Grammar 6 min read

I.e. vs. E.g.: What They Mean and how to use Them

Main i.e. vs. e.g. Takeaways:

  • Both i.e. and e.g. came from Latin phrases intended to help you clarify your text.
  • I.e. means id est, a Latin expression meaning “that is.”
  • E.g. is an abbreviation for exempli gratia, a Latin phrase meaning “for the sake of example” or “for example.”
  • Use i.e. when you want to elaborate on a statement.
  • Use e.g. when you want to provide examples to help the reader understand your meaning.
  • Commas or parentheses should offset both abbreviations.
  • Capitalize the first letter of each acronym if they appear on a header or at the beginning of a sentence.

What’s in a word? Or, in this case, a couple of letters? You might be familiar with common abbreviations like ASAP (as soon as possible) and BTW (by the way).

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But what about ancient acronyms?

Let’s dig into i.e. vs. e.g. to see what these Latin phrases mean, how we can use them, and why it matters which one we choose.

i.e. vs. e.g.: I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin term
I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin term “id est,” while e.g. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase, “exempli gratia.”

What Is I.e. Short For?

This abbreviation comes from the Latin expression id est. Translated into English, it means “that is.” I.e. is commonly used as a way to elaborate on a previously made statement, to make your original meaning clearer. A synonym for i.e. is “in other words.” Use this abbreviation to sum up your main point or break down the idea you’re getting at.

What Does E.g. Mean?

A straightforward e.g. definition is “for example.” Also Latin in origin, e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for the sake of example.” That’s also where we got the more frequently used prepositional phrase, “for example.” Use e.g. anywhere you’d use “for example” or “for instance.”

Which Example Abbreviation to Use When

First things first. I.e. and e.g. are absolutely NOT interchangeable.

How do you Use I.e. and E.g.?

Start by connecting i.e. to its meaning using the “i”in other words.” You’ll use i.e. when you want to rephrase something you just said or elaborate to make your meaning clearer.There’s another simple trick you can use to remember when to use e.g. Connect the “e” to the phrase’s meaning: “e” as in example.” Then use the abbreviation when you want to offer an example or multiple examples of something you just mentioned.

Make sure to use the Latin abbreviation i.e. if you want to elaborate your ideas.
Make sure to use the Latin abbreviation i.e. if you want to elaborate on a previously stated idea.
The club offers a full range of VIP perks (i.e., lots of red velvet ropes, free drinks, and seats right by the band).

In this example, i.e. is being used to clarify what the writer meant by VIP perks.

Tanya’s toddler proceeded to put on her very own Broadway show, i.e. twirling in circles as she sang Baby Shark at the top of her lungs.

Here, we’re clarifying that Tanya’s precocious kiddo’s show is actually a circle dance and a barrage of marine life-themed lyrics.

I use lots of leafy greens (e.g., kale, spinach, and arugula) to make my signature summer salad.
We should use our savings to take a trip somewhere exotic, e.g., Bali or Bora Bora.
i.e. vs. e.g.: We use the abbreviation i.e. to elaborate our ideas. On the other hand, we use e.g. to provide examples that would support our ideas.
We use the abbreviation i.e. to elaborate our ideas. On the other hand, we use e.g. to provide examples that would support our ideas.

A Few Helpful Tips: How to Capitalize and Punctuate I.e. vs. E.g.

As you hurry to put your new knowledge to the test, be sure you’re using i.e. vs. e.g. according to grammar rules.

  • Capitalize the first letters in i.e. and e.g. if they’re at the beginning of a sentence. Or, if the abbreviations are used in headers (refer to our headers in this piece).
  • Always use the periods separating the two letters in both abbreviations. Some people skip them, but you won’t, because you’re a grammar guru.
  • If you get confused, try replacing the abbreviation with its original meaning to see if your sentence is reading correctly.
English is great, but I prefer more relaxed classes, i.e., recess and lunch.
I packed all the essentials (e.g., pants, toothpaste, and earplugs), and now I’m ready for my trip.
  • Don’t italicize them. While we usually italicize the Latin words these phrases come from, the abbreviations themselves are typed normally.
  • When used in a sentence, both abbreviations should be offset by either commas or parentheses.

Does I.e. Need a Comma?

Yes. Both i.e. and e.g. need a comma after the second period. The exception is when i.e. or e.g. are discussed as standalone entities, as we’ve done here, rather than to introduce an example or clarification. You also don’t need a comma if the abbreviations appear at the end of a sentence.

Universities in the country (e.g., Harvard, UCLA, and ASU) are close next week for Thanksgiving.
Universities in the country, for example, Harvard, UCLA, and ASU, are close next week for Thanksgiving.

In this example, Harvard, UCLA, and ASU are used as examples of universities.  However, the use of e.g. indicates that all the universities will close down next week, not just the three listed.

If you're citing examples, make sure to use the abbreviation e.g.
If you’re citing examples, make sure to use the abbreviation e.g.
Universities in the country (i.e., Harvard, UCLA, and ASU) are close next week for Thanksgiving.
Universities in the country, that is Harvard, UCLA, and ASU, are close next week for Thanksgiving.

In this example, i.e. emphasizes that only three universities in the country will be closed for Thanksgiving.

If you’ve ever seen i.e. or e.g. in text and thought, “Oh no… LATIN!” you’re not alone. But hopefully, you’ve now learned that abbreviating Latin can be useful. Incorporate these two abbreviations into your writing, and you’ll be fully demonstrating your literary genius two little letters at a time.

Read More: Blond Vs. Blonde: Untangle The Difference

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