What’s the Difference? [I.e. vs E.g.]


It has been brought to my attention by an astute blog reader that I have not posted yet in 2014. I do sincerely apologize for my absence. At the end of 2013 I started a new job as well as taking on more freelance editing projects. Add that to adjusting to the start of a new year, and I took an unexpected break from my writing and editing tips.

Moving forward, I am committing to one new post every Thursday, and you are certainly free to suggest any topics you would like to see covered, either writing or editing related. Today’s topic is one I have seen used incorrectly a lot recently, so hopefully this will help clarify.

First, a little explanation.

I.e. and E.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms.
I.e. = id est | E.g. = exempli gratia

Of course, Latin is harder to remember than English, so here’s a handy trick to help:
I.e. = in essence | E.g. = example given

Here is how you would use each of these in a sentence:

I like vegetables, e.g., peppers, carrots, and broccoli
When you use e.g. like this, you’re basically saying: “I like vegetables, for example, peppers, carrots, and broccoli.”

Remember: E.g. = example given. You are giving examples within the sentence to further explain what you have already said. The reader (or listener) understands that peppers, carrots, and broccoli is not an exhaustive list of the vegetables you like but are merely a few examples.

Here is how you would use i.e. in a sentence:

I like vegetables, i.e., peppers, carrots, and broccoli.

What’s the difference? Well, e.g. was offering a few examples of many options. Using i.e. in this sentence shows that these are the only vegetables you like.

This might sound confusing, but it’s actually easy once you get the hang of it. All you really need to remember is that i.e. means “in essence” and e.g. means “example given.” The former is essentially repeating what you’ve already said in a different way; the latter is offering examples to further explain what is being said/written.

For further reading

Grammar Girl: I.e. Versus E.g.
-The difference between e.g. and i.e. from Grammar Monster

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