English contains many homophones, that is to say, many words which sound alike when spoken, but retain different meanings. Course and coarse are two such words. Not only do they mean different things, but they are also different parts of speech. One of these words functions as an adjective, and the other can function either as a noun or a verb. Continue reading to discover the difference between these two homophones, and whether you should choose course or coarse, depending on how you’re using it in a sentence.
The word coarse originated from Middle English: from Old French cours, from Latin cursus, from curs- ‘run’, from the verb currere. The word coarse originated from late Middle English (in the sense ‘ordinary or inferior’): origin uncertain; until the 17th century identical in spelling with course, and possibly derived from the latter in the sense ‘ordinary manner’.
Course as noun:
The word coarse is used as noun which means the route or direction followed by a ship, aircraft, road, or river.
The road adopts a tortuous course along the coast.
Course is also a dish, or a set of dishes served together, forming one of the successive parts of a meal.
Guests are offered a choice of main course.
A series of lectures or lessons in a particular subject, leading to an examination or qualification is also called a course.
A business studies course.
Course as verb:
Course is also used as a verb which means to move without obstruction; flow.
Tears were coursing down her cheeks.
Coarse as adjective:
Coarse is used as an adjective which means rough or harsh in texture.
A coarse woolen cloth.
Coarse also refers to a person’s rude or vulgar manners.
A man of coarse speech.
Based on the study of the use of coarse language by Canadian fishermen, Menzie (1991) concluded that coarse language can reinforce a culture of gender inequality. [Handbook of Gender Research in Psychology, Joan C. Chrisler, Donald R. McCreary]
Double the size of fine or medium, and you’ve got coarse bulgur, which has an accordingly more substantial flavor and texture. [Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook, Miriam Backes]
Many of Man Ray’s pictures of women have become archetypes of a certain kind of photographer’s gaze ever since: voyeuristic without being too cruel, randy without being coarse. [Financial Times]
To maintain a straight course and good stroke mechanics, you must remain mentally alert hour after hour. [Open Water Swimming, Steven Munatones]
In the syllabus for an Applied Mathematics course, students are told to write their problem sets individually. [Boston Globe]
In the veins of turtles coursed a sweet lassi that had to be drunk as soon as it spurted from their necks, because it coagulated in less than a minute. [Life of Pi, Yann Martel]
Course or coarse;
These two words not only have different meanings, but they also have different functions in the sentence. Course can be a noun, where it can refer to several concepts, or a verb, where it means to pulse or flow rapidly. Coarse is an adjective that means rough or loosely arranged. Since coarse and adjective both contain the letter A, it should be easy to reserve this word for uses where it describes a condition of a noun. If you’re using the word as a noun or a verb, choose course instead.
If you still have trouble remembering when to use these words, check this article for a quick refresher.