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“Continual” vs. “Continuous”

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You’d think that “continuous” and “continual” could be used interchangeably, but the fact is, they can’t. Before you exit this page in rage, know there’s an easy trick to help you remember the difference between these two words. We’ll show you what it is.

White text over green background reads "Continuous vs Continual."
Do you know the difference between “continuous” and “continual”?
“Continuous” and “Continual”: Quick Summary

Typically, continuous means “occurring perpetually without breaks or interruptions,” while continual indicates “occurring repeatedly but with pauses.”

  • Years of continuous drought led to the desertion of the land.
  • The students were separated because of their continual chatting.

Continuous and continual come from the same Latin word—“continuus”—but they have slightly different meanings.

Don’t panic! There’s an easy visual trick that can help you remember what these words mean. We’ll show you below and go over definitions, synonyms, and example sentences to illustrate how to use continuous and continual correctly.

Graphic shows text that reads "Continual ≠ Continual."
This wasn’t always the case, though. Read on to learn a bit more about the history of these two words.

What Does “Continuous” Mean?

Continuous is an adjective that describes something as “nonstop” or “without interruption.”

If you’ve ever been around a newborn baby, it can seem like their crying is continuous, or never-ending, or even infinite. Now, infinite and continuous aren’t exact synonyms, but they’re similar enough and can help you remember what the latter means. The consecutive “ouo” is not common in English words, so when you see it in the word continuous, the curve of these letters can help you picture an infinity symbol. Therefore, it can assist you in remembering that continuous means “constant” or “everlasting.”

Graphic shows the word "continuous" with an infinity symbol superimposed on the "ouo."
Think about it like this: The curves of the letters “ouo” can resemble the infinity symbol, which can help you remember “continuous” is similar to “never-ending.”

Here are a few example sentences that contain the word continuous:

The crowd’s continuous roar lasted throughout the entire game.
My baby likes to sleep in the laundry room; I think it’s because she likes the continuous whirring of the dryer machine.
During hurricane season, continuous rainfall can lead to devastating floods.
Being able to adapt to continuous technological advancements is essential.
True health is contingent on continuous physical activity and healthy eating.

Synonyms for “Continuous”

Here are a few words you can use instead of continuous:


The constant beeping of the fire alarm was driving me crazy.


I learned that a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to New York takes about 19 hours.


Unaware of the limitations, my science-loving nephew set out to create a perpetual motion machine.


My daughter’s sustained focus made it apparent that she was really enjoying the movie.


He won first place because he managed to maintain an unbroken stride during the entire race.


She delivered a captivating and uninterrupted speech for two hours.

What Does “Continual” Mean?

Continual means “happening frequently or regularly, but not necessarily without interruptions.” In other words, something described as continual can occur with intermittent breaks. For example, your best friends' continual bickering means they often fight about whom you like more, but there are breaks or pauses between the bouts.

Here are a few example sentences that contain the word continual:

He was fired due to his continual tardiness.
The CEO’s continual commitment to improving the workplace atmosphere motivated the employees.
She was promoted based on her continual progress and desire to learn.
Despite his continual efforts, Jordan couldn’t train his dog to sit and stay for more than ten seconds.
The faculty offered the students continual guidance; consequently, the school had the highest graduation rate in decades.
A Bit of Word History

However, we're forced to clarify something at the risk of causing slight confusion.

Continual is the older of the two words, and there was a time when it did, in fact, mean “happening indefinitely without interruption.” It wasn’t until the 19th century that a distinction was made between continuous and continual.

Today, continual is more likely to mean “recurring,” and continuous to mean “perpetual.”

Synonyms for “Continual”


People are panicking over the climate’s cyclical changes.


The frequent bus service made it easy for passengers to get from one side of the airport to the other.


It’s the protocol for the company to publish periodic product updates to keep their customers informed.


She received repeated praise for her performance but knew that she wouldn’t have reached an elite level without the help of her coach.


Carol and Steve broke up because of their recurrent arguments.


As a comedian, I’m used to sporadic heckling and have learned to make it part of my routine.

Using “Continuous” and “Continual” Correctly

It’s easier than it seems! Just keep in mind that:

  • Continuous meansuninterrupted
  • Continual meansrepeated but with pauses

For continuous writing progress, use LanguageTool as your spell and grammar checker. Not only will it help you avoid making continual errors, but it will also ensure optimal style and word choice. Try it out today—it’s free!

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