e.g. and i.e.

When learning a new language, there are numerous grammar rules to learn and remember. Two of the most commonly confused terms are “e.g.” and “i.e.” Both terms have specific meanings, and it is important to use them correctly to avoid confusion. Here, we will explore the difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.” while providing examples of how each term should be used. Let’s get started!

e.g. (exempli gratia)

The Latin term “exempli gratia” (e.g.) is used to introduce one or more examples of something previously mentioned in a sentence. It is interchangeable with “for example” or “such as.” Also, don’t forget to use a comma or parentheses to enclose the example list. So, suppose you’re writing about different types of fruits: you might say, “I like to eat many different kinds of fruit, e.g., apples, oranges, and bananas.” In this sentence, “e.g.” introduces the reader to a list of examples (in this case, three different kinds of fruit) of the broader category (fruit) that was mentioned earlier in the sentence. Also, don’t forget to use a comma or parentheses to enclose the example list. In addition, when using “e.g.” in formal writing, it is always best to spell out the entire phrase rather than abbreviate it.

Examples:

You need many ingredients for a savory chocolate cake (e.g., whipped cream, cocoa powder, and melted dark chocolate).

Don’t forget to keep your belongings close to you on your trip, e.g., your wallet, phone, passport, and some extra money. 

Pro Tips:

💡 “e.g.” provides one or more possible examples of multiple possibilities.

💡 Don’t forget the comma or parentheses.

💡 Don’t use “etc.” at the end of the example list since “e.g.” already implies that there are more examples than you’re listing.

💡 “e.g.” is always in lowercase when it appears in the middle of a sentence.

i.e. (id est)

The term “id est” or “i.e.” is also derived from Latin and means “that is” in English. You use it to specify something that you mentioned previously in a sentence. It is interchangeable with terms such as “specifically,” “namely,” or “in other words.” Also, watch out for the comma after “i.e.” when using it in a sentence. For example, you could say, “I’d like to work in the medical field, i.e., as a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.” In this case, you are specifying that you want a job in the medical field, specifically as a doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

Another example would be “The company is doing well overall, i.e., we had a great quarter.” In this instance, you say the company is doing well precisely because you had a great quarter. As you can see, the term can be beneficial in clarifying information for your audience. Remember to use it correctly and add a comma afterward for maximum clarity.

Examples:

Only two kinds of mammals, i.e., the duck-billed platypus and the spiny anteater, lay eggs.

Some of my ancestors came from other countries, i.e., Poland and Luxembourg. 

Pro Tips:

💡 “i.e.” is used for clarification with precise information

💡 Don’t forget the comma after “i.e.”

💡 “i.e.” is always in lowercase when it appears in the middle of a sentence.

“e.g.” vs “i.e.”

When comparing “e.g.” and “i.e.” side by side, you’ll notice that “e.g.” provides one or more possible examples, while “i.e.” clarifies things with more precise information. In other words, “e.g.” indicates multiple possibilities, while “i.e.” narrows the scope of the discussion. For this reason, choosing the appropriate expression when introducing an example in academic or professional writing is crucial.

Examples:

After school, I’ll walk over to a friend’s house, e.g., Julia’s or Victoria’s.

After school, I’ll walk over to my best friend’s house, i.e., Julia’s.

In the first example, you say you visit Julia’s house, Victoria’s house, or any other home of your friends.

In the second example, you state that Julia’s house is the exact place you will visit after school. 

So there you have it—the scoop on “e.g.” and “i.e.,” two of the most commonly confused abbreviations in the English (or rather Latin) language. Now that you know how to tell them apart, hopefully, you won’t be caught off guard the next time someone drops one of them into a conversation (or an email). And if you still find yourself scratching your head from time to time, don’t worry—we all make mistakes sometimes. Just keep these tips in mind, and you should be good to go!

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