Purposely vs Purposefully

The ICAL TEFL Blog

Beckham purposely fouling.This one crops up all the time. Someone writes something like:

I made that mistake purposefully.
She stood there purposely and refused to let me pass.

And all the grammar fiends come down on them for such basic errors.

So once and for all, here’s the difference between these two words.

Purposely

Simple:

purposely = intentionally = on purpose

Beckham purposely kicked the Argentinian player.
Beckham intentionally kicked the Argentinian player.
Beckham kicked the Argentinian player on purpose.

In other words, it was a planned event and it wasn’t an accident.

Purposefully

On the other hand:

purposefully = with determination

The referee held the red card up purposefully.
The referee held the red card up with determination.

In other words, the referee held the card strongly and forcefully and in order to serve a purpose; in order to say something strong.

Purposefully vs Purposely

So very roughly speaking, purposely is about the reason you do something and purposefully is how you do something.

Meanwhile, if it helps, here are some opposites:

purposely ≠ by mistake
purposefully ≠ timidly

And just complicate things a little more before finishing, both of these words use the adjective, purposeful.

It was a purposeful kick from Beckham.
A purposeful grimace from the referee.

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2 Comments

  1. Barry Weintraub

    This begs the question of whether “purposely” is proper English. “ly” endings are added to adjectives to make them adverbs, but the adjectival form of purpose is “purposeful” (e.g., “done in a purposeful manner”). Therefore, the adverbial form should be purposefully, not purposely. The difference in meaning contained in many dictionaries is just an after the fact recognition of the common incorrect use of “purposely”. Those dictionaries should rethink their descriptions of it.

    • Pete West

      Thank you for sharing.