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This is a place to explore our language. Do you want to learn more about how languages work? Read here. Do you have a question about what is "right" and "wrong" in English? Read here. Have you ever noticed something funny, strange, or confusing about the way people talk? Then this is the place for you. Here we can explore the do's, don'ts, and d'ohs of our language.

Friday, December 7, 2007

That is, for example, ludicrous

Here is one for my sister:

The abbreviation i.e. comes from Latin and means "id est," -- literally "that is." It is used to say something else in another way.

Here is an example:
My students are having trouble remembering how to conjugate verbs to indicate an action that was ongoing in the past; i.e. the imperfect tense.

Another example:
I never learned this at the university I attended; i.e. Truman State University.

The abbreviation e.g. also comes from Latin and means "exempli gratia," -- "a good example." It is used to introduce a list of examples.

Here is an example:
The students from Notre Dame High School typically choose to go to colleges in Missouri; e.g. Truman or Saint Louis University.

These two abbreviations are not truly interchangeable. "E.g." appears in front of a list of a couple of choices that help to demonstrate a point. "I.e." appears in front of a specific word or phrase that will help to clarify a point. This can be confusing when "i.e." has the same meaning as "specifically." Take this instance:

Suppose you are testing a child's conceptual and language ability. You have set up an experiment to see if the child understands the concept of "first" and "last." After your experiment, you wish to explain your findings to the child's parents. Here is how you would say it:

John had trouble understanding the ordinal numbers that we used in our experiment; i.e. "first" and "last."

The above sentence indicates that the only two words you tested are "first" and "last."

John had trouble understanding the ordinal numbers that we used in our experiment; e.g. "first" and "last."

This sentence indicates that two of the many words in your test are "first" and "last."

I know it's been a while since I posted last, but I've been busy with lots of things; e.g. teaching, grading, and chasing after Michael. I hope that I will have more time for this other hobby of mine; i.e. mavening.

(Hope this helps, Jill.)

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About The Author

My name is Ben Edwards. I live in Cape Girardeau, Missouri where I grew up. In 2002, I graduated Truman State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics. I have a wife named Laura and a son named Michael. I am proud to be a Spanish teacher at Notre Dame Regional High School. When I am not working, I like to spend time with my family.