• 2-minute read
  • 2nd September 2015

Word Choice: Adapt vs. Adopt

There are many English words which are spelled similarly but have completely different meanings. The words adapt and adopt, for instance, are separated by a single vowel in terms of spelling but differ significantly in use.

In cases like this, it is important to use each word properly. Doing so will help you to avoid easily preventable mistakes and ensure that you communicate your ideas clearly. As such, we’ve prepared the following guide to help you know when to adapt and when to adopt.

Adapt (Change to Suit a Specific Purpose)

The term “adapt” means to make something suitable for a specific situation or purpose. You might therefore want to “adapt” a novel into a film or a recipe to make it gluten-free. It can also refer to the ability to adjust to new circumstances:

Being able to adapt was important for survival in the jungle.

In either case, “adapt” refers to making an adjustment of some kind.

Adopt (Make One’s Own)

The word “adopt” means to take something on as one’s own. There are numerous contexts in which this can be used, including taking on the legal responsibilities of a parent:

Jenny and Jane decided to adopt the orphan child.

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However, “adopt” can also be used more broadly to describe following a course of action or appropriating an idea. For example:

After reading de Saussure, Kim adopted a structuralist approach.

In both cases, the key to understanding “adopt” is that someone is choosing to make something their own.

Adapt or Adopt?

Since these words have very different meanings, the main thing is remembering how each one is spelled. If you are having trouble with this, you might want to focus on just one of the words: if you remember that “adapt” is spelled with an “a” and means “to change,” you will then know that “adopt” (with an “o”) means to appropriate something as one’s own.

But it can be easy to overlook these things, so to make sure that your writing is free from unfortunate mistakes, you can send academic papers, business reports or any other document you might need checking to the expert proofreaders at Proofed. We’ll even check a 500-word sample for free!

And if you need more guidance on vocabulary, don’t forget to check out the word choice archive in our academic blog.

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