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

Updated on July 25, 2013
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?

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    • profile image

      Endy Mulio 4 years ago

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

    • Robin profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 5 years ago from Oakland, CA

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

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 5 years ago from San Francisco

      You are so right, wreddd! Gotta love James!

    • profile image

      wreddd 5 years ago

      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. :-)

    • profile image

      Natalie 5 years ago

      I found it useful and I often mix them up.

      Thanks:D

    • profile image

      joey 6 years ago

      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" ^

    • profile image

      Fabiana 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Marek 6 years ago

      As an explanation of my earlier comment:

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

    • profile image

      Marek 6 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      wyrmmage 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      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

    • profile image

      Phil 7 years ago

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

    • profile image

      grammar g 7 years ago

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

    • Chad A Taylor profile image

      Chad Taylor 7 years ago from Somewhere in Seattle...

      Good brush up!

    • profile image

      Jo 8 years ago

      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 :)

    • profile image

      FZ 8 years ago

      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 profile image

      Sexy Health 8 years ago from Portland, OR

      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 -

    • profile image

      Edda Raquel 9 years ago

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

    • profile image

      English teacher 9 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Dave 9 years ago

      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?

    • profile image

      Education Articles 9 years ago

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

    • profile image

      French Arbitor 9 years ago

      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).

    • profile image

      Alicia E 9 years ago

      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 profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      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.

    • profile image

      Dennis P 9 years ago

      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 profile image

      videobroker 9 years ago from UTAH

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

    • profile image

      Rick Nolan 9 years ago

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

    • Prince Maak profile image

      Prince Maak 9 years ago from Just Above the EARTH and below the SKY

      Brilliant, well explained.

    • poto profile image

      poto 9 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Brian 10 years ago

      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

    • profile image

      Melissa 10 years ago

      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 profile image

      An Again 10 years ago from Boston

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

    • noenhulk profile image

      noenhulk 10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      CJ 10 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Nick 10 years ago

      This helped, thanks!

    • Ron2helpu profile image

      Ron2helpu 10 years ago

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

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      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").

    • profile image

      spence 10 years ago

      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.

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 10 years ago from Australia

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

      :D

    • darkside profile image

      Glen 10 years ago from Australia

      Absolutely BRILLIANT!

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

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      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 profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      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!!

    • profile image

      Dale 10 years ago

      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."

    • profile image

      Dale 10 years ago

      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."

    • profile image

      Almax 10 years ago

      Thanks, Robin!

    • profile image

      Robin 10 years ago

      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.

    • profile image

      Val 10 years ago

      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 profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • profile image

      xbf 10 years ago

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

    • profile image

      joe@work 10 years ago

      exactly what i needed. :) thanks

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

      Glad it helped Monique and Andrew! Cheers!

    • profile image

      Andrew G. 10 years ago

      Thanks for the great assistance with my english grammer.

    • Monique profile image

      Monique 10 years ago

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

    • Robin profile image
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      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • samgong profile image

      samgong 10 years ago from Atlanta and Boston

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

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • profile image

      Satke 10 years ago

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

      Thanks!

    • Robin profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • jmuriset profile image

      jmuriset 10 years ago from Claremont

      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 profile image
      Author

      Robin Edmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco

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

    • jstankevicz profile image

      jstankevicz 10 years ago from Cave Creek

      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 profile image

      gredmondson 10 years ago from San Francisco, California

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

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