The words purposely and purposefully are easy ones to get mixed up. They look and sound very much alike when written or spoken, they have similar meanings and they are both adverbs. Fortunately, with a bit of reflection on the precise meaning you wish to convey, you'll be able to correctly choose between purposely vs. purposefully.
The first step in understanding whether to use purposely or purposefully is to consider the definition of each of these adverbs.
- purposely - to do something intentionally (She purposely forgot to buy my favorite flavor of soda.)
- purposefully - to demonstrate resolve or determination (She purposefully marched to the front of the classroom to recite her poem.)
When you're trying to decide between purposely and purposefully, it can be helpful to think through other words that are synonyms for each word.
- purposely synonyms - intentionally, deliberately, on purpose
- purposefully synonyms - meaningfully, with determination, with resolve
Think about what you're trying to say, then substitute in the above synonyms to see which works best. Then, if you don't want to stick with the synonym, choose the corresponding p-word for which it is a synonym.
Considering the antonyms (opposites) of these two words can also help clarify how the terms differ.
- purposely antonyms - accidentally, unintentionally, without meaning to
- purposefully antonyms - mindlessly, without thinking about it, casually, in a "by the way" manner
To use this information to help with word selection, simply consider which antonyms are the opposite of the meaning you wish to convey. This will help you be mindful of which p-word actually meets your needs.
Use the word purposely any time you're seeking an adverb that conveys that an action or occurrence was intentional. The sample sentences below illustrate the word purposely being used correctly.
- Why did you put that cup away? I purposely left it on the counter.
- I think she purposely chose a dress that's almost identical to mine.
- Why would you purposely neglect to put away the mayonnaise?
- I purposely left the car on because I thought I would only be in the house for a few minutes.
- He purposely waited to cut the cake after I had to leave.
- She purposely forgot to cook dinner because she really wants to order pizza.
Use the word purposefully when you want to emphasize that someone completed an action in a way that demonstrates determination or resolve. Review the sample sentences below for examples of the correct usage of purposefully.
- She purposefully filled out job applications for entry-level employment opportunities in her field.
- She worked purposefully to reduce the clutter in her home before starting a work-from-home job.
- She strode purposefully to the podium and announced, "I am running for class president."
- He purposefully approached his parents to discuss why he should be allowed to join a travel ball team for the summer.
- Vowing that she wouldn't lose points for grammatical errors, she purposefully proofread her term paper several times.
- She really wanted to go to summer camp. As a result, she approached her parents very purposefully when asking for their permission.
It can be challenging to learn how to tell the difference between words that look and sound similar, especially words that start with the same letter. Purposely and purposefully aren't the only easily confused words that have "p" as their first letter. It can also be difficult to know when to use peek, peak or pique, three p-words that sound exactly the same when spoken!
There are many more word usage concerns to conquer, but you can master them all! Now that you can differentiate between purposely vs. purposefully, you're ready to move on to other language arts challenges. Start by learning how to tell the difference between other similar words like preventive vs. preventative. Then, explore even more commonly confused words. The more you learn, the stronger your English language skills will be!