Grammar Corner: Aisle vs. Isle

In this edition of Grammar Corner, we discuss some of the most widely used grammar errors in the English language. We don’t just correct you, though; we pinpoint exactly why a particular word/phrase/idiom is used incorrectly, while providing the context for each mistake, and then providing the right word/phrase/idiom.

Most of the time, a grammar error occurs because of homophones. Homophones are two words that sound exactly the same, but mean vastly different things. But it’s not just their meaning that’s different; homophones can also function as vastly different parts of speech.

In this edition, we discuss a common grammar error: aisle vs. isle. The exact pronunciation match of these two pairs adds to the confusion between the two, not to mention their near-exact spelling, with only one letter separating the two. Despite this, the words ‘aisle’ and ‘isle’ differ vastly in meaning and context.

When to Use Aisle

Image from Pixabay

When we use the word aisle, we mean to say a passageway between rows, usually rows of seats, but can also be the passageway between buildings, walls, and other such structures. With this definition in mind, aisle can also be used as a metaphor, specifically in a political context. In this case, aisle in a political context refers to both the physical and metaphorical division between political parties.


Hey, look what I found in the Toddler section of the toy store: a chainsaw!

Excuse me, can we get a cleanup on aisle 3? My husband vomited again.

He squeezed himself between the people in the aisle, eager to get a front row view. “What’d I miss?” George gasped in excitement. “The pallbearers are lifting grandma’s coffin now” Mark somberly said.

“Ugh, I hate it when a play involves actors going into the aisles to involve the audience” Cathy sneered, as Westlake Primary School’s rendition of Sweeney Todd  labored on to its second act. –Aisle as passageways between seats and structures.

The rest of parliament cheered on as the Prime Minister physically reached over across the aisle towards his conservative peers. They did not, however, expect him to slap them one by one.

“Listen,” Senator Polowski said, “we need some bipartisan cooperation here”. “I agree”, Senator Johnson nodded, “we all need to reach across the aisle and figure out a way to appease our new alien overlords ”.

Can we just both agree that neither side of the aisle has a monopoly on truth? Ok? Good, now pass me the potatoes and let’s not discuss politics during lunch.

Both sides of the aisle accused the other of corruption, morally reprehensible acts, and treason. The worst part? They were both right. –Aisle as the physical and metaphorical division between political parties.

When to Use Isle

Image from Pixabay

In contrast, the word isle is much simpler in definition. Isle is short for island, and usually refers to a small island. For example:

Ireland is called the Emerald Isle for its rolling green pastures and fields, and NOT for its secret hoard of emeralds.

“You see that isle?” the ancient mariner asked, his eyes gleaming with madness, “I lived there for 8 years, fashioning shoes for sea turtles”.

The feminists rallied against the government of the Isle of Man, demanding that it change its name to be more accommodating to all genders.

“Which isle did ye say ye buried the treasure again?” One-eyed Jack peered through the telescope for the 8th time. “Yes”, said Forgetful Frank, sweating nervously.

How many times do I have to tell you, Greg, the Isle of Skye is in SCOTLAND; it’s not actually a floating piece of land, you buffoon.

Which One to Use: Aisle or Isle?

Always remember: aisle with A refers to passageways between rows of things, while isle with an I refers to an island of some kind.

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