Use vs utilize

The words use and utilize are increasingly used interchangeably, but in truth, these two words do not mean exactly the same thing. Many people employ the word utilize instead of use because they think it sounds more important or more formal than the word use. However, using a word incorrectly is never a good idea. Choosing the correct words to use in the correct situation is a building block of grammar. Grammar is the way in which language is structured, the rules that are the foundation of that structure and the study of those rules. At the most basic level, grammar is the way words are used together to form sentences.  We will examine the words use and utilize, when they should be used, where these words came from, and some examples of their proper use in sentences.

Use means to engage with something in order to accomplish a task, achieve a goal, or take an advantage. Use may also mean to exploit someone or something. In these cases, use functions as a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are uses, used, using. When use functions as a verb, the s is pronounced as a z. Use is also used as a noun, to mean the action or ability of engaging with something in order to accomplish a task, achieve a goal, or take an advantage. When functioning as a noun, the s in use is pronounced as an s. The word use has been in the English language since at least 1200, derived from the Latin word oeti. Use should be the word of choice over the word utilize in nearly all cases.

Utilize means to engage with something in order to accomplish a task, achieve a goal, or take an advantage, but only when the item, process or situation is employed in a way that goes beyond its intended use. For instance, if one keeps his life savings in a sock, then he may be said to be utilizing the sock as a bank. The intended use of a sock is to cover one’s foot, not function as a bank. The word utilize carries the connotation of innovation or a creative use of an everyday item. If the item being discussed is employed for its intended function, then the word use should be the choice. The word use may always be substituted for the word utilize, but the reverse is not true. The word utilize came into the English language around 1800, from the French word utiliser which means making effective use of something. Utilize is a transitive verb, related words are utilizes, utilized, utilizing, utililization. Utilize is the North American spelling, the British spellings are utilise, utilises, utilised, utilising, utilisation.


The cornerstone of the program is a system of bracelets voluntarily worn by vulnerable people that can be located using electronic receivers carried in L.A. County Sheriff’s Department squad cars and helicopters. (The Star Advertiser)

“Personally, I think that this smaller airport here in Schönefeld is also efficient — I’ve used both, also Tegel, and I’m OK,” one Polish traveler said when asked if he was eager for the new Berlin airport to finally open. (Deutsche Welle)

The system will utilize diverse technologies to increase grid resilience against natural disasters or cyber-attacks as well as autonomously restore power during a blackout using smart inverters. (The Associated Press)

I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to better understand how we can utilize AI to maintain the competitiveness of our nation’s financial services sector and how it translates into building a financial system that works for everyone. (Inside ARM)

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