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Commonly Confused Words: Perspective vs. Prospective


Last week well looked at two easy-to-confuse words beginning with the letter P - this week, we're looking at two more: perspective and prospective.

What does each word mean?

Perspective refers to the appearance of things in relation to each other, depending on how far they are from the viewer. The word also describes a person's particular way of looking at a situation.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is perspective used in some example sentences:

  • Although she was only seven years old, her drawings showed that she had an excellent understanding of perspective.
  • The novel was written from the villain's perspective.

The word prospective is used to describe something that's concerned with or related to the future.

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word.

Here is prospective used in some example sentences:

  • His parents were taking him to visit prospective universities before he filled in his application forms.
  • They met to discuss prospective changes to the company's sales agenda.

Where does each word come from?

Both perspective and prospective derive from the Proto-Indo-European root spek- which means 'to observe'. Spek- is also the root of many other words, including aspect, inspect, retrospect, and spectacle.

Perspective was first used in the late fourteenth century. It entered English from Old French, from the Latin perspectus meaning 'clearly perceived'. The word is made up from the PIE roots per- meaning 'through' and spek- meaning 'to observe'.

Prospective entered English in the sixteenth century via the French prospectif, from the Latin prospicere meaning 'to look out on, look forward'. The word is made up from the PIE roots pro- meaning 'forward' and spek- meaning 'to observe'.

Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between perspective and prospective?

  • Perspective and personal start with the same letters. Remember that your perspective is your personal way of looking at things.
  • Use the word prospects to help you remember that the word prospective describes things that are related to the future.

Where can I find other posts about easy-to-confuse words?

Sources: The Online Etymology Dictionary.


26 Feb 2019
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