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Is It “Tale” or “Tail”?

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“Tale” is a noun, whereas “tail” can be both a noun and a verb. We explain the difference of this homophone pair.

White text over green background reads "tale vs. tail." (Tail vs. Tale)
These two words are homophones and easily confused.
  • Tale is a noun that refers to a story or narration of events.
  • Tail can be used as a verb that means “to follow closely” or a noun that refers to the “prolonged rear end of an animal.”

What Does “Tale” Mean?

Tale is a noun that refers to the telling of a story or series of events that could be fictitious or factual.

My favorite childhood tale was “Cinderella.”
My father often told tales about his life in Cuba.

What Does “Tail” Mean?

Tail can be used as a noun and a verb. When used as a noun, a tail refers to the prolonged rear end of an animal.

My dog’s tail is constantly knocking things off the coffee table.
Did you know monkey tails help keep them balanced?

As a noun, tail can also refer to “the back, last, or lower part of something.”

As a mechanic, my last task for the day was always to fix the plane’s tail.

When used as a verb, (to) tail describes the “action of following someone closely, often in secret.”

I had a feeling someone was tailing me on my way home.

Although it’s not common, this word can also mean “to provide with a tail.”

Close up of a plane's tail. (Tale vs. Tail)
The technical name for the “tail” of a plane is “empennage.”

How Do You Use “Tail” and “Tale” in a Sentence?

Here are a few examples of tail and tale used in a sentence and synonyms you can use instead.

Example Sentence
Verb or Noun
The police tailed the suspect.
Followed, pursued, chased
We heard so many tales, we didn’t know which ones were real and which ones were fake.
Narratives, accounts, reports
My daughter tries to come up with her own tales.
Myths, fables, stories
During the massive fires, many animals hurt their tails.
Backends, behinds, rears

Homophones (words with identical pronunciation but different meanings) like tail and tale are easy to mix up. LanguageTool is an easy-to-use writing assistant that guarantees you always use the correct version of a word and that your text is free of spelling and grammar errors.

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