What’s the Difference between e.g. and i.e.?

People commonly confuse the abbreviations “e.g.” and “i.e.,” as they are used in similar contexts and function in similar ways. They are both abbreviations of Latin phrases. However, they do not mean the same thing, and they are not interchangeable. E.g. is used for specific examples, while i.e. is used to rephrase or to define parameters.

I’ll break these down further and supply plenty of examples, so that by the end of this article, you know exactly when to use e.g. and i.e. 

The Difference between e.g. and i.e. at a Glance

  • e.g. — E.g. is short for the Latin phrase “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example,” “for instance,” or “such as.” Use this phrase to provide specific examples.
  • i.e. I.e. is short for the Latin phrase “id est,” meaning “that is” or “that is to say.” Use this phrase when providing parameters or an explanation of a word or phrase. 

Use e.g. to Provide Specific Examples

As e.g. means “for example,” it should only be used when sharing specific instances of a phrase or word.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Ella really likes big dogs (e.g., German Shepherds and Great Danes).

Marcus will spend his summer binge-watching classic sci-fi, e.g., Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Logan’s Run.

Tracy has traveled to states all over the country (e.g., California, Minnesota, and Virginia) and now wants to travel abroad.

Use i.e. to Restate, Describe, or Set Parameters

The phrase i.e. means “that is” — another way to think of this is “in other words.” The words following i.e. can describe or restate the original statement. For example:

Ella really likes big dogs (i.e., dogs over about 60 pounds).

Marcus will spend his summer binge-watching classic sci-fi, i.e., critically acclaimed sci-fi from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Tracy has traveled to states all over the country (i.e., on both coasts and in the Midwest) and now wants to travel abroad.

What about Commas with i.e. and e.g.?

Should you use commas after e.g. and i.e.? That depends on where you are or who you’re writing for. In American English, commas are required. Both the Chicago Manual of Style and the AP Style Guide, for example, suggest a comma after i.e. and e.g. 

In British English, however, the comma afterward is not used. (See the Penguin Writer’s Manual.)

Here’s an example:

American English: Marcia will drink anything with coffee in it (e.g., lattes, mochas, and americanos).

British English: Maria will drink anything with coffee in it (e.g. lattes, mochas, and americanos).

What about Parentheses?

Both e.g. and i.e. are often used with parentheses, but writers can also use commas or even em dashes.

For instance:

With parentheses: Yolanda likes to read contemporary books (i.e., anything written after 2000) and the local newspaper.

With commas: Yolanda likes to read contemporary books, i.e., anything written after 2000, and the local newspaper.

With dashes: Yolanda likes to read contemporary books — i.e., anything written after 2000 — and the local newspaper.

Should You Capitalize e.g. and i.e.?

In general, e.g. and i.e. are lowercase. However, on the rare occasion that you begin a sentence with either of these, the first letter is capitalized.

Furthermore, always put periods after each letter.

Should You Italicize e.g. or i.e.?

No. Even though they stand for Latin phrases, and foreign phrases are often set in italics, we don’t italicize e.g. or i.e.

Turn to the EditorNinja Blog

If you have more questions (e.g., “What’s the difference between proofreading and editing?” or, “When do I use a comma before and?”), turn to the EditorNinja Blog (i.e., your trusted source for help with grammar and writing).

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