Adopted or Adoptive?

What Is the Difference between "Adopted" and "Adoptive"?

The Quick Answer
Children are adopted. Parents are adoptive.


(adjective or verb) "legally placed child with non-birth parents"
  • I am adopted. My uncle and auntie adopted me when I was two. correct tick


(adjective) "legal but not natural parent(s) of child"
  • My adoptive mother climbed Mount Everest. correct tick
adopted or adoptive
"Adopted" and "adoptive" are often confused by writers. The difference between "adopted" and "adoptive" is best explained with a simple example:
  • Mr. Smith says, "Sarah is my adopted daughter."
    Sarah says, "He is my adoptive father."

Quick Test on Adopted and Adoptive

It's your go. Select the correct one:


The adjective "adopted" describes the person who has been adopted. For example:
  • Charles loved his adopted daughter as if she were his own. correct tick
  • I am adopted. correct tick


The adjective "adoptive" describes the person who has adopted. For example:
  • Rebecca loved her adoptive father as if he were her own. correct tick
  • I love my adoptive mother. correct tick

More Formal Definitions of Adopted and Adoptive

Adoption is the act of legally placing a child with parents (or parent) who are not its natural parents. It has the effect of severing the parental responsibilities and rights of the birth parents and transferring them to the adoptive parents. The child is said to be adopted. The adopted child has two sets of parents: its natural parents and its adoptive parents.

Use Adopted or Adoptive with Places

It's easier with places because you can use "adopted" or "adoptive." For example:
  • England is his adopted/adoptive country.
  • (Both are acceptable, but "adopted" is much more common.)
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This page was written by Craig Shrives.