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Difference vs. Different: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
"Difference" is a noun referring to a distinct separation or dissimilarity between things, while "Different" is an adjective describing distinct or unlike qualities in comparison.
Difference vs. Different

Key Differences

The words "difference" and "different" are closely related in English, yet they serve distinct functions and convey slightly different meanings. "Difference," used as a noun, refers to the quality or state of being dissimilar or unlike in nature, form, or quality. For example, when we speak about the difference between two objects, we are focusing on what makes them distinct from each other. Conversely, "different" is an adjective and is used to describe objects, people, or situations that are not the same; it emphasizes diversity or distinctness. When something is described as different, it stands out due to its unique characteristics or qualities.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023
In the realm of comparison, "difference" is often used to specify the degree or extent to which things are not the same. It quantifies or identifies the aspects that set entities apart. This term is particularly useful in academic, scientific, or analytical contexts where precision is key. On the other hand, "different" is more commonly used in everyday language to simply indicate that one thing is not the same as another. This word does not inherently provide a measure or depth of the dissimilarity; it merely states the existence of it. For instance, saying "these two ideas are different" doesn't specify how or why they differ, just that they are not identical.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023
In terms of usage, "difference" often follows prepositions or verbs that denote comparison, such as "between," "among," "is," or "makes." For example, one might say, "The difference between classical and modern art is significant." This sentence focuses on identifying the specific aspects that distinguish two genres of art. In contrast, "different" is typically used as a descriptive adjective, often preceding the noun it modifies. An example of this would be, "The different styles of painting each have unique characteristics," where "different" is used to describe multiple styles of painting that are not the same.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023
When discussing perspectives or opinions, "difference" can be a valuable term to highlight varying viewpoints. It acknowledges that there are multiple ways of seeing or understanding a situation or concept. For example, "The difference in opinions about the new policy was evident in the meeting." Here, "difference" is highlighting the variety of viewpoints presented. In contrast, "different" can be used to describe alternative or unconventional approaches or ideas. For example, saying "She has a different perspective on the matter" suggests that her viewpoint stands out from the norm or from what is typically expected.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023
Finally, the linguistic roles of "difference" and "different" are crucial in their respective applications. "Difference" as a noun, serves as the subject or object in a sentence, often forming the core of a statement or argument. It carries the weight of the message being conveyed, particularly in discussions that revolve around comparison or contrast. "Different," as an adjective, plays a supporting role, modifying nouns and providing additional information about them. It enriches a sentence by adding a layer of description, helping to paint a clearer picture of the subject at hand. Both terms are integral to English, each serving its unique purpose in facilitating effective communication.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Part of Speech

Noun - it names the quality or state of being distinct.
Adjective - it describes something as not the same.
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Usage in Sentence

Used as a subject or object (e.g., "The difference was noticeable.")
Used to modify nouns (e.g., "They come from different backgrounds.")
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Role in Comparison

Denotes the result or state of a comparison.
Qualifies entities as distinct or not alike.
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Relation to Change

Often indicates a change has occurred, leading to differences.
Implies a state of being, not necessarily a change.
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Association with Quantity

Can be quantified (e.g., "a difference of 10 degrees").
Qualitative, not quantifiable (e.g., "a different color").
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Difference and Different Definitions

Difference

Disparity
The difference in opinions led to a debate.
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Different

Unalike
They spoke in different languages.
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Difference

Contrast
The difference between night and day is stark.
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Different

Non-identical
The twins had different personalities.
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Difference

Deviation
The difference in results was unexpected.
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Different

Distinctive
She had a different approach to the problem.
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Difference

Divergence
The cultural difference was evident.
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Different

Diverse
They came from different backgrounds.
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Difference

The quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar.
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Different

Varied
He offered different solutions.
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Difference

An instance of disparity or unlikeness
There is a big difference in sound between a clarinet and an oboe.
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Different

Unlike in form, quality, amount, or nature; dissimilar
Took different approaches to the problem.
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Difference

A degree or amount by which things differ
A difference in height of three inches.
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Different

Distinct or separate
That's a different issue altogether.
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Difference

A noticeable change or effect
Exercise has made a difference in her health.
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Different

Various or assorted
Interviewed different members of the community.
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Difference

A disagreement or controversy
Let's settle our differences.
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Different

Differing from all others; unusual
A different point of view.
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Difference

Discrimination in taste or choice; distinction
In this case, the law should make no difference between young and old.
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Different

In a different way or manner; otherwise
"Carol ... didn't know different until Elinor told her" (Ben Brantley).
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Difference

The amount by which one quantity is greater or less than another.
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Different

Not the same; exhibiting a difference.
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Difference

The amount that remains after one quantity is subtracted from another.
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Different

Various, assorted, diverse.
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Difference

To distinguish or differentiate.
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Different

Distinct, separate; used for emphasis after numbers and other determiners of quantity.
Several different scientists all reached this conclusion at about the same time.
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Difference

(uncountable) The quality of being different.
You need to learn to be more tolerant of difference.
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Different

Unlike most others; unusual.
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Difference

(countable) A characteristic of something that makes it different from something else.
There are three differences between these two pictures.
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Different

(mathematics) The different ideal.
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Difference

(countable) A disagreement or argument.
We have our little differences, but we are firm friends.
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Different

Differently.
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Difference

Significant change in or effect on a situation or state.
It just won't make much difference to me.
It just won't make much of a difference to anyone.
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Different

Distinct; separate; not the same; other.
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Difference

(countable) The result of a subtraction; sometimes the absolute value of this result.
The difference between 3 and 21 is 18.
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Different

Of various or contrary nature, form, or quality; partially or totally unlike; dissimilar; as, different kinds of food or drink; different states of health; different shapes; different degrees of excellence.
Men are as different from each other, as the regions in which they are born are different.
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Difference

(obsolete) Choice; preference.
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Different

Unlike in nature or quality or form or degree;
Took different approaches to the problem
Came to a different conclusion
Different parts of the country
On different sides of the issue
This meeting was different from the earlier one
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Difference

(heraldry) An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish two people's bearings which would otherwise be the same. See augmentation and cadency.
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Different

Distinctly separate from the first;
That's another (or different) issue altogether
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Difference

(logic) The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.
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Different

Differing from all others; not ordinary;
Advertising that strives continually to be different
This new music is certainly different but I don't really like it
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Difference

(logic circuits) A Boolean operation which is true when the two input variables are different but is otherwise false; the XOR operation (\scriptstyle A \overline B + \overline A B).
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Different

Not like; marked by dissimilarity;
For twins they are very unlike
People are profoundly different
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Difference

(relational algebra) The set of elements that are in one set but not another (\scriptstyle A \overline B).
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Different

Distinct or separate;
Each interviewed different members of the community
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Difference

To distinguish or differentiate.
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Difference

The act of differing; the state or measure of being different or unlike; distinction; dissimilarity; unlikeness; variation; as, a difference of quality in paper; a difference in degrees of heat, or of light; what is the difference between the innocent and the guilty?
Differencies of administration, but the same Lord.
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Difference

Disagreement in opinion; dissension; controversy; quarrel; hence, cause of dissension; matter in controversy.
What was the difference? It was a contention in public.
Away therefore went I with the constable, leaving the old warden and the young constable to compose their difference as they could.
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Difference

That by which one thing differs from another; that which distinguishes or causes to differ; mark of distinction; characteristic quality; specific attribute.
The marks and differences of sovereignty.
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Difference

Choice; preference.
That now he chooseth with vile differenceTo be a beast, and lack intelligence.
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Difference

An addition to a coat of arms to distinguish the bearings of two persons, which would otherwise be the same. See Augmentation, and Marks of cadency, under Cadency.
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Difference

The quality or attribute which is added to those of the genus to constitute a species; a differentia.
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Difference

The quantity by which one quantity differs from another, or the remainder left after subtracting the one from the other.
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Difference

To cause to differ; to make different; to mark as different; to distinguish.
Thou mayest difference gods from men.
Kings, in receiving justice and undergoing trial, are not differenced from the meanest subject.
So completely differenced by their separate and individual characters that we at once acknowledge them as distinct persons.
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Difference

The quality of being unlike or dissimilar;
There are many differences between jazz and rock
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Difference

A variation that deviates from the standard or norm;
The deviation from the mean
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Difference

A disagreement or argument about something important;
He had a dispute with his wife
There were irreconcilable differences
The familiar conflict between Republicans and Democrats
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Difference

A significant change;
The difference in her is amazing
His support made a real difference
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Difference

The number that remains after subtraction; the number that when added to the subtrahend gives the minuend
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Difference

Variation
The difference in temperature was 5 degrees.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Can 'difference' be used in mathematics?

Yes, to denote the result of subtraction.
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Dec 18, 2023

What does 'make a difference' mean?

It means to have a significant impact or effect.
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Dec 18, 2023

Is 'different' quantitative or qualitative?

It's qualitative, describing the nature of something.
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Dec 18, 2023

Is 'difference' always negative?

No, it can be neutral, highlighting diversity or variety.
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Dec 18, 2023

Can 'difference' refer to a disagreement?

Yes, as in a difference of opinion.
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Dec 18, 2023

Does 'different' always mean completely unlike?

Not necessarily, it can also indicate a slight variation.
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Dec 18, 2023

Can 'different' imply uniqueness?

Yes, it can indicate something unique or distinct.
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Dec 18, 2023

Can objects be 'different' in one aspect but similar in others?

Yes, different in one aspect doesn't imply overall dissimilarity.
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Dec 18, 2023

What is the primary use of 'difference'?

As a noun, it refers to the distinguishing factor between things.
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Dec 18, 2023

How is 'different' used in a sentence?

As an adjective to describe something as not the same.
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Dec 18, 2023

How is 'different' used in comparative forms?

It can be used as "more different" or "less different."
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Dec 18, 2023

Is 'different' always visible?

Not always, some differences are intangible or ideological.
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Dec 18, 2023

Does 'different' imply superiority or inferiority?

No, it's neutral and doesn't imply a value judgment.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023

Can 'different' describe people?

Yes, in terms of characteristics, opinions, or backgrounds.
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Dec 18, 2023

What is a 'cultural difference'?

It refers to the diverse characteristics of various cultures.
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Dec 18, 2023

Can 'different' be used positively?

Yes, to celebrate diversity or uniqueness.
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Shumaila Saeed
Dec 18, 2023

How does 'difference' relate to diversity?

It is a key aspect of diversity, highlighting variations.
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Dec 18, 2023

Is 'indifference' related to 'difference'?

Indirectly, as 'indifference' means not noticing or caring about differences.
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Dec 18, 2023

Can 'difference' be subjective?

Yes, perceptions of difference can vary.
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Dec 18, 2023

Does 'difference' always imply a clear distinction?

Not always, some differences can be subtle.
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Dec 18, 2023

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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