'Sense' or 'Cents' or 'Scents' or 'Since': What's the Difference Between Them?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on February 21, 2023

'Sense' or 'cents' or 'scents' or 'since': these words all sound the same, so how are you supposed to know when to use each one? Don't worry: by the end of this article; you'll know exactly what each word means and when to use it.

In short, each of these words has a different meaning:

  • 'Sense' is a feeling or knowing
  • 'Cents' is a monetary value
  • 'Scents' refers to smells
  • 'Since' means from a particular time

What's the Difference Between 'Sense,' 'Cents,' 'Scents,' or 'Since'?

These four words are not all quite homophones (words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings). 'Cents' and 'Scents' are the only two words here that are true homophones, but 'sense' and 'since' sound very similar. We'll talk more about the pronunciation later.

That makes things complicated; you might be thinking. How will you know which spelling to use? With homophones, the only real way to get the spelling right is to memorize it. This will happen naturally over time with repetition. In the meantime, you can keep returning to this article whenever you need to check the correct spelling.

Let's look at the meaning of each word now.

'Sense' Definition

'Sense' can be both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it can refer to one of the five senses: smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing.

For example:

I've lost my sense of taste.

It can also have the more abstract meaning of having a feeling about something. The word is synonymous with 'intuition.' You might have heard the saying, "a sixth sense." When you have a sixth sense, you know whether something is right or true or if something good or bad will happen.

I have a sense that this isn't a good idea.

To have sense can also mean to have good judgment.

I hope he'll have the good sense not to tell her that to her face.

When something makes sense, it's logical and shows good judgment.

It makes sense to plan far ahead.

The verb' sense' is the verb form of the second definition - the one about intuition. As the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it, it's "to perceive by the senses or to be or become conscious of."

I can sense that you're not really into the idea.

'Cents' Definition

'Cents' is the plural noun form of 'cent.' A cent is a unit worth 0.01 of a dollar or whatever currency you're dealing in.

Some currencies use names other than 'cents,' like the United Kingdom, which uses pennies, or Brazil, which uses centavos. But they are all worth 0.01, or one-hundredth of the basic monetary unit.

This pen only cost me 50 cents.

You owe me 10 cents.

How many cents are there to the dollar?

'Scents' Definition

'Scents' is the plural form of the noun' scent,' another word for a smell. Many things give off a scent: flowers, animals, perfume, food, and people, to name just a few.

The scent of roses has taken over my entire home.

I cooked a curry last night, and the scent is still lingering.

Is there anything better than the scent of freshly cut grass?

'Since' Definition

'Since' can be used as an adverb or preposition to mean "from a particular time in the past until a later time, or until now" or as a conjunction to mean 'because' or 'as.'

Here's an example of 'since' used as an adverb:

She left town two years ago, and I haven't seen her since.

And now an example of 'since' as a preposition:

I've been a fan of her music since I first heard her sing.

As for the second meaning, a synonym of 'because' or 'as,' here's an example of how that might look in a sentence:

Shall we start early since everyone's already here?

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Sense,' 'Cents,' 'Scents,' or 'Since'

So you already know that these four words are pronounced very similarly, but that only 'cents' and 'scents' are true homophones. But perhaps you need clarification on what exactly that sounds like.

How to Pronounce 'Cents' and 'Scents'

'Cents' and 'scents' rhyme with 'events,' 'vents,' and 'gents.' The 't' sound in these words is very subtle. It's almost inaudible when you say the words. If you sound them out, these words look like this:

[ sents ]

And according to the International Phonetics Alphabet, they are spelled this way:

/ sɛnts /

How to Pronounce 'Sense'

'Sense' rhymes with 'fence,' tense,' and expense.' The word sounds almost identical to 'cents' and 'scents,' except for the very subtle 't' sound. The simplest way to sound out the word is to read it as though it was spelled like this:

[ sens ]

Using the International Phonetics Alphabet, it would look like this:

/ sɛns /

How to Pronounce 'Since'

The word 'since' sounds the most different from the others because it has an 'i' sound instead of an 'a' sound. Again, it's very subtle, but it's there. So the phonetic spelling for 'since' would look more like this:

[ sins ]

And the IPA spelling is like this:

/ sɪns /

How to Use 'Sense,' 'Cents,' 'Scents,' or 'Since'

Let's look at more examples of each word in sentences to ensure you're one hundred percent confident about using them.

Example Sentences With 'Sense'

I had a sense that I should get the bus instead of the train.

A dog's sense of smell is highly developed.

It makes more sense to ignore him than enter into a debate.

Example Sentences With 'Cents'

All I have to my name is this handful of cents in my pocket.

Was that really worth it to save 50 cents?

Back in the day, I made 66 cents per hour.

Example Sentences With 'Scents'

The familiar scents of fall were in the air.

All I could smell were the scents of freshly baked cookies and various pastries.

He has many different scents, depending on which aftershave he wears.

Example Sentences With 'Since'

I assumed you were coming, too, since you're all dressed up.

She's been awake since 5 am.

They haven't called since the incident.

Final Thoughts on 'Sense,' 'Cents,' 'Scents,' or 'Since'

And that concludes this article on the difference between 'sense,' 'cents,' 'scents,' and 'since.' I hope you now feel more confident about each word's meaning and how to use it.

Time to summarize what we've learned:

  • 'Sense' is a verb and a noun
  • 'Cents' is the plural form of the noun 'cent'
  • 'Scents' is the plural form of the noun 'scent'
  • 'Since' is an adverb, preposition, or conjunction

If you found this article helpful and want to continue perfecting your grammar skills, head to our blog, where we cover many other confusing words like these.

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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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