"eg" or "ie"?

by Craig Shrives

"eg" or "ie"?

What is the difference between "eg" and "ie"?
  • "Eg" means "for example" (from the Latin exempli gratia).
  • "Ie" means "in other words" or "that is" (from the Latin id est).
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).
  • (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.
  • He was the school champion of many activities (eg, chess, badminton, 110m hurdles, and high jump).

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).
  • (Remember that "ie" restates the information. It doesn't offer an example.)
  • It happened in August, i.e., two months ago.
  • It happened in August, e.g., two months ago.
  • (Remember that "eg" means for example.)
  • Service charge is included in all prices; ie, you don't have to leave a tip.

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.
  • (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.
  • (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.
  • (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.
  • (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).
A new sentence with "eg" and "ie"
  • He directs a variety of genres. Eg, he directs crime, disaster, drama and fantasy.

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.).
  • (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."

Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms Abbreviations