Pray and prey are homophones. Even though they are pronounced identically, they do not mean the same thing. How can anyone tell the difference?
In speech, you must rely on the context of the sentence to determine the meaning of the word. In text, however, it is possible to determine the meaning of the word based on its spelling.
These homophones are never interchangeable, so you will need to correctly choose either prey or pray. Continue reading to learn how.
What is the Difference Between Pray and Prey?
In this article, I will compare pray vs. prey. I will use each of them in a sentence and illustrate each word’s proper use in a sentence.
Plus, I will give you a useful trick to help you decide whether to choose pray or prey for your own writing.
When to Use Pray
What does pray mean? Pray is a verb. To pray is to address an object of worship. You can see examples of this word’s use in these sentences:
- “I have altered the deal,” said the caped villain. “Pray I don’t alter it further.”
- Pray to your god, that it may have mercy on your soul.
- Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings you have received.
- We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured and mourn with the families of the victims. –The Wall Street Journal
Pray is never a noun. The message one sends to a deity is called a prayer.
When to Use Prey
What does prey mean? Prey can be a verb or a noun.
As a verb, prey means to predate, which itself means to kill something and eat it. It can also be used less literally, in the sense of to victimize. Here are some examples:
- The lion will prey upon the wildebeest.
- Horror films prey on moviegoers’ fears of the violent, the supernatural, or merely the unknown.
As a noun, prey refers to the animal killed and eaten by a predator. Here are some more examples:
- The tiger silently stalks its prey.
- The grasshopper, placidly munching on some vegetation, was unaware it was about to become the mantis’s prey.
- Fanged snakes can strike their prey to inject venom at speeds of about 7 miles per hour. –The New York Times
Trick to Remember the Difference
Here is a helpful trick to remember prey vs. pray.
Both of these words are verbs, but only prey is also a noun. Hence, if you are using the word as a noun, you should spell it prey.
As verbs, the situation is less simple. Pray is used in the context of worship, whereas prey is used in the context of food.
You can remember to use pray when you are worshiping someone since pray is spelled with the letter A. This letter is also used to spell the name of the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. By remembering the name of this particular deity, you can remember the appropriate usage cases for the verb pray.
Is it pray or prey? Pray and prey are homophones. They are both verbs, but only prey is a noun.
- Pray means to communicate with a godly being.
- Prey means to catch and kill food, or the food that is caught and killed.
Since pray and Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, are each spelled with an A, you can remember to save pray for situations involving conversation with spiritual beings.
You could also check this article any time you would like to review the differences between these words.