Course vs. Coarse: What’s the Difference?

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.

What is the Difference Between Course and Coarse?

In this article, I will compare course vs. coarse. I will use each of them in a sentence to illustrate their proper use, and, at the end, I will reveal a helpful mnemonic that should help you decide whether to use coarse or course in your writing.

When to Use Course

course versus coarse What does course mean? Course can fill many roles in a sentence. It can be a noun, or a verb.

As a noun, it has many senses. A course can be an element of a meal, or a track or predetermined route, or a venue for various sports and games, or a series of lectures on an academic subject.

For example,

  • Darby sat down with his wife to eat a wonderful three-course dinner.
  • The racecourse was full of twists and turns.
  • Alcoholic beverages are prohibited on the golf course.
  • Kluger approached Ms. Banks with the idea of teaching a short course after seeing her speak at a recent Stanford event. –The Wall Street Journal

As a verb, it means to flow quickly. It is usually used with liquid substances, like blood and water. Here are some examples:

  • The rivers coursed through the canyon after the heavy rains.
  • Blood coursed through Aimee’s veins as she ran the half marathon.

When to Use Coarse

Definition of coarse definition and definition of course definitionWhat does coarse mean? Coarse is an adjective that means rough, thick and sparse, especially with regard to fabric, fur, or hair.

The fibers of burlap are very coarse, as is a horse’s fur, and the grain of some wood species.

For example,

  • Esmerelda ran her fingers through Antonio’s coarse hair.
  • With his latest recipe, Lopez-Alt takes aim at barbecue brisket, particularly the Central Texas version rubbed with salt and coarse pepper, then smoked for hours over hardwood coals until tender. –The Washington Post

Coarse is sometimes used to describe a person or behavior that is rude, crude, or socially unacceptable. Here are some examples:

  • The man’s coarse jokes did not endear him to the women at the bar.
  • The politician was too coarse in his treatment of military families, and faced massive public disapproval.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define coarse and define courseHere is a helpful trick for remembering coarse vs. course.

Course can be a verb or a noun. Coarse, however, is only ever used as an adjective. It should be easy to remember this since coarse and adjective both contain the letter A.

Summary

Is it 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.