‘Coarse’ vs ‘Course’: What’s the Difference?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on March 3, 2023

Do you want to know the difference between 'coarse' vs 'course'? Look no further. This article will reveal the meaning of each word and when to use it.

In short:

  • 'Coarse' is an adjective that means rough, rude, or in large pieces.
  • 'Course' can be a noun or a verb with several meanings.

Difference Between 'Coarse' vs 'Course'

'Coarse' vs 'course' are homophones, which means they sound the same, although they are spelled differently and don't mean the same thing. This means they can easily be confused.

Understanding what each word means is the best way to avoid misusing them and choose the right word for the context.

'Coarse' Definition

'Coarse' is an adjective. It can be used to denote something rough in texture.

For example:

The table surface is coarse; I need to go over it with sandpaper.

It can also describe something rude or harsh.

For example:

His approach was coarse and angered the audience.

A third meaning for the word is something composed of large particles.

For example:

The sand is coarse around these parts.

You'll notice a similar meaning across these definitions: a lack of refinement, unpolished, roughness.

Remember that adjectives are used to qualify nouns, so you'll note in the above examples 'coarse' always describes a noun in each sentence.

'Course' Definition

A 'course' is a journey, either literal or figurative. It can refer to the unfolding of events that take place in order to achieve a goal, or it can be a series of classes you take in order to learn something or obtain a qualification. It can also be the literal act of moving from one point to another. In this sense, it's a noun.

For example:

The best course of action is to give in to their demands.

I'm taking a yoga teacher training course.

The plane had to deviate slightly from its course to avoid a collision.

You'll also hear about courses where sports take place, such as a racecourse or a gold course. This meaning might seem unrelated to the others, but you can also picture this as a place where events unfold.

There are also sometimes courses in a meal. Again, this can be imagined as a journey the host takes their guests on.

For example:

Each course was even better than the previous one, and we were all full by the time dessert arrived.

'Course' can also be a verb. It has the same sense of movement along a specific path.

For example:

I could feel the blood coursing through my veins.

Idiomatic Uses of the Word 'Course'

You might see or hear the word 'course' being used in conjunction with other words in an idiomatic way. The term 'course' in these idioms still carries its meaning of a journey or trajectory.

For example:

  • Run its course - it naturally came to an end
  • On course - everything is on track and going as planned

There's also another phrase that you've definitely heard before, and that's "Of course."

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Coarse' and 'Course'

Now you know what these words mean, let's learn how to pronounce them. The good news is that, since they're homophones, they both sound the same.

'Coarse' and 'course' rhyme with 'horse,' 'source,' and 'endorse.' If we spell out the words phonetically, this is how they sound:

[ kohrs ]


[ kawrs ]

As for the phonemic spelling, the International Phonetic Alphabet spells the words this way:

/ kɔ:rs /

When to Use 'Coarse' vs 'Course'

We'll now take a look at some examples of 'coarse' and 'course' used in a sentence, so you can see how they're used in context.

Examples of 'Coarse' in a Sentence

All the ingredients were of high quality, but the salt was a little coarse for my liking.

I won't tolerate any use of coarse language in my classroom.

The coarse fabric irritated her sensitive skin.

Examples of 'Course' in a Sentence

She was grateful for the course her life had taken.

Everyone is thrilled with the course of events that have taken place.

I have enrolled in an accounting course, and I'm enjoying it so far.


That concludes this article on the difference between 'coarse' and 'course.'

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • 'Coarse' and 'course' are homophones
  • 'Coarse' is an adjective and relates to roughness
  • 'Course' is a noun or a verb and most often describes a journey

If you found this article helpful and would like to learn about more confusing words like these, head to our blog.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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