Friday, November 20, 2009

How to Use "i.e." Versus "e.g."

The abbreviations "i.e." and "e.g." are very commonly misused. This is because many people do not know what they mean. This article should help improve your understanding of these little tidbits of grammar.

  1. Become familiar with what i.e. and e.g. are abbreviating. "I.e." is an abbreviation of the Latin words id est, which mean "that is". "E.g." is an abbreviation for the Latin words exempli gratia, which mean "for the sake of example".
  2. Associate each abbreviation with more easily remembered phrases. It's not easy to remember Latin words, so it may be helpful to pretend that "i.e." stands for "in essence" or "in other words" and "e.g." stands for "example given".
  3. Use "i.e." to paraphrase. Make a statement, then add "i.e." to explain or describe what you just said in a different way:

    • The elephant is a pachyderm, i.e., an animal with thick skin and nails resembling hooves.
    • I went to the dentist (i.e., hell).
    Note that what follows "i.e." is some sort of definition. This can also be a metaphor. If you substitute "i.e." with "in other words" the sentences still make sense. If you plug in "for example" they do not.

  4. Use "e.g." before giving one or more examples. Think of what precedes "e.g." as a category, and what follows it as something (or a few things) that would fall into that category:

    • Buy some vegetables, e.g., carrots.
    • I like power metal (e.g., Firewind, Iced Earth, Sonata Arctica).
    Observe how using "i.e." wouldn't make sense. "Carrots" is not another way to describe vegetables in general, it is just one of the many foods that are considered to be vegetables. If you wanted to use "i.e." you would write "Buy some vegetables, i.e., the edible part of any plant." Likewise, the bands given are examples of power metal, but not a description. If you were using "i.e." you would write something like "I like power metal, i.e., fast metal with symphonic elements and epic themes."

  5. Use parentheses or commas with both. You can either insert a comma before "i.e." or "e.g." or you can use parentheses, both of which are shown in the examples above. If you use parentheses, open them right before the "e.g." or "i.e." and close them after you have given your example or alternate definition. Whether you begin with a comma or parentheses, you should always put a comma right after both "i.e." and "e.g.", as shown in the examples above.

Source: WikiHow


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