e" in "sleep" and the "e" in "rest" and "wide" (since many people use the phrase "wide berth" to indicate giving plenty of space). If you have other tricks, feel encouraged to share below.

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