In the English language, you may encounter words that sometimes overlap in meaning and are frequently interchanged even by native speakers and writers. This is the case with the words continual and continuous. Both terms originate from the word continue and are very closely related when it comes to meaning and use. This post will discuss the differences between the two so you may avoid confusion with using these words in the future.
The term continual is used as an adjective meaning “recurring in steady usually rapid succession,” “frequently recurring,” or “always happening.” The action does not occur ceaselessly but there is a regularity to it.
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On the other hand, the word continuous is used as an adjective meaning “marked by uninterrupted extension in space, time, or sequence” or “forming an unbroken whole; without interruption.” This is usually used to refer to actions like the beating of a person’s heart, the movement of planets in the solar system, and the flow of water in a river.
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The confusion also extends to the words’ adverb forms continually and continuously, which are often mixed up by writers. The adverb continually means “repeated frequently in the same way.”
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Meanwhile, continuously as an adverb means “repeatedly without exceptions or reversals” or “without interruption or gaps.”
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Now that you have learned the differences between continual and continuous, it would be easier for you to determine which term to use in your sentence. Hopefully, this post helped you distinguish between these words and avoid further confusion in the future.