Sight vs. Site vs. Cite

Here is a homonym triplet that can stumble you, so let’s talk about each word a bit.

Sight is a noun that refers to the sense of seeing, or something worth seeing, or something that aims your vision.
The explosion resulted in his teenage son losing his sight.
His teenage son’s bedroom was a sight to behold; it looked like a clothing store exploded.
His teenage son peered through the sight and pulled the trigger on the grenade launcher.
(Think: a sight for sore eyes.)

Site is a noun that means the location or place for an existing or planned building, structure, or facility.
The site for the new refinery was swarming with surveyors, geologists, and engineers.
The compressor is due to arrive on site the first of the month.
(Think: on site, on location.)

Cite is not a noun at all; it’s a verb. It means to quote or refer to another work, or to document a good or bad deed.
In her dissertation she plans to cite several classic SPE papers by John Lee.
The IADC will cite Leon Robinson for his many years of drilling leadership at Exxon.
(Think: citation.)

Here’s a quiz question for you:
I’m going to San Francisco to see the [sites or sights].
Standard answer: That depends.
This could go either way, really. Do you plan to visit several sites that are under construction? Or do you plan to see the sights that tourists go to see? Either way, drive slowly, because you don’t want the police to cite you for speeding.


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