pore vs. pour vs. poor

What is the difference between pour, pore, and poor?

The verb pour is very common, generally meaning “to cause liquid or granular solids to stream or flow out of or into a container” or “to stream, flow, or pass through profusely or continuously,” as in:
  • “He poured the substance from the vial.”
  • “Shall I pour you a cup of tea?”
  • “Water continued to pour out of the broken pipe.”
  • “Protestors poured out onto the streets to voice their anger over the verdict.”
Pore is most often used as a noun referring to a tiny opening on a surface, such as skin or rock. This meaning is completely lost when pore functions as a verb, in which case it usually means “to examine, study, or read with intense, careful attention.” For example:
  • “She spent hours poring over the text, searching for a clue that might help solve the case.”
  • “I had to pore over the contract to find who is liable in such a situation.”
Unlike the other two terms, poor is only used as an adjective. It most commonly means “lacking financial means to live well or comfortably,” but it can also mean “inferior or inadequate,” or “pitiable, unfortunate, or unlucky.” For example:
  • “We were too poor to afford a television when I was a kid.”
  • “Though well written, the play suffers from poor performances.”
  • “The poor guy has had a lot of bad luck this year.”

Spelling Tricks and Tips

Because the usage of pore as a verb is relatively uncommon, many writers mistakenly use the homophone pour instead, especially because it seems to make a certain amount of logical sense—i.e., that you are pouring your attention onto something.
Just remember that you might start sweating from your pores if you spend a lot of energy poring over something, while you pour liquid out of something. The word poor, meanwhile, looks like it has two zeroes in the middle, indicating an absence of wealth, adequacy, or luck.
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