e.g. vs. i.e.: What's the difference?

E.g. vs. I.e.: What’s the Difference?

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Understanding the difference between e.g. and i.e. is important when you want to demonstrate good grammar and writing skills, but it can be hard to remember which one goes where in a sentence! It’s one of the most common mistakes writers make.

This article will help you understand the difference between e.g. and i.e. so that you can make sure to always get them right when using them. 

Read on for more information about what each of these abbreviations means, how they’re used, and examples of their usage in sentences. 

What Does e.g. Mean?

E.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means “for example” and is often used in place of the phrase “for instance.” It’s used to provide additional evidence or one or more examples to support a sentence’s main idea.

When used in a sentence, e.g. should be written in lowercase, roman, with a period after both letters. It should not be italicized. 

Examples of e.g. in a Sentence

To give you a better idea of how e.g. is used in writing, here are some examples:

  • I like to eat a lot of different fruits (e.g., apples, oranges, and bananas).
  • There were many funny moments in the movie (e.g., I laughed out loud during scenes that involved the dog and the cat).

What Does i.e. Mean?

A lot of people confuse e.g. and i.e., but they have different meanings. 

Another abbreviation for a Latin phrase, i.e. stands for id est, which means “that is” and is often used in place of “in other words.” While e.g. is used to provide examples, i.e. is used to introduce a more comprehensible way of describing something or a more specific aspect of it.

When used in a sentence, i.e. should be written in lowercase, roman, with a period after both letters. It should not be italicized. 

Examples of i.e. in a Sentence

To help you understand how i.e. is used, here are some examples of its usage:

  • The restaurant removed the fish fingers from the kids’ menu because they were a choking hazard (i.e., there were too many small bones).
  • Millennials (i.e., those born between 1981 and 1996) go crazy for avocado toast. 

Example of the Difference between e.g. and i.e.

Here are an example that highlight the difference in meaning between e.g. and i.e.

  • I like playing ball games (e.g., football, baseball, and basketball).
  • I like playing ball games (i.e., games that feature a ball as part of play).

The first example with e.g. introduces examples of ball games. The second example with i.e. elaborates on what ball games are.

Is It OK to Use e.g. and i.e. in Formal Writing?

According to the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), it’s better to use the full English equivalents in formal writing unless the compactness of the abbreviations is more desirable in certain circumstances like in parentheses or notes. However, both e.g. and i.e. are acceptable in informal writing provided that they’re used correctly. 

Do You Use a Comma After e.g. and i.e.?

Yes, when using e.g. or i.e. in a sentence, you need to add a comma after each one, according to CMOS rules. This follows CMOS’s rule that “expressions of the type that is are traditionally followed by a comma.”

However, other English dialects or usage guides may disagree with this. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage recommends not following i.e. with a comma. It doesn’t mention whether to follow e.g. with a comma or not. 

The New Oxford Style Manual also recommends not following e.g. and i.e. with a comma. It also points out that lowercase abbreviations should not begin a sentence; however, it’s acceptable for them to be lowercase at the beginning of a note. 

If you are writing for an audience that is familiar with British English, you should probably leave out the comma after these abbreviations. If your audience is familiar with American English, follow these abbreviations with a comma. 

Do You Use Etc. with e.g.?

If you start a list with e.g., there’s no need to put etc. at the end of the list because e.g. already implies that the list is not complete. 

E.g. vs. I.e. Quiz Questions

  1. Patricia loved the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies (e.g./i.e., The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest), but she wasn’t a fan of the rest.
  2. He gave the usual tip for average service (e.g./i.e., 15%) because the service was average. 
  3. Talking animals are the subject of many kids’ movies (e.g./i.e., Babe and Garfield).
  4. Many great actors have yet to win an Oscar (e.g./i.e., Samuel L. Jackson and Annette Bening).
  5. When asked if he knew who had eaten the chocolate cake, he pleaded the Fifth (e.g./i.e., he refused to answer on the grounds that his response might be incriminating).

More Grammar Posts

Final Thoughts on e.g. vs. i.e.

The Latin abbreviations e.g. and i.e. cannot be used interchangeably. They have different meanings and uses in English grammar. The abbreviation e.g. provides additional evidence or examples to support a sentence’s main idea, while i.e. introduces a more specific aspect of that idea. In formal writing, use “for example” or “that is” instead. 

Need an easy way to remember when you should use e.g. vs. i.e.? Remember that e stands for “example,” and i.e. stands for “in essence.” 

Are you never sure when to use et al. vs. etc.? I cover the difference between them here!

E.g. vs. I.e. Quiz Answers

  1. Patricia loved the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies (i.e., The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man’s Chest), but she wasn’t a fan of the rest.
  2. He gave the usual tip for average service (i.e., 15%) because the service was average. 
  3. Talking animals are the subject of many kids’ movies (e.g., Babe and Garfield).
  4. Many great actors have yet to win an Oscar (e.g., Samuel L. Jackson and Annette Bening).
  5. When asked if he knew who had eaten the chocolate cake, he pleaded the Fifth (i.e., he refused to answer on the grounds that his response might be incriminating).