loath vs. loathe  

What is the difference between loath and loathe?

This is a situation in which silent E helps determine not only pronunciation, but meaning as well. The word loath (which is an adjective meaning “unwilling or reluctant”) is primarily pronounced /loʊθ/ (rhyming with both), while loathe (a verb meaning “to detest, hate, or feel disgust for”) is pronounced /loʊð/ (rhyming with clothe).
(It’s worth mentioning that loth is an acceptable variant spelling of loath, and it helps eliminate a lot of this confusion; however, it is less common, and some may consider it to be incorrect.)
However, to add extra confusion, some speakers pronounce loath the same way as loathe, choosing to use the “softer” /ð/ for both words; this is an accepted variant pronunciation that is present in most dictionary entries for the word. It’s therefore important to look more closely at the words’ meaning and function, rather than their pronunciation alone.
For example:
Examples of loath
Examples of loathe
“He was loath to leave the party so soon, be he had to work the next morning.”
“I’m loath to admit you are correct, but it is undeniable now.”
“She was always loath to accept the help of others.”
“I don’t loathe anyone, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy everyone’s company.”
“He loathed having to come in on a Sunday to work.”
“I really loathe the way they look at me now.”
Loath is almost always followed by a phrase beginning with an infinitive (an uninflected verb preceded by to) that completes its meaning—this is known as an adjective complement. While loathe can also be followed by an infinitive phrase (functioning as a direct object), it doesn’t have to; anything functioning as a noun can be its object.

Spelling Tricks and Tips

As a quick mnemonic trick, just remember that loathe functions as a verb, so it is spelled with an E at the end.

1. Choose the sentence in which loath is the correct spelling.

2. Choose the sentence in which loathe is the correct spelling.

3. Which word is almost always followed by an infinitive?

4. Loth is an alternative spelling of which word?

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