The Latin abbreviations e.g. and i.e. are commonly used in English, and nearly as commonly mixed up. If this sounds like you, i.e., you are never sure whether to use e.g. or i.e., read through this lesson to learn the difference.
e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” Use e.g. to introduce one or more possibilities among many.
- I like root vegetables, e.g., potatoes. (Potatoes are just one of many types of root vegetables)
- He wastes his money on junk, e.g. cars that don’t run. (He also buys old TVs and VCRs)
- I’ll listen to anything, e.g., country-western, rap, etc. (Country-western and rap are just two of the many types of music that I’ll listen to)
An easy way to remember what e.g. means is to think of it as standing for “example given.” Alternatively, just say “e.g.” out loud – it sounds just like the first syllable in example.
i.e. stands for id est which means “that is.” Use i.e. when what you are introducing is equivalent to or an explanation of what comes before it in the sentence.
- I like root vegetables; i.e., the ones that grow underground.
- He wastes his money on junk; i.e., stuff that he will never get around to fixing.
- I’ll listen to anything; i.e., I like any kind of music.
Basically, i.e. means “in other words.” It’s used to reword or provide an alternate explanation.
The Bottom Line
e.g. and i.e. are both Latin abbreviations. Both introduce additional information, but e.g. offers an example while i.e. explains or rewords. If you can replace the abbreviation with “for example,” use e.g. If you can replace it with “in other words” or “that is,” use i.e.