English can be a confusing language at times. Take the words ‘bass’ and ‘base’: they often (but not always) sound the same, and they are spelled similarly, but they have entirely different meanings. To avoid mistakes in your writing, then, you may want to check out our advice below!
Bass (A Fish or a Low Sound)
As a noun, the word ‘bass’ has two meanings and two pronunciations. Pronounced to rhyme with ‘gas’, for instance, it refers to a type of fish:
He fished for largemouth bass in the river.
But if you pronounce it to rhyme with ‘face’, it refers to low musical sounds:
The bass in this song is very loud!
This second definition can also be used to modify other nouns. ‘Bass’ instruments, for instance, are instruments that produce a lower sound:
Paul McCartney plays the bass guitar.
When referring to either a fish or low sound, though, ‘bass’ has a double ‘s’.
Base (A Bottom Part or a Foundation)
The word ‘base’ has several uses as a noun. Some key definitions include:
The lowest part of an object (e.g. She sat at the base of the tree)
The main part of something (e.g. He has his cocktail with a vodka base)
A military installation (e.g. The soldiers went back to base)
The main location in which a person or company lives or does business (e.g. I work internationally, but London is my base)
An activity or group of people that provides the primary means of support for something (e.g. We have a large customer base)
‘Base’ can also be a verb related to choosing a location to do business:
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We chose to base our operations in France.
And the verb phrase ‘base on’ means ‘use as a basis’:
The film is based on the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer.
Finally, as an adjective, ‘base’ means ‘lacking morals’:
He always acts on his most base desires!
As you can see, then, ‘base’ has a lot of uses! There are even some specialised uses we haven’t discussed here, such as in chemistry and maths. In all these cases, though, you spell ‘base’ with an ‘-se’ at the end.
Summary: Bass or Base?
While these words often sound similar, they are very different! Remember:
Bass is a noun that refers to a kind of fish or a musical sound.
Base has many meanings as a noun (e.g. the lowest or main part of something), as well as a few uses as a verb and an adjective.
The sheer number of definitions ‘base’ has can be hard to remember. But as long as you know that ‘bass’ is correct for the fish or the low sound, you can be confident that ‘base’ is the right spelling in other situations.