E.g. stands for exempli gratia, “for example,” while i.e. stands for id est, “that is.”
Meanings of e.g. vs. i.e.
They’re both scholarly abbreviations and they’re both taken from Latin, but e.g. and i.e. are not the same. The difference between these commonly confused terms becomes clear when we look at what they mean:
e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which literally means “for the sake of an example.”
i.e. stands for id est, which literally means “that is.”
When to use i.e. or e.g. with examples
Since they have different meanings, it makes sense that e.g. and i.e. have different uses, too. While e.g. is about possibilities, i.e. is definite.
We use e.g. when giving one or more examples of something—in places where you’d use such as, for example, or like:
Certain bacteria strains are key to a healthy gut, e.g., S. boulardii, L. acidophilus, and B. bifidum.”
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In some parts of the world (e.g., Papua New Guinea; Detroit, Michigan, USA; and Uganda), access to clean water continues to be a problem.
Just like when you use such as or for example, you’re not giving an exhaustive list, just some options, so you should not add and more, etc., and so on, or other similar phrases to the end of the sentence. These are redundant because the use of e.g. or a synonymous phrase already makes it clear to the reader that the list is incomplete.
On the other hand, we use i.e. when we’re offering another name for something or more specific details about it. In these cases, we’re defining exactly what we mean. Other terms we might use in place of i.e. are that is, in other words, and namely:
Zoe wanted to see her favorite animal at the zoo (i.e., the elephant).
Some football fields are much safer than others, i.e., grass is superior to artificial turf.
The global earthquake capital, i.e., Tokyo, Japan, is centrally located in the Ring of Fire.
Punctuation and formatting with e.g. and i.e.
We’ve ironed out when to use these abbreviations, so now let’s talk about how to incorporate them into a sentence.
When it comes to punctuation with e.g. and i.e., the rules depend on the English variant you’re using. For example, a comma is required after both of these abbreviations in US English but is usually not required in Canadian, Australian, or UK English. However, a comma always appears before these abbreviations unless parentheses are involved, as in some of the example sentences above.
Periods, or full stops, after each letter in both e.g. and i.e. are nearly always standard. The only exception is if your style guide, publisher, or instructor requires you to leave them out or to use just one at the end. Similarly, there’s no need to italicize e.g. or i.e. unless you’ve been given a style guide that says to.
And finally, can you begin a sentence with e.g. or i.e., and should you capitalize the first letter when you do? Yes and yes. But it’s usually better to rephrase instead, such as by starting the sentence with For example or In other words.
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How can I remember the difference between i.e. and e.g.?
You can keep these abbreviations straight by focusing on the first letter of each one. Example and e.g. both start with e, and e.g. means you’re giving an example. In other words and i.e. both start with i, and i.e. means you’re restating something in different or more specific words.
Can i.e. and e.g. be used interchangeably?
Since these two terms have different meanings, they can’t be used interchangeably.