What Does i.e. Mean? Making Sense Of Language

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
~ Nelson Mandela

Being a writer has given me a natural love affair with language and although I only speak and write one language at the moment (I’ll let you guess which one ;)), I do plan on learning others as needed.

But I must confess to sometimes getting exacerbated with common and what I consider to be fundamental errors with writing especially.

My current favourite written grammar error that sticks in my craw is using the possessive pronoun “your” for the contraction “you’re”. The contraction “you’re” is a contraction of the pronoun “you” and the verb “are”.

The way I remember how to write it is to think of exchanging “you’re” with “you are” to see if the sentence still makes sense.

Here is an example:

“I think your funny because of what you said.” If you replace “you are” for “your” and it still makes sense then that is what you really meant to write. In this case, the sentence should be; “I think you’re funny because of what you said.”

Here is an example where “your” is correct and not “you’re”:

“I think your toothbrush is the yellow one.” If you replace “your” in this sentence with “you are” it doesn’t make sense; “I think you are toothbrush is the yellow one.” Therefore, the correct word is “your” rather than “you’re”. However, I hardly ever see anyone making a mistake with “you’re”, rather they confuse “your” when they should be writing “you’re”.

Anyway, that is and aside, because we really want to get to what i.e. means.

Figuring out what does i.e. mean is one of the more common errors in English usage. Oftentimes folks mistake i.e. for e.g.

I.e. is from the Latin “id est” and that is why it also has a period after each letter as it is an abbreviation of 2 words. Id est means “that is” or “in other words.”

You use “i.e.” when you want to express something you just said in a different way i.e. you want to allude to the meaning differently. See how I used it in that that sentence. If you see “i.e.” and say to yourself as you read a sentence that contains that abbreviation “that is” then the sentence should still make sense.

E.g. is also from Latin and means exempli grati which means “for example.” Here is an example sentence using e.g.:

“I love you so much e.g. the way you bake cakes.” If you “read” “for example” in place of e.g. then the sentence continues to make sense.

It is a bit of a tricky one I’ll admit that. But Washington State University has a great paragraph on how to remember the difference. The example they give is to use “in effect” for i.e. and “example given” for e.g. and you’ll likely never go astray.

I.e. and e.g. in case you were wondering are both conjunctions. Happy writing!

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