What’s Up With e.g. and i.e.?


Dear Readers: I’ve been negligent in my posting duties lately. My workload suddenly became completely insane, leaving me with barely enough time to sleep, let alone ponder the mysteries of grammar (aside from in my dreams).

As it happens, some of my recent work gave me an idea for a grammar post. It’s a short one, but I think it’s good information to store in your brains — or simply bookmark.

Today we’re going to look at the difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.” Most of us have probably used at least one of those and many of us probably think they are interchangeable. Actually, they have specific uses, along with some rules about when and where you should use them. So, without further ado… let’s get started with e.g.

These two little letters are an abbreviation for the Latin term exempli gratia, which means for example in English. So when someone uses e.g. what he or she is really saying is for example. Contrary to what some people believe, it is not short for ergo (which is another Latin term meaning therefore).

The general rule with e.g. is that you should only use it in parentheses or in reference notes — and it should always be followed by a comma. Otherwise you should write out the English form for example. Here’s an example:

  • Some zombies will eat more than just human brains (e.g., komodo dragon brains, spider brains and spleens from any species).
  • Purebred werewolves come in a variety of colours, for example ours come in black, grey, brindle and steel.

Now let’s look at i.e. This abbreviation comes from the Latin id est, which means that is in English. As with its sibling e.g., it should only be used inside parentheses or in reference notes — and it should always be followed by a comma. In all other prose you should use the English form that is. Here’s an example:

  • The vampire was thirsty (i.e., he wanted to suck your blood).
  • I asked him to wait while I grabbed my friend, that is, my wooden stake.

And that’s that. If you want to impress at BBQs this summer, you could always try sprinkling the Latin versions into your conversation!


Image credit: Oni / Photoxpress.com


11 thoughts on “What’s Up With e.g. and i.e.?

  1. Thanks for the short lesson. I knew the difference, but I didn’t know that they should be used only in parentheses.

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