language learning, English language

Wordplay and its role in language learning

Following our post last week on proofreading and editing, in which we demonstrated how a comma could completely turn around the meaning of a sentence, this week eSense Translations would like to share some of our favourite examples of wordplay and look at why they are valuable in our learning of the English language.


There are some strange and baffling grammar rules in our English language, for example inconsistencies in spellings, irregular verbs and many different examples of homophones. These can prove to be stumbling blocks for students learning the language and even those who are native speakers. One great method of learning these different grammar rules and also to enjoy the nuances of the English language is to take part in and share wordplay, also known as logology.


Below are some of eSense Translations favourites. We’d love it if you shared yours too!


What are pronouns?

An English teacher asked a student to name two pronouns.

Child McSass answered, “Who, me?”


The next time you hear someone yell out “What’s the meaning of this?” make sure you answer cleverly. As we all know, the meaning of this is: it’s a pronoun.


Correctly using ‘are’ and ‘be’. Remember our pirate friends at sea!

“The cannons be ready, Captain,” but the captains didn’t approve. Oh no. They regularly corrected their crew by constantly saying “Are.”


Help with sentence construction

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? One has claws at the end of its paws and the other is a pause and the end of a clause.


Pesky commas with dramatic effects

“Stop Clubbing, Baby Seals,” understanding the use of this comma should conjures a mental image of baby seals having a great night out! Now, if the person had written “Stop Clubbing Baby Seals,” well, so many baby seals could’ve been saved.


Or consider this gender conundrum. Is it “A woman, without her man, is nothing” or “A woman: without her, man is nothing”?


Homophones: they all sound the same!

You’re or your?

A great way to help people differentiate between “your welcome” and “you’re welcome” is to hand them a “welcome” each time they write “your.”

Heir or air and thrown or throne?

What’s the difference between the Prince of Wales and a tennis ball? One is heir to the throne and the other is thrown into the air.

Desert or dessert?

Help! I am stranded on a dessert island! (A tasty confusion!)


The origins of these words is a little befuddling!

There’s no pine or apple in a pineapple and no ham in a hamburger!


Examples courtesy of Grammarly and Thoughtco



Most of us enjoy a bit of word play, it forms many of our jokes, puns and double entendres and even overlaps into business when used for advertising and marketing purposes.

A study into word learning in the classroom by Camille L. Z. Blachowicz and Peter Fisher has also demonstrated that word play is a motivating and important part of language learning for students, as it encourages them to reflect on words, their meanings and context and actively search to manipulate them.


Logology can also involve manipulating words to create puzzles and quizzes. Here are a few examples that you are probably familiar with:



The process of rearranging letters to create new words.

e.g. ‘eleven plus two’ can be rearranged into an anagram of ‘twelve plus one’. Interestingly, both add up to the same answer of thirteen


Word Blends

Word blends can be created by merging both the spelling and meaning of two words.

e.g. breakfast and lunch merging to brunch and smoke and fog blending to smog.

Consider modern day version too, including, ‘chillax’ to chill and relax and of course ‘Brexit’, referring to Britain exiting the EU (as if I need to explain!)

And always referred to nowadays in its blended form ‘email’ originally comes from electronic mail and ‘blog’ meaning web log.



Palindromes are words and or sentences that read the same backwards as they do forwards.

Try reversing these:

Are we not drawn onward to new era?

Cigar? Toss it in a can. It is so tragic.

Do geese see God?

Madam in Eden, I’m Adam.


Can you create any of your own?



Wordplay can be simply a fun activity to amuse and interest each other, but it has purposes in other areas too. Making language learning fun with wordplay can greatly assist the studying process. Furthermore, being able to manipulate words in this way can benefit your skills going forward as a creative writer too.


By Lorna Paice

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