Like many homophones, \u2018steal\u2019 and \u2018steel\u2019 sound the same yet differ in meaning. But these terms can be extra tricky, as both have noun and verb uses. So to make sure you always use the right word in the right place, check out our guide to the differences between \u2018steal\u2019 and \u2018steel\u2019.\nSteal (Take Without Permission)\n\u2018Steal\u2019 is primarily a verb (i.e. an action word). Its main use is to mean \u2018take and keep something without the permission of the owner\u2019. For example, if someone had to resort to theft to feed themselves, we might say:\nHe was so poor he had to steal food to eat.\nThe simple past tense of \u2018steal\u2019 is \u2018stole\u2019, while the past participle is \u2018stolen\u2019.\n\nA less common use of \u2018steal\u2019 as a verb is to mean \u2018do something without being noticed\u2019. For example, we could say something like:\nShe stole a glance at his notebook while he wasn\u2019t looking.\nIn this context, 'stole' simply means that the glance was secretive.\n\nAs a noun, meanwhile, we use \u2018steal\u2019 to mean \u2018something acquired at a very low price\u2019. So if someone had bagged themselves a bargain, we might say:\nThat new TV you got in the sales was a complete steal!\nThis noun use of \u2018steal\u2019 is mostly informal formal, though, so it is much rarer.\nSteel (Metal Made of Iron and Carbon)\nAs a noun, \u2018steel\u2019 usually refers to an alloy of iron and carbon. It is very hard and relatively cheap to make, so people use it for everything from cutlery and guitar strings to vehicles and major building projects.\n\n[caption id="attachment_12536" align="aligncenter" width="500"] The Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing is currently the largest steel structure in the world.[\/caption]\n\nDrawing on the toughness of the metal, some people use \u2018steel\u2019 as a verb meaning \u2018prepare yourself for something unpleasant or difficult\u2019:\nI need to steel myself before I hear the verdict.\nThe past tense of this verb usage of \u2018steel\u2019 is \u2018steeled\u2019, not \u2018stole\u2019 as above.\nSummary: Steal or Steel?\nWhile these words sound the same, they refer to different things:\n\n \tSteal is mainly a verb meaning \u2018take something without permission\u2019, but it can also mean \u2018do something without being noticed\u2019. As a noun, it can mean \u2018something acquired at a very low price\u2019, but this is quite informal.\n \tSteel is a noun for a strong metal made of iron and carbon. However, as a verb it can also mean \u2018prepare yourself for something difficult\u2019.\n\nThe fact both words have different uses can make these terms tricky. But if you can remember that steel wire often comes on a reel, you should be able to avoid mix-ups. And for extra confidence your spelling is always correct, we have expert proofreaders available 24\/7.