E.g. vs. I.e. (Definitions, Similarities, and Differences)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 19, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many abbreviations that people often find confusing, even though they appear frequently in everyday English. One well-known and common example of this confusion is the meaning of e.g. vs. i.e., which are both abbreviations of Latin phrases. Understanding the differences and similarities between e.g. and i.e. can help you become a more effective communicator. In this article, we define e.g. and i.e., explain their similarities, and explore what makes the two abbreviations different.

Definitions of e.g. vs. i.e.

Here are the definitions of e.g. vs. i.e.:

E.g.

E.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase exempli gratia. This phrase means for the sake of example or simply for example. This is a common abbreviation that people use in their writing to help introduce an upcoming example. Some people have even begun to include it in their speech. If you are describing an item and want to give a context for what that item looks like, you can use e.g. to list a few examples of similar items. When discussing multiple examples, you can write e.g. just once.

I.e.

I.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est. Rather than having anything to do with presenting an example, as many people believe, id est means that's to say or in other words. You can use this to show an alternative way of saying something or lead to rephrasing a statement. For example, if you're describing your hobby of restoring furniture to someone, you can say that you enjoy restoring furniture, i.e. sanding, repainting, and varnishing old tables, chairs, and cabinets. This helps to offer more insight into your hobby and rephrases what you do with more context.

Similarities between e.g. and i.e.

Listed below are some similarities that e.g. and i.e. share:

They both come from Latin origins

Both of these common abbreviations have from Latin origins. Latin influences a lot of modern languages and is the origin of many of the English language's most common abbreviations. Knowing the foundation of these abbreviations can help you develop a better understanding of what they mean and how you can use them. If you know that i.e. means id est and what that means in English, you can better understand the origin of the abbreviation and how to use it in your everyday life.

They are both acceptable in speech and writing

You can use both e.g. and i.e. in your writing and in your conversations. While people more commonly use these terms in writing, they have become part of many people's speech patterns. People may often say “e.g.” before giving you an example or “i.e.” before providing context. While this might seem strange the first time you hear it, it's more common than you may realize. Using them in both cases can help you become more familiar with their meanings and when each of them applies.

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They both offer additional context about a statement

Both of these abbreviations can help you expand upon a statement and offer additional context. This context can help to make your point clearer and give people a better sense of what you're trying to communicate. While e.g. offers context through additional examples, i.e. gives context by rephrasing a topic so that it's clearer for the audience. Giving people more context can improve communication and productivity in the workplace. If everyone is clear on what you're saying, they may then be able to work more effectively towards the same goal.

People commonly mistake them both for each other

People often confuse these two expressions for each other, which may result in them interchanging the words during conversation or writing. It's more common to confuse i.e. and use it for giving examples. While people also use e.g. for both scenarios, this happens less often.

This comes from both abbreviations being so prevalent in writing and conversations. Once people hear someone use it one way, they may also use the expression in that same format. This can lead to widespread misuse of an expression or abbreviation. Knowing the correct situations in which to use both expressions can help to improve your communication skills.

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Differences between e.g. and i.e.

Below is a list of some differences between the abbreviations e.g. and i.e.:

E.g. comes before a set of examples

You can use e.g. to list examples that elaborate on your point. This works best when you're trying to explain your perspective and want to offer some examples that help to show what you mean. For example, if you're writing a blog about collecting comic books and want to tell people how you do it, you can use e.g. before listing places where you collect comics, the specific characters or brands you collect, or the best way to start the hobby. This lets the reader know you're showing them examples so they can also understand and enjoy the hobby.

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I.e. comes before you clarify a point

The best place to use i.e. is when you're trying to clarify a point. This is because using i.e. allows you to rephrase your statement so that your audience can better understand what you're trying to say.

For example, if you're writing a paper on improving your mental health and you make a statement about how exercising can improve mental wellbeing, you can follow that by saying, "i.e. if you try to exercise every day, you may live a happier and less stressful life." This delivers the same point about the connection between exercise and mental health but with a different perspective.

E.g. can overlap with i.e.

The reason why people often confuse these two abbreviations is that e.g. can have some overlap with i.e. E.g. gives examples that help to back up a statement, but you can also use it to give an example that serves to clarify a point.

For example, if you're discussing different brands of cars that your local dealer sells, you may say, “My local car dealership only sells Coil model electric cars, e.g. the Coil Model V and the Coil Model 7.” This example uses e.g. correctly and serves the function of i.e. This is what may have led to much of the confusion surrounding the two terms.

I.e. often uses brackets

When you use i.e. in your writing, you most often use it with brackets. This means that, when you put it into your sentences, you can place a bracket at either end of the i.e. statement. For example, if you want to include an i.e. statement that rephrases your point about how food delivery apps provide additional healthy options to people who stay home frequently or are homebound, you can write, (i.e. food delivery apps let people order a wider range than what was previously available to them.)

Opening and closing the statement with the brackets lets the reader know that this is an additional and self-contained comment. It also provides a definitive ending to the i.e. statement.

I.e. can introduce the definition of a word

Besides using them to clarify a point, you can use i.e. statements to define an uncommon word in a sentence. This can be a useful function when you're writing about a more technical topic that has its own jargon or presenting a topic to a new audience.

For example, if you are talking about a material that repels water, you may use the word hydrophobic. If you think that the readers of your paper may be unfamiliar with that word, you can write, this material is hydrophobic (i.e. tending to repel or failing to mix with water). This delivers the definition of the word while maintaining the flow of the paper.

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