I.e. vs. e.g.

This is a drawing of an animal, i.e., a unicorn.

This is a drawing of an animal, i.e., a unicorn.

 

Latin roots
The abbreviation i.e. comes from the Latin words id est, which mean that is.

The abbreviation e.g. comes from the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means for the sake of example.

Mnemonic device
To remember what they mean, we’re going to say i.e. equals in other words because both start with the letter I and e.g. equals example because they both start with the letter E.

i.e. = in other words
e.g. = example

Using i.e.
We use i.e. to give more information about something, to clarify, and to explain it further.

Example: Liza has only one hobby, i.e., making taxidermy unicorns.

Here we say that Liza has only one hobby, and we clarify that her one hobby is making taxidermy unicorns. We could also say that Liza has only one hobby, in other words, making taxidermy unicorns.

Example: Liza’s favorite animal is the unicorn, i.e., the mythical pony beast with a horn growing from the top of its face.

Here we use i.e. to explain what a unicorn is. We could also say that Liza’s favorite animal is the unicorn, in other words, the mythical pony beast with a horn growing from the top of its face.

Note that the explanation that comes after i.e. can be the only explanation. A unicorn is a mythical horned pony beast. It’s not both a mythical horned pony beast and a mythical horned sea creature. That’s a narwhal. And a unicorn can’t be both a unicorn and a narwhal.

Using e.g.
We use e.g. to give examples of something.

Example: Pete saw many animals at the zoo, e.g., elephants, tigers, and unicorns.

Here we use e.g. to give examples of animals at the zoo. Pete saw elephants, tigers, and unicorns at the zoo, but those weren’t the only animals he saw. We could also say Pete saw many animals at the zoo (example: elephants, tigers, and unicorns).

Example: Unicorns eat a wide variety of candy, e.g., gumdrops.

Here again we use e.g. to give an example. Gumdrops are one example of what unicorns eat, but unicorns eat more than one type of candy; the sentence says they eat a wide variety of candy.

Note that unlike with i.e., more than one explanation can come after e.g. I could have inserted lollipops, licorice, and gummy bears along with gumdrops because unicorns eat a wide variety of candy, not just gumdrops. If they only ate gumdrops, I would use i.e. instead.

 
Quiz
Insert either i.e. or e.g. in the spaces below. The answers are at the end.

1) The unicorn is skilled at hundreds of games, _______, poker, charades, and field hockey.
2) Unicorns are found in the wild in only one area, _______, the Philippines.
3) Unicorn meat is made into many dishes, _______, burgers and shish kebabs.
4) Sal the unicorn has a favorite trick, _______, blowing glitter from his horn.

 

 

 

Answers: 1) e.g. 2) i.e. 3) e.g. 4) i.e.

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