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Continually vs. Continuously (Definition, Usage + Examples)

Continually vs. continuously


Continually and continuously are indeed similar; in fact, they’re synonyms of each other. That said, there’s a distinction between them worth observing.



Continually vs. continuously

Continually and continuously are both adverbs; their respective adjective forms are ‘continual’ and ‘continuous’.


  • Continually means “in a way that is repeated many times”, or “repeated frequently in the same way”. As in, “I continually update my resume whenever I gain new work experience”.


  • Continuously means “in a way that happens or exists for a period of time without being interrupted”. As in, “he managed to continuously annoy me throughout the entire road trip”.


It’s a subtle difference, and concerns whether what occurs is disrupted or not. If something happens on a regular or ongoing basis, but not unceasingly, then it is continual (or occurs continually).


Conversely, something that goes on uninterrupted, (e.g., “the faucet dripped continuously throughout the night”) means the faucet did not stop dripping all night. If (at a point) the faucet had stopped dripping, then it would be better described as having dripped ‘continually’ (example is borrowed from the Blue Book of Grammar).



“Continually” / “continuously”, used in sentences

Examples: “continually”, used in sentences
the need to adapt to new and continually changing circumstances.

New products are continually being developed.

They argue continually about money.

The privacy policy is updated continually.
Examples: “continuously”, used in sentences
The pressure was building slowly and continuously for several hours.

This prevents the system from continuously trying to deliver email.

He has lived and worked in France almost continuously since 1990.

Heat the mixture until thickened, stirring continuously.



“Continual” / “continuous”, used in sentences

Examples: “continual”, used in sentencesExamples: “continuous”, used in sentences
He was in a continual process of rewriting his material.

We lived in continual fear of being discovered.
Recovery after the accident will be a continuous process that may take several months.

The organization aims to create a culture of “continuous improvement”.



Continually, synonyms



Continuously, synonyms

  • interminably
  • never-ending
  • endlessly
  • without end
  • unlimitedly
  • perpetually
  • relentlessly
  • unceasingly



Word origin (of continuously)

Early 14c., continuell, “proceeding without interruption or cessation; often repeated, very frequent,” from Old French continuel (12c.) and directly from Latin continuus … from continere (intransitive) “to be uninterrupted,” literally “to hang together”



Read about other misused words

Commonly misused wordsUK English vs. US English
former vs. latterburned or burnt?
bear with vs. bare withcolor or colour?
breathe or breathfavorite vs. favourite
compliment vs. complementsmelled or smelt?
effect vs. affectgray or grey?
elude or alludefavor vs. favour
it’s or itsanalyze or analyse?



Sources

  1. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary on “continuously” and “continually”. Accessed 11 March, 2024.
  2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of continuous.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/continuous. Accessed 11 March, 2024.


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