Loose vs. Lose | Meaning, Definition & Examples

Loose and lose are pronounced differently and typically have different grammatical roles.

  • Loose (double “o”; pronounced [loo-s]) is an adjective or adverb meaning “not secure” or “not tight.” It can also be used as a verb to mean “release.”
  • Lose (one “o”; pronounced [loo-z]) is a verb that can be used to mean “misplace” or “suffer a loss.”
Examples: Loose in a sentence Examples: Lose in a sentence
I need to fix the door because the handle is loose. If we lose again, our team will be out of the league.
Myles likes his new jeans, even though they are a little loose. Make sure you don’t lose your house keys.

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Loose as an adjective

Loose, as an adjective, has multiple related meanings. It often functions as the opposite of “tight.”

Meaning Example
Not securely attached/not tight-fitting The floorboards are coming loose.

Peter’s belt is loose.

Free from a state of confinement, restraint, or possession When she arrived at the park, Amanda found a loose dog without an owner.
Not held together Kay has read the book so often that the pages are loose.
Not solid/not compact It was easy to plant the tree because the soil was loose.
Lacking in precision I can’t read the note because the penmanship is loose.
Lacking in control or restraint (sometimes moral restraint) He is a loose man with a loose tongue.
Flexible or relaxed Joe doesn’t like to worry; he prefers to stay loose.

Loose as a verb

Loose, as a verb, refers to the act of making something less tight or rigid. It can also be used as part of the expression “let loose” to refer to the act of freeing something from restraint.

Examples: Loose as a verb
To loose a knot means to untie it.

Don’t let your dog loose in the street.

Loose is quite rare as a verb. In most contexts where a verb is needed, lose is the right choice.

More uses of loose

Loose is also used as an adjective or adverb in a range of expressions.

Expression Meaning
All hell breaks loose in the streets when a city-wide power outage occurs. Chaos ensues
Luckily, I had loose change for the parking meter. Coins of little monetary value
I wouldn’t confide in Ellie if I were you; she’s quite loose-lipped. Unable to keep a secret/be discreet
We didn’t invite Scott to the party because he’s a loose cannon. An irrational or impulsive person
When my dog gets excited, he acts like he has a screw loose. Is mentally unsound

Lose is a verb

Lose is a verb that can be used to mean “misplace” or to refer to a failure to maintain something.

Examples: Lose to mean fail to keep
Don’t lose your phone, or you won’t be able to call a taxi.

Dee tried not to lose sight of her goal.

Unless the prime minister keeps her promises, she is sure to lose votes in the next election.

Lose can be used to mean “suffer a loss.” In the context of a game, it’s the opposite of “win.”

Examples: Lose to mean suffer a loss
Without their star quarterback, the team will undoubtedly lose.

It’s not easy to lose a loved one, especially when they die suddenly.

Keep your arms and legs inside the roller-coaster cart or you’ll lose a limb.

Lose can also be used to refer to the act of getting rid of something (whether deliberately or not).

Examples: Lose to mean get rid of
Anthony wanted to lose weight in a healthy manner.

I don’t like the hat—lose it!

Expression Meaning
You’ll lose face if Mark finds out you’ve been dishonest. Lose another person’s respect
Ava didn’t lose heart when she came last in the talent show. Become discouraged
Ken said he would lose respect for me if I didn’t vote in the election. Respect another person less than one previously did
Sheila said she wouldn’t lose sleep over the customer’s complaints. Worry excessively about
It’s understandable to lose your nerve when you have to give a speech in front of a large group. Become afraid
Try to remain calm and not lose your temper. Become angry
Yasmin will lose her mind when she finds out that you lost her pet cat. Act in an irrational or unbalanced manner

Looser or loser

Loser is a noun used to describe a person who loses a game or competition. It’s the opposite of “winner.” It can also be used in informal contexts as an insult. Looser, meanwhile, is a comparative adjective meaning “more loose.”

Example: Loser in a sentence
Michael might be a loser, but he is a gracious loser.

Worksheet: Loose vs. lose

You can test your knowledge of the difference between “loose” and “lose” with the worksheet below. Fill in either “loose” or “lose” in each sentence.

  1. Allie couldn’t run fast because her sneakers were ______.
  2. When the school bell rang, the children were let ______.
  3. It’s easy to ______ something as small as an earring.
  4. Amara said she wouldn’t ______ sleep over the job application.
  5. Diego didn’t want to ______ the ______ change in his pocket, so he put it in his wallet.
  1. Allie couldn’t run fast because her sneakers were loose.
    • “Loose” is used here as an adjective meaning “not tight.”
  1. When the school bell rang, the children were let loose.
    • “Loose” is used here as part of the idiom “let loose,” meaning “let free.”
  1. It’s easy to lose something as small as an earring.
    • The verb “lose” is used here to mean “misplace.”
  1. Amara said she wouldn’t lose sleep over the job application.
    • In this instance, “lose” is used to complete the expression “lose sleep over.” The expression is used to indicate a lack of care about a specific topic.
  1. Diego didn’t want to lose the loose change in his pocket, so he put it in his wallet.
    • In the first instance, the verb “lose” meaning “misplace” is correct. In the second instance, the adjective “loose” is used to complete the noun phrase “loose change” meaning “coins of little monetary value.”

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    Eoghan Ryan

    Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.