Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 07:48 am
People seem somewhat muddied on the differences and proper usages of the Latin abbreviations i.e. and e.g. These abbreviations are indeed different, so if you’ve been using them interchangeably, you’ve been wrong this whole time. It’s alright—let’s all avoid making embarrassing grammar mistakes, together.
I.e. and e.g. mean and correct usage:
- I.e. stands for id est in Latin, meaning “that is”.
- E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which is a Latin phrase meaning “for example”.
Generally speaking, the difference between when to use either abbreviation can be summed as the following:
- I.e. defines something specific indicated by the previous sentence, and is used interchangeably with phrases like “that is to say”, or “specifically”.
- E.g. gives an example amongst other possible examples or alternatives.
How to correctly use i.e. in writing
Now, look at the following sentence that shows the correct use of i.e.:
The hotel offers various amenities; i.e., a swimming pool, gym and spa services.
Since i.e. means “that is”, the “swimming pool, gym and spa services” is how the hotel defines their various amenities. So what comes after i.e. should help specify or more clearly define what’s meant by the previously given information. Take another example, for good measure:
The concert will take place at the city’s main venue; i.e., the stadium.
In sentences where what comes before and after i.e. are both independent clauses, use a semicolon and a comma around i.e. We also see i.e. and e.g. used with parentheses, or offset by commas:
One meal (i.e., breakfast) is included in the price of the room.
Again, i.e. specifically states or names, as it does in the above sentence, what the broader sentence expresses. Also, because “i.e., breakfast” appears in the middle of the sentence, most style guides suggest placing either parentheses or commas around it. The same is true for when e.g. appears in the middle of a sentence.
How to correctly use e.g. in writing
Now, let’s take a look at how to use e.g. in writing:
Many countries in Europe, e.g., France, Italy, and Spain, are known for their rich culinary traditions.
Remember that e.g. just means “for example”, and can be used interchangeably with phrases like “such as” or “for example”. Using e.g. implies that other examples or alternatives are available, in addition to the one’s already mentioned.
How should you format i.e. and e.g.?
- In American English, write both i.e. and e.g. in lower case letters, using periods between both letters.
- Neither abbreviation should be in italics (unless the actual abbreviation is spelled out out, e.g., exampli gratia written out should be in Italics since it’s in a different language, Latin).
That said, it’s rare to see either abbreviation fully spelled out in writing . . . or spoken aloud in conversation. British English typically does not require a comma or parentheses to follow i.e. or e.g.; however, most American English style guides suggest using either a pair of commas or parentheses around i.e. and e.g. (for the most part).
E.g. in sentences
I enjoy various outdoor activities, e.g., hiking, cycling, and swimming.
The store offers a wide range of products, e.g., electronics, clothing, and home appliances.
She has traveled to many countries, e.g., France, Japan, and Australia.
The class will cover different topics, e.g., history, science, and literature.
The restaurant serves a variety of dishes, e.g., pasta, sushi, and burgers.
Examples of i.e. in context:
We need to prepare all the required documents; i.e., passports, visas, and identification cards.
The company focuses on software development; i.e., creating computer programs.
The new policy applies to all employees; i.e., both full-time and part-time staff.
She was passionate about medieval literature; i.e., works from the Middle Ages.
- Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of i.e..” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/i.e.. Accessed 25 July, 2023.
- Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of e.g..” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/e.g.. Accessed 25 July, 2023.