Word Choice: Definite vs. Definitive
  • 2-minute read
  • 3rd September 2021

Word Choice: Definite vs. Definitive

The words “definite” and “definitive” sound similar and are spelled similarly. They have different meanings, however, so you don’t want to mix them up. Check out our guide below to learn how to use these terms correctly in your writing.

Definite (Clear or Certain)

“Definite” is an adjective that means “clear, fixed, or certain.” You can therefore use it to modify or describe a noun in these terms:

They need a definite time for the wedding guests.

There’s been a definite increase in the number of customers this week.

The related term “definitely” is an adverb that means “without question or doubt”:

The blizzard definitely made it too dangerous to drive.

Keep in mind, though, that adverbs can only modify verbs, not nouns.

Definitive (Conclusive or the Best of Its Kind)

The word “definitive” is also an adjective. It usually describes something that is final, authoritative, or conclusive. For instance:

The jury came to a definitive verdict on the defendant’s guilt.

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Smith and Jones (2018) conducted a definitive study on the topic.

In addition, ‘definitive’ can imply that something is the best of its kind:

She wrote the definitive biography of Philip K. Dick.

In all cases, though, this word ends in the suffix “-ive.”

Summary: Definite or Definitive?

Although these adjectives have similarities, they differ in meaning:

  • Definite refers to being clear, fixed, or certain.
  • Definitive can mean “conclusive,” “authoritative,” or “the best of its kind.”

If you struggle to tell these words apart, it can help to remember that “definitive,” “conclusive,” and “authoritative” all end in “-ive.” If you need a word that means “conclusive” or “authoritative,” then, you’ll know to use “definitive.”

Hopefully, this will help you to avoid mixing these words up in your writing. And if you’d like more advice on your spelling or word choice, try our proofreading service by uploading a trial document for free today!

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