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i.e. vs. e.g.: Grammar Guide

To specify or give examples in a text, writers will many times use "i.e." or "e.g.". Although a bit formal, their usage is perfectly acceptable. Just be aware, there is a distinct difference between the two; they are not interchangeable.

e.g.

The term e.g. means "exempli gratia" in Latin or "for example" in English. Simply replace "e.g." with "for example" to check your usage. Remember, your list of examples is not presumed complete.

  • I love to read a variety of genres, e.g., historical non-fiction, mystery and poetry.
  • She is the captain of many clubs, (e.g., chess, leadership and newspaper are among her favorites.) If you choose, parenthesis can be used like in the above example.

i.e.

The term i.e. means "id est" in Latin or "that is" in English. A trick that I use: If you can replace "i.e." with "in other words" then you are using it correctly. "I.e." is used to specify what you are trying to convey.

  • We will have caramel corn, roasted pumpkin seeds, witches' brew and ghost cookies on this spooky night, i.e., Halloween.
  • The greatest basketball team of all-time, i.e., the 1987 Los Angeles Lakers, started Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott, Kareem Abdul-Jabar and A.C. Green.

Remember...

  • Use a period after each letter because they are abbreviations.
  • Use a comma after the abbreviations.
  • Use a comma before the abbreviations unless it's the beginning of a sentence
  • You may begin a sentence with "i.e." and "e.g.". (You still need to use a comma after the abbreviation.)
  • You may use "i.e." and "e.g." in parenthesis. (You still need to use a comma after the abbreviation.)
  • You may use "i.e." and "e.g." within a sentence without parenthesis. Remember to precede and follow with a comma.

Questions, Comments or Thoughts?

Endy Mulio on October 15, 2012:

Thank you very much for the clear explanation, i.e., your hub :)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on February 07, 2012:

Thanks, Maddie. I agree, it's very sad. ;)

Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on February 07, 2012:

I think the details like this are slowly leeching out of the English language. Thanks for doing your part to preserve it. ;)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on February 07, 2012:

You are so right, wreddd! Gotta love James!

wreddd on February 04, 2012:

Very informational... however the 2nd example for "i.e." is factually incorrect. That Lakers team started James Worthy. Michael Cooper came off of the bench. :-)

Natalie on October 15, 2011:

I found it useful and I often mix them up.

Thanks:D

joey on March 08, 2011:

there should be a comma in this paragraph at the end of the list between (witches' brew and ghost cookies...) "We will have caramel corn, roasted pumpkin seeds, witches' brew, and ghost cookies on this spooky night, i.e., Halloween" ^

Fabiana on February 09, 2011:

Hi,Guys! Im Brazilian and my english teacher thought me that "e.g" means "example given". I think the english meaning is easier to memorize than the latin meaning.

Marek on August 10, 2010:

As an explanation of my earlier comment:

Placing comma or semicolon after either one of these abbreviations does not make sense.

Marek on August 10, 2010:

Dear Robin,

NEITHER ONE OF THESE ABBREVIATIONS IS FOLLOWED BY PUNCTUATION, IT JUST WOULDN'T MAKE SENSE.

In response to some of the other comments,

1. Neither one of these abbreviations is used to start a sentence, that also wouldn't make sense. However the only time either could appear at the start of a sentence is if someone were describing them. In that case the first of the letters would get capitalized; but in order to avoid confusion the entire abbreviation would be surrounded by quotation marks.

2. One writes these abbreviations but pronounces them (when used in English texts) “in other words” and “for example”.

3. In very formal (and perhaps in British version of English) these abbreviations are italicised.

wyrmmage from Tucson, Arizona on May 25, 2010:

Interesting article, thanks for writing it.

I have a suggestion on the look of the article, though; I've never tried to write something using hubpages, so my suggestion may not be possible.

Is there any way that you could place the definition for "i.e." in a colored column, as you did with "e.g.". Since a colored column, that has been floated to the right or the left, often indicates interesting but non-crucial information, the first time I read the article I read all the way to the bottom before reading the text in the blue column, which was kind of confusing. If you made the definition for "i.e." a colored column as well (probably a using a slightly-different color), I think it would make it more obvious where the two definitions are, and better show that the two are being contrasted.

Just a suggestion; you are of course free to take it or leave it :)

-wyrmmage

Phil on February 25, 2010:

I thought you had to underline these types of abbreviations when used in writing. I always have when i have used them.

grammar g on November 04, 2009:

That should be, "what you're trying to convey"

Chad Taylor from Somewhere in Seattle... on October 22, 2009:

Good brush up!

Jo on April 11, 2009:

hello

i am writing a book. i am having some trouble finding more words to say rather than : shouted, muttered, snapped ,said, sniffed ...

can anyone help me? please let me know thanx :)

FZ on March 01, 2009:

Hi Robin! Great site! I was wondering if you could make a hub or something about "is"/"are"? That is something I usually have to think twice about.

Very cute picture btw =)

/FZ from Sweden

Sexy Health from Portland, OR on January 09, 2009:

This is great information. I happened to already know this, but I am so glad you are out here, providing us with useful, grammatical, clarity. Believe me - the world needs it! Thanks again! I look forward to reading more HUBS from you -

Edda Raquel on April 23, 2008:

I finally understood this whole i.e. e.g. meaning....Thanks.

English teacher on April 16, 2008:

Robin, the statement which reads, "If you choose, parenthesis can be used like in the above example" is grammatically incorrect. Replace the word "like" with "as" in order to correct it.

Dave on February 18, 2008:

Sorry to join in so late. If one were to use "i.e." at the start of a sentence, would it be capitalized, as in "I.e."? If not, why? Also, can the term be used to start a paragraph? You need a preceding idea in order for it have a point of reference to the conversation. I ask because my College professor is using it (with only one period and no comma, by the way,) in a point form resumee. The resumee lists the former place of employment and then lists the job duties on the next line starting with "ie.". e.g.,

1999-2000

Druxy's Bar

ie. served cold drinks

Did I use "e.g." correctly there?

Education Articles on November 11, 2007:

This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much - Paul

French Arbitor on November 07, 2007:

I have found your grammar articles quite informative. I'm hoping you could do one for "A vs An". I've had disagreements with others on how this should be used, specifically when preceding acronyms that start with consonants yet start with a vowel sound (S comes to mind).

Alicia E on November 06, 2007:

Hey Robin! This is your cousin Alicia! I found your hubpage last year after Paul told us about it... This is awesome! I'm doing a project today in my 9th grade English class on common errors and I think I'll use this one. I love your Grammar Mishaps! I'll be sure to check them again.

Love ya! (ps-- your pic looks just like a younger version of my mom!)

William F Torpey from South Valley Stream, N.Y. on October 21, 2007:

Nice hub. You sure stirred up a hornets nest. Most of us have trouble with this type of grammatical stickler. But the one that bothers me most is the frequent misuse of "then" and "than," -- and they're entirely two different words.

Dennis P on October 14, 2007:

Thank you Robin,

You clarified just about everything about the grammar as well as why they are so easy to mix up! I.e. is translated as "that is", but it would be so much easier if it is translated as "in other words".Especially to us speaking english as a second language.

Thanks!Dennis P

videobroker from UTAH on October 02, 2007:

Good post, i.e., I enjoyed it.

Rick Nolan on September 25, 2007:

Finally, I understand the difference. Thank you very much for this explanation.

Prince Maak from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY on August 10, 2007:

Brilliant, well explained.

poto on August 05, 2007:

thanks for the grammer lesson... learn something new every day :)

Brian on June 28, 2007:

Wow, this is a lot of comments and i agree with everybody i.e., you're fantastic. Please keep it up and you've helped so much i.g., you've cofirmed so many grammar mistakes in my office of 100+ employees. Thanks again and again......and again because i know i'm going to use the hub again. Regards, Brian

Melissa on June 20, 2007:

I have a question about the example, listed below, from this page. In this example, since the e.g. is used within parenthesis, does that not make the comma after clubs obsolete? She is the captain of many clubs, (e.g., chess, leadership and newspaper are among her favorites.) If you choose, parenthesis can be used like in the above example.

An Again from Boston on June 08, 2007:

Neat! I just discovered HubPages and I'm already learning things.

noenhulk on June 04, 2007:

Hope to learn more. You have a good post that I find useful. Keep it up!

CJ on June 03, 2007:

Robin,First, We "shall", not "will"

Dale, I do agree with you.

I also have a problem with the use of Text Messages. I am hearing more and more pre-teens and teens speaking in Text Message Jargon. I would like to be a fly on the wall when these young people attempt to write an essay or go for an interview with such limited verbal skills. I though Ebonics was the "language" to end us all, but by gosh, give it time, and someone or something is always around the corner to blow us out of the water once again!

I was a pre-teen in the 50's and Sweet Sixteen in the 60's. I dare say, there are very few reading this posting that ever heard of BeatSpeak, used in Coffee Houses of the era! We actually had a little book or Dictionary, you could order, providing a listing of the Cool Words of the day.

Nick on April 21, 2007:

This helped, thanks!

Ron2helpu on April 20, 2007:

Wow, I'm learning something new everyday. Thanks again, Robin

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on April 01, 2007:

Thanks for the comment, Spence. I like that tip. I always think: i.e. = in other words (starting with "i"); and e.g. = example (starting with "e").

spence on March 30, 2007:

I invented the following mnemonic device for myself to remember which to use:

i.e. = idea expanded

e.g. = example(s) given

It's not perfect since i.e. is often restating what's been said rather than expanding on it, but it works really well for me to remember which is which.

Glen from Australia on March 22, 2007:

I never KNEW this. Damn, I've come across as an illiterate. :(

:D

Glen from Australia on March 19, 2007:

Absolutely BRILLIANT!

I never new this. At least not to this detail.

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 15, 2007:

Thanks, Lincoln, Erick and Kaiya! I'm a teacher and my father-in-law was a English teacher and has given me many tips. I guess I'm just intrigued by grammar. Cheers!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on March 14, 2007:

Hi Dale,

No problem; grammar seems to evoke many disagreements. ;) I also do not prefer using "i.e." and "e.g." in speech; however, I haven't found this as a rule. Looking back at my example, I think you're right that it would be preferable to not start a sentence with "e.g." or "i.e.". I'm not sure if this is a distinctive rule, or just a preference, but I think I'll change it. Thanks!!

Dale on March 14, 2007:

Robin, sorry to have to disagree with you on using "i.e." in conversation.

I should also point out that it is preferable not to begin a sentence with the abbreviation. This follows along the same line as starting a sentence with numbers, in which case it is correct to begin with the written number, as in this example: "Eighteen players attended." Not, "18 players attended." The same rule applies to "i.e." or e.g."

Dale on March 14, 2007:

Good, simple defintions.

Now, if we could just get people to remove "i.e." from their speech! The abbreviation is meant for written use, not spoken. It does not make one sound more intelligent by using the term in conversation. In fact, saying "ayeee" is not even more practical since it is just as easy, and preferable, to say "that is" when this phrase is needed. Unfortunately, even nationally-recognized broadcasters are guily of this spoken-word gaffe.

And don't even get me started on the overuse and misuse of the adjective "incredible."

Almax on March 12, 2007:

Thanks, Robin!

Robin on February 21, 2007:

Hi Val,It's fine to say "i.e." and "e.g." in conversation, but I would prefer "in other words" and "for example".  The former sound a bit pretentious in casual conversation.  Thanks for the question.

Val on February 21, 2007:

I use i.e./e.g. as appropriate when writing. But, is it proper to actually SAY "i.e." or "e.g" when conversing?

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on February 10, 2007:

Thanks for the feedback!! So glad it's useful!

xbf on February 09, 2007:

I'm writing a paper, it is helpful to find out that a following comma is necessary. Thanks a lot.

joe@work on February 08, 2007:

exactly what i needed. :) thanks

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on January 18, 2007:

Glad it helped Monique and Andrew! Cheers!

Andrew G. on January 18, 2007:

Thanks for the great assistance with my english grammer.

Monique on January 09, 2007:

this is great! I can't believe I never knew this! I have been using them interchangeably

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 30, 2006:

I'm glad it helped, Sam. I feel like an idiot when dealing with my dog; so I guess we're even. ;)

samgong from Atlanta and Boston on November 29, 2006:

I feel like an idiot, because I misuse this all the time in my writing! Thanks for the help!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on November 09, 2006:

Ha Ha, I think it's probably best left unsaid. ;)

Satke on November 09, 2006:

Now if you could only tell me how to kindly tell my boss to stop using ie instead of eg. :S

Thanks!

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 23, 2006:

It is definitely okay to make up words, especially if they're funny!

jmuriset from Claremont on October 23, 2006:

Oh my gosh. I have been misusing "i.e." since birth. I feel dumber by the minute, reading your hubs! ;) (Speaking of, is "dumber" a word? Subquestion-- is it okay to make up words?)

Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on October 18, 2006:

I agree, "in other words" with the "i" and "for example" with the "e" help me remember too. ;)

jstankevicz from Cave Creek on October 18, 2006:

I like your "in other words" test, especially since it begins with i. Grammar and I don't get along too well! I slept through those years.

gredmondson from San Francisco, California on October 05, 2006:

Thanks, Robin, for doing this Hub. I think I can remember "that is" for i.e. and "for example" for e.g.