Word Choice: Intension vs. Intention
  • 3-minute read
  • 2nd December 2021

Word Choice: Intension vs. Intention

The words “intention” and “intension” are pronounced the same way, but they have different meanings. Your readers could get confused if you use the wrong one in your writing, so, in this post, we’ll explain how to use these words correctly.

Intention (Something You Plan to Do)

“Intention” is a noun that means “what someone wants to achieve”:

She studied medicine with the intention of becoming a doctor.

He had no intention of going to the party.

Despite my good intentions, I didn’t finish the essay.

The word “intent” has the same meaning, so they are often used interchangeably. However, “intent” may imply a greater determination to do something. It is therefore often used in more formal contexts, such as legal writing.

Moreover, “intention” gives us the adjective “intentional,” which is used to describe something done deliberately. For instance:

Was your absence from class intentional?

And we have the adverb “intentionally,” which means “done on purpose”:

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He intentionally lost the invitation.

All of these words, though, are spelled with a “t” after the “n” in the middle.

Intension (Internal Content of a Concept)

A much rarer word, “intension” with an “s” is a technical term used in linguistics and logic. It refers to the properties inherent to a concept or word.

For example, the intension of “cat” includes being furry, having whiskers, going “miaow,” etc., as these are all things we associate with being a cat.

In other words, the “intension” of a word is the collection of properties we use to identify something as an example of that word. This contrasts with the “extension” of a word, which refers to everything that could be named by the word in question.

However, “intension” is a very rare term. So unless you’re studying language or logic, you’re unlikely to need this word in your day-to-day life.

Summary: Intention or Intension?

When you need to choose between these words, remember the following:

  • An intention is an aim or outcome that someone sets out to achieve.
  • Intension is a specialist word used in logic and linguistics.

If you’re referring to what somebody wants to do, the word you need will be “intention.” And the fact that it has a similar meaning to the word “intent” should remind you to spell it with a “t” rather than an “s.”

We hope you now feel confident about using these homophones. To make sure your writing is always error free, though, send us a free trial document for proofreading today and find out what our expert editors can do.

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