The Difference Between e.g. and i.e.?

By Daniel Scocco

The Latin abbreviations e.g. and i.e. are used extensively in English. Not everyone, however, is aware of the difference in their usage. Some people use them interchangeably. Others even invert their meaning. If you are not completely sure when to use each of those abbreviations, keep reading!

e.g.

e.g. stands for the Latin phrase “exempli gratia,” which means “for the sake of example.” You should use it when presenting examples or more possibilities for the term in question. An easy way to remember this is to associate e.g. with “example given.”

I like citrus fruits (e.g., oranges and lemons)

i.e.

i.e. Stands for the Latin phrase “id est,” which means “that is.” You should use it when explaining or rephrasing a sentence. Usually it has the same meaning as “in other words.”

I like all fruits (i.e., I eat pretty much anything)

Some considerations

  • You can use the e.g. and i.e. abbreviations both inside and outside the parenthesis. If you are writing in a formal style, however, they must go inside the parenthesis
  • They appear in lower case letters even if at the beginning of the sentence
  • Always separate the letters with a period, and follow the abbreviation with a comma

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50 Responses to “The Difference Between e.g. and i.e.?”

  • Steve

    In the two example sentences, periods should be placed outside the final parenthesis.

  • Shanna

    “I used to wonder about that as well, in fact if you go to my other blogs I think you will be able to find e.g. or i.e. used improperly…”

    Should the comma have been a semicolon? I also don’t think the ellipses were entirely correct.

  • Chris

    There is an important disctinction between the two that is important espcecially if used in contracts. When ‘e.g.’ is used, the following description is not an exhaustive list, with ‘i.e.’ it is.

    E.g., “By accepting these terms you agree to you are not using the product / service for commercial purposes (i.e., for hire or resale)”.
    Vs., “By accepting these terms you agree to you are not using the product / service for commercial purposes (e.g., for hire or resale)”.

    Use of ‘i.e.’ further clarifes and limits the definition of ‘commercial purposes to ‘hire or resale’; meaning if it’s not for hire or resale then it’s not considered as ‘for commercial purposes’.
    Whereas the ‘e.g.’ version means that ‘hire or resale’ are not the only example of ‘commercial purposes’, so there would be other instances where the product service couldn’t be used.

    I.e., if the product / service was e.g., a bouncy / jumping castle, and you wanted to use it at a party for which you charged a general admission fee, the use of “e.g” would forbid this, but the use of “i.e.” would allow it!

  • Bea

    Thank you so much for both defining and providing examples, e.g., the Latin origins of each. Well done and I will now consider a membership based on this talented teaching style you are graced with. Bravo(a)!

  • audrey

    Great article, simple and to the point. I’ve always wondered about using these two and have ressearched the difference before. This time, I believe, it will stick because of the example given for e.g.

    thanks!

  • Jeff

    @Chiran For the same reason you’d put a comma after “for example” or “that is” if you weren’t using the Latin abbreviation.

    Note that I like to italicize e.g. and i.e. (And etc) as I would any Latin word.

  • Chiranjeevi

    Can someone clarify me as to why these abbreviations ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ be followed by a comma?

  • Lauren

    Very helpful. Too bad I didn’t read it fully before starting a sentence with “i.e.” and capitalizing the “I”. I knew it seemed weird.

  • PreciseEdit

    Latif: This is an issue of formality.

    “Thank you” is the correct and formal way to state your appreciation.
    “Thanks” is the informal, casual way to state this.

  • Latif

    what is the difference between Thanks and Thank You? Thanks

  • Etihad bangladesh

    hello, thanks. Its very help full topic.

  • Angela

    This is enlightening! Thanks Daniel. What I was really looking for though is the difference between {}, [] and (). What and when are they technically supposed to be used? I am pretty sure [] is used when adding in words that were omitted when citing someone’s quote. Am I correct? Now how about the others…

  • Gururaja A G

    Nice explaination

  • Singapore Industrial Designer

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I needed that!

  • Diane Drinkwater

    Hey that so simple! Thanks for that. I’ll be able to explain this one to my son!

    And am bookmarking your site right now!

  • Charlie Gilkey

    Thanks for the great explanation here. I, too, have been using them somewhat interchangably. Keep up the great work!

  • Editor, The SciTech Journal

    GREAT POST. VERY HELPFUL. THANKS FOR SHARING THE THOUGHTS. GOOD LUCK 🙂 Thumbs Up to you 🙂

  • MIN HAN

    How wonderful your teaching is ! I am very lucky I have had new knowledge. Special thanks for your presentation.

  • Jim Clary

    Thanks for the great tip. It will help me in the future.

  • Kaboggoza Abdallah.

    I would like to know the meanig of the following word: pro rata.
    Otherwise, thank you very much for teaching us .

    God bless you all.

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