i.e. vs e.g. - An easy (and fun) way to remember how to use the abbreviations properly.

Thursday, March 2, 2017
To help me remember the difference between these abbreviations I started saying, “i” vs “eggs” instead of i.e. vs  e.g. But, before I explain what I  mean, let’s learn the meaning of the real abbreviations.

Abbreviation meanings

Both abbreviations are Latin expressions. The table below displays the abbreviation, the Latin expression, the English translation and how each abbreviation is used.
Latin expression
English translation
id est
that is
Used to clarify.
exempli gratia
for example
Used to list some examples.

Understanding the meaning of the abbreviations does help. Some people suggest substituting English for the abbreviation to check, but I sometimes still find that confusing.

Here is a little, fun trick I use to remember which Latin abbreviation to use, and why I like to say “i” vs “eggs”.

They all have “i” in common.

Use i.e. when you want to say “that is” or “as in” – they all have an “i” in them.

Sample sentence:
He will be here shortly.

How long is shortly? An hour? Two days? Shortly is a relative term.  In this sentence, I want to clarify what I mean by shortly. I don’t want to give examples; I want to specify what I mean.

Here’s how i.e. is used:
He will be here shortly (i.e., two hours).

Give me an egg-sample.

I love eggs, but what I really want to do with the sentence below is to give an example; not really an egg-sample or e.g.-sample. (Did you see what I did there?)

Sample sentence:
He likes field sports.

When I’m giving examples, I use the e.g. abbreviation. The list isn’t the only sports he likes, but some of the sports.

Here’s how e.g. is used:
He likes field sports (e.g., football, soccer and baseball).

So, next time you are trying to figure out which abbreviation to use just remember the “i” or “eggs”  trick and hopefully it will help. Then go eat some eggs.