Have you ever read or used the phrase “to hone in on”? We’re guessing that many of you have. After all, it’s a common phrase that people use to say that they’re converging on something.
What if we told you, though, that “to hone in on” isn’t quite right and that, instead, “to home in on” (with an “m”) is? We might seem crazy, right? How could “to hone in on” possibly be wrong when we hear people say it and see people write it all the time? You can even find it in news articles written by major media outlets like The Globe and Mail and the LA Times.
Well, this is one of those situations where you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet. (It’s also the part where you hear your high school teacher’s voice saying “I told you so!”)
To help you sort out the difference between these troublesome terms, we’re going to use this post to talk about the difference between “to hone” vs. “to home.”
Let’s start off with “to hone” because “hone” is the word that you’re probably more familiar with. “Hone” means “to sharpen” and we use it in sentences like these:
- “Angelo took the course to hone his skills in digital marketing.”
- “The intensive program allows dancers to hone their ballet skills.”
- “Hone your French skills by signing up for our advanced French language workshop.”
We’re betting that many of you have used “hone” in this way before, so it may make perfect sense that “hone” fits into sentences like these.
But now let’s think back to the phrase “to hone in on.” We know that “hone” means “sharpen,” so let’s see what we end up with if we take this phrase and replace “hone” with “sharpen”: “to hone in on” becomes “to sharpen in on.”
It doesn’t make sense, does it? That’s how you know that “to hone in on” doesn’t work as a phrase.
On the other hand, “to home in on” means “to converge on” or “to move directly toward.” We use it in sentences like these:
- “Mara homed in on the cause of the fire.”
- “The missile homed in on the target.”
- “We’re homing in on a solution.”
In each of these cases, we’re talking about getting closer to a physical object or an idea. Although you may have never used the word “home” or “homed” like this before, there’s a good chance that you’ve used the phrase before, just incorrectly. Now that you know the difference between “to hone” and “to home,” you’ll be able to use “to home in on” correctly.
It may seem a bit odd to use “home” as a verb, but you probably use a phrase that it belongs in all the time. Although many people and even some major online media outlets use the phrase “to hone in on,” the correct version of this phrase is “to home in on.”
It’s a small change – just one letter – but this one letter makes all the difference. Whereas “to hone” means “to sharpen,” “to home in” means “to converge on or move toward.” After all, you can sharpen a skill, but you can’t necessarily move toward it. And you can get closer to identifying the cause of a fire, but you can’t really sharpen it.
Want to know the difference between other commonly misused words? Check out our post on the difference between “awhile” and “a while.”
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