"eg" or "ie"?

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Difference between "eg" and "ie"?

"Eg" and "ie" are easy to confuse because they are both used to clarify text. However, they are different.
  • "Eg" means "for example" (from the Latin exempli gratia).
    • I try to eat local sea fish (eg, herring, bass). correct tick
    • (With eg, examples are given for clarification.)
  • "Ie" means "in other words" or "that is" (from the Latin id est).
    • I try to eat local sea fish (ie, fish caught by boats from my village). correct tick
    • (With ie, a different form of words is given for clarification.)
If you're unsure whether to use "eg" or "ie," use "for example" (to test for "eg") or "in other words" (to test for "ie"), and you will naturally choose the right one. Remember that "eg" just gives an example or some examples, but "ie" restates the point or spells out the whole list (not just an example).
ie or eg?

More about "eg" and "ie"

The abbreviations "eg" (often written "e.g.") comes from the Latin exempli gratia) and "ie" (often written "i.e.") comes from the Latin id est. Confusion arises between these words because they are both used to clarify something previously mentioned in a sentence. However, they are not the same.

Infographic explaining "eg" and "ie"

Here is an infographic explaining "eg" and "ie":
ie eg difference

eg

The abbreviation "eg" is used to provide an example.

Example Sentences with "eg"

  • You can choose any of the first three letters of the alphabet (eg, B). correct tick
  • (Remember that "eg" just gives an example.)
  • The buffet provided excellent variety, eg, vegetarian and non-vegetarian soups, Italian and French breads, and numerous sweets. correct tick
  • He was the school champion of many activities (eg, chess, badminton, 110m hurdles, and high jump). correct tick

i.e.

The abbreviation "ie" is used to restate an idea more clearly or offer more information. (It can usually be substituted with in other words.)

Example Sentences with "ie"

  • You can choose any of the first three letters of the alphabet (ie, A, B, or C). correct tick
  • (Remember that "ie" restates the information. It doesn't offer an example.)
  • It happened in August, i.e., two months ago. correct tick
  • It happened in August, e.g., two months ago. wrong cross
  • (Remember that "eg" means for example.)
  • Service charge is included in all prices; ie, you don't have to leave a tip. correct tick

Getting Them Wrong

If you confuse "eg" and "ie," your sentence will still likely be grammatically correct. However, getting them wrong will change the meaning of your sentence. For example:
  • All amphibians are thriving in the new pond; eg, the two bullfrogs were being very active yesterday. correct tick
  • (This sentence is fine grammatically. From it, we infer that there are more amphibians than two bullfrogs in the pond.)
  • All amphibians are thriving in the new pond; ie, the two bullfrogs were being very active yesterday. correct tick
  • (This sentence is fine grammatically. We infer that the only amphibians in the pond are the two bullfrogs.)

Remembering "eg" and "ie"

This may assist in remembering:
  • eg = "example given"
  • ie = "in effect"

Formatting "eg" and "ie"

There is a wide range of acceptable formats with "eg" and "ie"

Comma before "eg" and "ie"
  • He directs a variety of genres, eg, crime, disaster, drama, fantasy. correct tick
  • (Note: If you use a comma before, then the text that follows should not be a standalone sentence. If it is a standalone sentence, you will have created a run-on error. You can avoid this by using a semicolon or starting a new sentence.)
Semicolon before "eg" and "ie"
  • He directs a variety of genres; eg, he directs crime, disaster, drama, and fantasy. correct tick
  • (Note: A semicolon is appropriate when the text that follows is a standalone sentence.)
Brackets with "eg" and "ie"
  • He directs a variety of genres (eg, crime, disaster, drama, fantasy). correct tick
A new sentence with "eg" and "ie"
  • He directs a variety of genres. Eg, he directs crime, disaster, drama and fantasy. correct tick

The Comma after "eg" and "ie".

In the US, it is usual to follow "eg" or "ie" with a comma. It is less common in the UK. There is leniency in all conventions. The golden rule is be consistent.

e.g./i.e. or eg/ie?

It is usual to see periods (full stops) with "eg" and "ie." However, you can write them without (as we have done on this page). The golden rule is be consistent.

Don't use "etc." after "eg"

It is inappropriate to use "etc." after "eg" since it is understood that you are only offering a partial list by way of example. For example:
  • Mark needs gloves to handle live fishing bait (eg, rag worm, lug worm, crab, etc.). wrong cross
  • (The use of "eg" is correct, but the use of "etc." is unnecessary.)

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "ie" and "e.g."

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