Most speakers of English, especially non-native speakers, confuse many words in English. The reason is not far-fetched: some of these words share certain similarities. For instance, some of these commonly confused words have similar sounds, some have similar spellings while some even have similar sounds, similar spellings but different meanings. (See Homonyms, Homophones and Homographs). The words ‘aural’ and ‘oral’ belong to this category and this post, ‘Aural vs Oral: Meaning, Usage and Examples’, addresses this confusion. Let us examine the two words closely…
Aural vs Oral: Meaning, Usage and Examples
Both words sound the same way and they belong to the category known as homophones. Let us check the meanings of each word and their usages with accompanying examples for clarifications.
Aural: A Definition and Explanation
Aural has to do with hearing or sound; that which relates to the ear or hearing. It means ‘of or pertaining to hearing or the ear’. It also refers to that which ‘relates to or is characterised by an aura’. I believe you know what ‘aura’, which is a noun, means; let me give you three meanings of aura right away…
- A sensation (as of a cold breeze or bright light) that precedes the onset of certain disorders such as a migraine attack or epileptic seizure.
- An indication of radiant light drawn around the head of a saint. (we also know this as ‘gloriole’, ‘halo’ or ‘nimbus’
- A distinctive but intangible quality surrounding a person or thing. (The place has an aura of romance)
Back to ‘aural’, it is an adjective and basically has to do with hearing. Let’s see some examples:
- A mouse is an animal with a very sensitive aural apparatus.
- There are various aural effects that precede a migraine headache.
- The new musical has a visual and aural appeal.
- The extent to which our visual and aural perceptions of painting and music depend on our prior knowledge of the pieces.
- The police arrested him while he was resting in aural restaurant in the forest.
- She had something wrong with her ear and an aural surgeon attended to her.
- The car has aural sensors fitted to it.
- The radio station is working to improve its aural quality.
- To achieve aural loudness in some instruments, a reduced volume is needed.
- Sandra uses tapes as aural materials to teach Phonetics.
Oral: A Definition and Explanation
Oral, on the other hand, has to do with the mouth. As an adjective, it means ‘using speech (what is expressed in spoken form) rather than writing…of or relating to or affecting or for use in the mouth’. In anatomy, it means ‘of or involving the mouth or mouth region or the surface on which the mouth is located’; while in psychoanalysis, it refers to ‘a stage in psychosexual development when the child’s interest is concentrated in the mouth’. In phonetics, oral refers to the speech sounds that are produced by means of airstream that comes out from the mouth only with the sealing of the nasal cavity.
Let us see some examples accommodating the various meanings of the word ‘oral’ for easy comprehension.
- Some communities operate by oral laws.
- Fricatives are oral sounds.
- Assessment is by written essays and an oral examination.
- The committee’s findings relied on oral histories and genealogical records.
- Dunmore is the seat of the state oral school for the deaf.
- The date for the oral defence has not been fixed.
- The teacher gave some oral explanations about the test.
- Most villages have codes of oral tradition.
- Oral literature is his best subject.
- The tribe had no written language but a considerable oral literature of songs legends and traditions.
- She was not aware of the oral test.
- The couple opted for oral contraceptive.
- Children usually receive oral vaccine to prevent diseases.
- The bank requires more than oral agreement in getting a loan.
- Johnson used an oral thermometer for the child.
In terms of test or examination, an aural test is one which tests comprehension by listening, while an oral test requires spoken answers rather than written answers.
Verbal and Oral
We are also liable to confuse these two words which are very closely related if not synonymous. . Oral means ‘expressed in speech’, as in ‘an oral, rather than a written examination’. Verbal means ‘expressed or communicated in the form of words’ or ‘using words, especially spoken words, as opposed to pictures or physical action’, as in:
- He asked for an instruction diagram but he was given verbal instructions.
- They were going to stage a protest match but they settled for a verbal protest.
- She let out a stream of verbal abuse.
- Sometimes, eye contact transmits messages more effectively than verbal communication.
We also use ‘verbal’ to mean ‘relating to or formed from words in general, referring to the spoken word, expressed in speech’, ‘relating to or having facility in the use of words’ as in:
- They had a verbal agreement.
- He possessed great verbal ability.
- She administered verbal aptitude test for the applicants.
- A good poet is a verbal artist.
- He is a merely verbal writer who sacrifices content to sound.
‘Verbal’ also means ‘of or relating to or formed from a verb’, as in:
- ‘Running’ is a verbal adjective in ‘hot and cold running water’.
- We also refer to verbal nouns as gerunds.
- Some adjectives have verbal endings.
In perspective, oral means ‘expressed in speech’ and verbal means ‘expressed in words’. Because of these two possible meanings, the use of verbal can lead to ambiguity. In order to clarify the situation, we should use oral when we mean ‘expressed in speech’.
Sometimes we gloss over some seemingly simple words only to find out that we do not know the nitty-gritty when it comes to using them appropriately. I am sure you will be able to properly use ‘aural’, ‘oral’ and ‘verbal’ correctly, having gone through this post. Do share with your friends. There are also other words that usually confuse us, I have put together some interesting posts on these words. Take time to check them out. See the following:
- Academia vs Academic
- Access vs Assess, Accent, Ascent vs Assent and Accessory vs Accessary
- Affect vs Effect
- Difference between Belief and Believe
- Avoid vs Afford and Avoid vs Evade
- Correct Use of Who vs Whom and Whose vs Who’s
- Commonly Confused Words in English