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Jane Mairs, Director of English language Learning Publishing
Is there a difference between "for example" and "for instance"?
Tuesday March 13th 2012
Question
Is there a difference between "for example" and "for instance"?
Answer

Question

Paul, from the Czech Republic, asked about the difference between for example and for instance, and which one to use when.

Answer

There is very little difference between for example and for instance. They have the same or nearly the same meaning, and they are used in the same way. Both of these expressions are used when a speaker or writer wants to introduce a specific person or thing that helps to explain or confirm a general statement. Note, however, that for example is used much more frequently than for instance, particularly in formal contexts, so in academic writing it is a safer choice.

Below are some examples with for example and for instance. In any of them, either expression could be used.

  1. The situation is slowly improving. Last month, for example, the company achieved record sales in Europe.
  2. It was obvious that her memory was failing. For example, she would often forget where she put her car keys.
  3. A lot of my friends were there—John and Linda, for example.
  4. Poor balance is a problem for a lot of older people, like my grandmother, for instance.
  5. Mobile devices are becoming less expensive. Sophisticated smartphones, for instance, can now be purchased for less than $100.


I hope this helps.


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