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Lose vs. Loose vs. Loosen (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use lose vs. loose vs. loosen with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

When dealing with grammar (and spelling) it's easy to lose yourself in the similarities between several words. However, if you loosen your interpretations too much, you end up losing the meanings you mean for others you've loosed upon the world.

(Click here to learn the difference between same and similar.)

So, to avoid further confusion, let's look at lose, loose, and loosen.

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Lose vs. Loose vs. Loosen

Lose is a verb means that to cease to own or retain something and/or being unable to find something. I lose my socks when I can't find them in the morning, but I also lose my way when my sense of direction gets knocked out of balance.

Loose can be used as an adjective or verb. As a verb, loose means to set free or release something or someone. As an adjective, loose describes something that is not firmly or tightly fixed in place. A person could loose a bird into the wild after helping rehabilitate an injured limb. A person could also tighten a loose nut on a bike to avoid losing a wheel.

Loosen is a verb that means to make less tight. A person could loosen a tie or a handshake, but they don't release it completely.

Make sense?

Here are a few examples:

Correct: Whenever I do the laundry, it feels like I lose a sock.
Incorrect: Whenever I do the laundry, it feels like I loose a sock.
Also incorrect: Whenever I do the laundry, it feels like I loosen a sock.

Correct: Tighten the screw when the knob gets loose.
Incorrect: Tighten the screw when the knob gets lose.
Also incorrect: Tighten the screw when the knob gets loosen.

Correct: When everyone leaves, you can loosen your tie.
Incorrect (except when it's correct): When everyone leaves, you can lose your tie.
Also incorrect: When everyone leaves, you can loose your tie.

Be careful not to loosen your grip or you may loose that which you hold and lose it forever. Or you may find setting something free is the best way to keep it close.

Learn more in the online course, Grammar and Mechanics, from Writer’s Digest University:

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