Sole vs. Soul: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever wondered whether someone was referring to the spiritual essence of your being, or the bottom of your foot?

If you were confused, the reason is that the words for these two concepts are homophones—they sound the same even though they mean different things. You could probably tell from the context of the conversation what the person meant, even if you couldn’t see that these words are spelled differently.

What is the Difference Between Sole and Soul?

In this article, I will compare sole vs. soul. I will use each word in a sentence to illustrate its proper context and use. Then, I will discuss a helpful trick to use if you can’t decide whether you mean sole or soul.

When to Use Sole

sole versus soulWhat does sole mean? Sole can be an adjective, a noun, or a verb.

As an adjective, sole refers to one of something, and no more than one. It is thus a rough synonym for single when used in this sense. See the following sentences for examples.

  • The sole purpose of our secret mission is to gather info.
  • J. is the sole proprietor of this establishment.
  • Total said on Friday it is exercising rights to acquire a 75% share in the Barnett Shale assets to become the sole owner and operator of 215,000 partially developed acres of the field near Fort Worth in North Texas. –The Wall Street Journal

Sole can be used for singular nouns, but for plural nouns, you should use only. The below sentence is an example.

  • These are the only tools that are durable enough for the job.
  • Sam and Anne are the only people I trust with my house key.

As a noun, a sole is the bottom of a foot or shoe. Here are some examples.

  • Dana wore diamonds on the soles of her shoes.
  • The soles of my feet hurt from walking barefoot through hot sand.

Sometimes, sole is a verb. It means to replace the bottom part of a shoe. See the following sentences for an example.

  • I need to sole my shoes.

When to Use Soul

Definition of soul definition of sole definitionWhat does soul mean? A soul is the spiritual essence of a being, or the essential part of something. A soul is generally thought to be non-corporeal and immortal, though many different people hold many different views on this subject.

Here are some examples of the word used in a sentence.

  • My soul cannot bear this terrible burden alone.
  • Alicia was the heart and soul of our group, and now she is gone.

Soul is also a musical genre that originated in the United States in the mid-20th century. See the following sentences.

  • Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles are my favorite soul artists.
  • Jones and his band also played soul and R&B mainstays from Stax Records, including “Knock On Wood,” ‘’Try a Little Tenderness,” and “Hold On, I’m Comin.’” –The Washington Post

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define soul and define soleHere is a helpful tip for remember soul vs. sole.

Soul and sole are both nouns, but only sole is an adjective and a verb. If the word you are using is either of these parts of speech, choose sole.

For nouns, if you are referring to the bottom of a foot or shoe, remember that sole and shoe both end with the letter E. This should make it easy to distinguish between sole and soul when used as a verb.

Summary

Is it sole or soul? These words both sound the same when spoken, so they are easy to confuse with each other. It is important, however, to use them properly because none of their uses overlap.

  • Sole is an adjective, where it means single, a noun, where it means the bottom part of a shoe or foot, and a verb, where it means to replace the bottom part of a shoe.
  • Soul is a noun, where it means the spiritual essence of a being, the essential part of something, or a genre of music.

You can remember that a sole is a part of a shoe since both sole and shoe end in E.

You should have no further troubles remembering whether to use soul or sole, but if you do, check this article for a refresher.