Word Confusion: Sew vs So vs Sow

Posted September 1, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Fortunately, this word confusion, sew versus sow doesn’t crop up often, and when it does…hoo, boy. Just had a thought, for those of you who do get confused with this one, think of that O as the piglets’ open mouths on their mama or even of the holes in the ground when sowing seeds. Which gave me another thought…that e kinda looks like someone took a stitch in that O, hmmm…

No, I’m not actually ignoring the so. It’s mostly included because it’s a soundalike, a homophone.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

If you found this post on “Sew vs So vs Sow” interesting, consider tweeting it to your friends. Subscribe to KD Did It, if you’d like to track this post for future updates.

Return to top

Sew So Sow
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com: sew

Image is Dvortygirl’s own work [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Detail of the needle and presser foot assembly on a sewing machine during sewing.

Image courtesy of Wikiquote

Image by Ayacop [CC-BY-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Mama sow with her piglets suckling.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Third person present verb: sews
Past tense: sewed
Past participle: sewed, sewn
Gerund or present participle: sewing

Adjective; Adverb; Conjunction; Exclamation; Pronoun Noun 1;
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: sows
Past tense or past participle: sown, sowed
Gerund or present participle: sowing

Verb, intransitive:
Join, fasten, or repair something by making stitches with a needle and thread or a sewing machine

[Of a vessel] To be grounded at low tide

Verb, transitive:
Join, fasten, or repair something by making stitches with a needle and thread or a sewing machine

Attach something to something else by sewing

True as stated or reported

  • Conforming with reality or the fact

[As submodifier] To such a great extent

  • Extremely
  • Very much (used for emphasis)
  • [Informal] Used to emphasize a clause or negative statement
  • [Informal] Used with a gesture to indicate size

[With negative, as submodifier] to the same extent (used in comparisons)

Referring back to something previously mentioned

  • That is the case
  • The truth
  • Similarly; and also
  • Expressing agreement
  • [Informal] Used to emphatically contradict a negative statement

In the way described or demonstrated


And for this reason


  • [So that] With the result that

[So that] With the aim that

In order that

And then

As the next step

Introducing a question

  • Introducing a question following on from what was said previously
  • [informal; also so what?] Why should that be considered significant?

Introducing a statement that is followed by a defensive comment

Introducing a concluding statement

In the same way


Used as an exclamation of surprise, shock, discovery, inquiry, indifference, etc., according to the manner of utterance

Such as has been stated

Something that is about or near the persons or things in question, as in number or amount

An adult female pig, especially one who has farrowed

  • The female of certain other mammals, e.g., the guinea pig, bear, mink

A large block of metal (larger than a “pig”) made by smelting

Verb, intransitive:
To sow seed, as for the production of a crop

To set something in motion

  • Begin an enterprise

Verb, transitive:
Plant seed by scattering it on or in the earth

  • Plant the seeds of a plant or crop
  • Plant a piece of land with seed
  • [Be sown with] Be thickly covered with
  • Cause to appear or spread
Verb, intransitive:
I don’t even sew very well.

They sewed up the deal last night.

Have they sewn up the votes on SB1960-1 yet?

She chose to teach her how to sew instead.

Verb, transitive:
She sewed the seams and hemmed the border.
She could sew the veil on properly in the morning.

Say it isn’t so.

If you choose that fabric, it will cost so much more to make the jacket.

The words tumbled out so fast that I could barely hear them.

Don’t look so worried.

I’m not so foolish as to say that.

She looked so pretty.

I do love it so.

That’s so not fair.

You are so going to regret this.

The bird was about so long.

He isn’t so bad as you’d think.

Without his parents’ support, he would not have done so well.

“Is it going to rain?” “I think so.”

If she notices, she never says so.

I hear that you’re a writer—is that so?

Times have changed and so have I.

“It’s cold in here.” “So it is.”

“Make it so!” is a popular phrase from Star Trek.

Hold your arms so.

So it was that he was still a bachelor.

It was still painful, so I went to see a specialist.

You know I’m telling the truth, so don’t interrupt.

It was overgrown with brambles, so that I had difficulty making any progress.

They whisper to each other so that no one else can hear.

and so to the finals

So, what did you do today?

So what did he do about it?

“Marv is wearing a suit.” “So?”

So what if he failed?

So I like anchovies—what’s wrong with that?

So that’s that.

Just as bad money drives out good, so does bad art drive out the good.

So, what…


I promise to be good and stay so.

Of the original dozen eggs, five or so remain.

That’s some sow you’ve got there!

A sow suckling her piglets looks just like a cat or dog with their own babies.

Verb, intransitive:
We’ll sow in the early spring.

Verb, transitive:
Fill a pot with compost and sow a thin layer of seeds on top.

The corn had just been sown.

The field used to be sown with oats.

We walked through a valley sown with boulders.

The new policy has sown confusion and doubt.

Adjective: sewable
Noun: sewability, sewable, sewer, sewist *

*The original term for one who sews is sewer, and there is a current trend toward sewist, which certainly sounds as if it will smell better! (Sesquiotica)

Adjective: sowable, unsowed, unsown
Noun: sower
Phrasal Verb
sew something on something
sew something up
sew up
sew something together
have something sewn up
History of the Word:
Old English siwan, of Germanic origin, is from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin suere and the Greek suein. Old English swā, of Germanic origin, is related to the Dutch zo and the German so. 1 Old English sugu is related to the Dutch zeug and the German Sau from an Indo-European root shared by the Latin sus and the Greek hus meaning pig.

2 Old English sāwan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zaaien and the German säen.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Return to top

Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Midsummer Evening Quilting in Central Park” by Suzanne Szasz. The event was sponsored by the New York Parks Administration Department of Cultural Affairs with materials freely provided.

The image is in the public domain and can be found through the National Archives and Records Administration with the National Archives Identifier: 542493 and was found via Wikimedia Commons.