Grammar tips: i.e. versus e.g.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Did you know that most people use i.e. when they want to say “for example” when they should be using e.g.?

Let’s find out what they actually mean so that we can use them properly. “e.g.” is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.” “i.e.” is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase “id est,” which means “namely,” “that is” or “in other words.” So, just think “example” with an “e” needs to use “e.g.” with an “e.” And, “in other words” with an “i” needs to use “i.e.” with an “i.”

Let’s look at some examples:

  • I enjoy outdoor activities, e.g., hiking and horseback riding. (I am giving a few examples of activities that I enjoy. There are others.)
  • I enjoy outdoor activities, i.e., hiking and horseback riding. (I am stating that the only activities that I like, in other words, are these two.)

Two more examples:

  • Her daughter loves watching superhero cartoons (e.g., Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). (two examples of cartoons that she likes)
  • Her daughter loves watching her favorite cartoon heroes (i.e., the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). (specific/namely/in other words because this cartoon is her favorite not an example of cartoons that she likes watching)

Note: In American English, we also include the periods and a comma after these abbreviations when we use them in a sentence.

A way around this decision if you can’t remember which to use is to substitute the words for the abbreviation:

  • I enjoy outdoor activities, for example, hiking and horseback riding.
  • I enjoy certain outdoor activities, in other words, hiking and horseback riding.
  • Her daughter loves watching superhero cartoons, for example, Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • Her daughter loves watching her favorite cartoon heroes, in other words, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Cowabunga!

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