Per Se or Per Say – Usage, Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

When you hear someone say “per se,” do you really know what it means? What purpose does it add to a sentence or statement? A lot of people think it’s French, but it’s actually a Latin phrase that made its way into the English language. I’ll show you how to use per se properly so you understand what it means when you say it.

What Does Per Se Mean?

Per Se or Per Say Usage Meaning Examples

Per se is a loan phrase and was originally a Latin phrase that translates to the adjectives “by itself” or “in and of itself.” In English, we use it to indicate that something is thought of independently, without any additional factors or context.

Is It Per Se or Per Say?

The correct way you should spell this phrase is “per se,” not “per say.” I’ve seen people use both spellings, even in professional settings, but I assure you that per say is not the correct spelling.

The Origin of Per Se

As I mentioned above, per se originated from Latin to mean by himself or by herself, or even in it and of itself. It came about in the 1500s.

What Are the Synonyms for Per Se?

Don’t want to use the Latin term in your writing? Try some of these perfectly acceptable terms instead.

  • Intrinsically
  • Inherently
  • By itself
  • By definition
  • In essence

Is Per Se Formal or Informal?

Per se is considered a formal term by most, and we commonly use it in academic writing or formal settings. It’s not typically used in informal conversations or everyday speech, but some people do use it. So, the next time you hear it in passing, at least you’ll understand what they mean.

Can You End a Sentence With Per Se?

Yes, you can always end a sentence with “per se” as long as the context allows it. But I will say it’s more commonly used within a sentence to emphasize a particular point.

Is There a Comma Before Per Se?

There is no specific hard and fast rule that dictates whether you need to use a comma before “per se” in a sentence. I’ll just say that it depends on the context and your personal preference. But there is an exception! If you use it to introduce a parenthetical phrase or to indicate a distinction between something, a comma is usually needed.

Per Se Pronunciation

The correct way you should say “per se” is per-say which is probably where the spelling confusion comes from.

Per Se Examples in a Sentence

Per Se or Per Say Usage Meaning Examples 1
  • Karen’s new restaurant is not expensive per se, but the menu can be pretty pricey.
  • The idea, per se, is not bad, but the execution needs work.
  • That dress, per se, is not my style, but it looks great on you.
  • Your home isn’t outdated, per se, but you should update a few fixtures if you want to sell it.
  • My style isn’t gothic, per se, but I’ll admit that I do wear a lot of blacks.

The End, Per Se

I hope my quick guide helped explain what the term per se means. It’s a tricky one because it’s not an English word. But just remember that it basically means in and of itself.

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