Struggling to figure out when you should use e.g. vs i.e.? What about i.e. vs ex.? E.g. vs e.x.?
Those are enough abbreviations to make your head spin! In this article, we'll break down what i.e., e.g., and ex. all stand for and explain how to use each properly in a sentence. We'll also give you some quick tips for remembering which is which.
The Bottom Line: What's the Difference Between I.e., E.g., and Ex.?
I.e., e.g., and ex. are all abbreviations. I.e. and e.g. are abbreviations for Latin phrases and ex. is an abbreviation for an English word. Let's take a deeper look at each them.
What Does I.e. Mean?
"I.e" is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase "id est," which translates to "that is" or "in other words."
Here's a look at "i.e." in action:
"I am a vegetarian, i.e., I don't eat meat."
In the example, "i.e." is used to provide more clarification about what being a vegetarian means. You could also read the sentence as, "I am a vegetarian, in other words, I don't eat meat."
What Does E.g. Mean?
"E.g." is an abbreviation for a Latin phrase as well. The Latin phrase "exempli gratia" is the longer form of "e.g." "Exempli gratia" translates to "for example."
Let's take a look at an example of "e.g." in a sentence:
"I love to eat vegetables, e.g., carrots, spinach, and arugula."
You use "e.g." to introduce examples of something. In the sentence above, it's used to introduce examples of the vegetables that the subject of the sentence likes.
What Does Ex. Mean?
"Ex." is another abbreviation, but for an English word: "exercise." Writers use "ex." in their work to refer to an exercise. Many people think that "ex." stands for example, but that's a common mistake. "Ex." is used to introduce exercises.
Here's a look at how:
"Please refer to ex. 4."
The sentence instructs the reader to refer to an exercise later in the text, likely in an appendix.
Rules for Using I.e., E.g., and Ex. in Writing
Now that we know what e.g., i.e., and ex. mean, let's look at how to use them correctly in writing.
E.g., i.e., and ex. should all be written in lowercase when you use them in the middle of a sentence.
E.g. and i.e. should be followed by a comma, as seen in the following examples:
"There were many flavors of ice cream at the shop, e.g., chocolate, vanilla, cookie dough, and mint chocolate chip."
"I don't like eating raw fish, i.e., sushi."
Even though e.g. and i.e. are both Latin abbreviations, you don't need to italicize them in your writing.
Tricks for Using I.e. vs E.g. vs Ex.
Stuck trying to figure out when to use i.e. vs e.g., i.e. vs ex., or e.g. vs ex.? Don't worry, there are a few tricks for remembering which abbreviation works for which situation.
You don't need to remember the Latin translations for i.e. or e.g. to know when to use them. Instead, remind yourself what each means!
"I.e." is another way of saying "in other words." You can remember this because "i.e." and "in other words" both start with the letter "i."
Whenever you write a sentence with "i.e.," read it back to yourself and replace "i.e." with "in other words." If it makes sense, you're using it right. If not, take another look at the sentence.
"E.g." in Latin is "exempli gratia." "E.g" means "for example," so you can remember that "e.g." is used to introduce different "exempli" or "examples."
If you're writing a sentence with "e.g.," read it back to yourself and replace "e.g." with "for example." If it makes sense, you're all set! If not, you're probably using "e.g." incorrectly.
"Ex." is short for "exercise." You can remember that because "ex" and "exercise" both start with "ex."
It's tricky to remember the differences between i.e. vs e.g. vs ex. But it doesn't have to be! Each has its own specific usage:
- "I.e." is another way of saying "in other words."
- "E.g." is another way of saying "for example."
- "Ex." is an abbreviation for "exercise."
Remember that and you'll be all set!
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.