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What’s the difference between lose and loose?

People often mix up lose and loose, and even native speakers find these two words tricky.

The difference is as follows: lose is a verb and loose is an adjective.

Keep reading for a detailed explanation of the difference between lose and loose. Don’t forget to check your knowledge in the free interactive exercises.


Oh no, I’ve lost my keys. What am I going to do?

I was wearing loose trousers and they must have fallen out of my pocket.

I hope I didn’t lose anything else.


Lose is a verb (lose – losing – lost). It rhymes with choose and snooze, but it is spelled with just one o. Lose has a few different meanings:

  • be unable to find someone or something
Don’t lose your keys again!
  • fail to win a game or contest
Manchester City lost the match.
  • have less of something
She has lost 10kg.
  • no longer have or keep something
If they keep behaving this way, they’re going to lose their jobs.


Loose is usually an adjective. It rhymes with goose and moose. We use the adjective loose to describe:

  • something that is not tied up or enclosed
Loose dogs roamed the neighbourhood at night.
  • something that is not firmly in place
The button on her cardigan was loose.
  • items that are not held or tied together, not contained
There is a pile of loose change on the kitchen bench.
  • clothes that don’t fit closely or tightly
He wore tight jeans with a loose shirt.
  • something that is not exact
He gave a loose translation of the Spanish words.

The verb loose (loosing – loosed) is not commonly used. It means set free.

Someone has loosed the foxes.

The sentence Someone has set the foxes free is more typical.

Use loose as an noun in the phrase on the loose meaning escaped, or set free.

Lock up the chickens tonight, there are foxes on the loose again.

See also: Lose/Miss