- Often, safe and secure can be used interchangeably.
- Safe can be an adjective or noun, whereas secure can be an adjective or verb.
- The only times they can’t be used interchangeably depends on the context of the sentence and the function of the word. For example, in the following sentence, safe cannot replace secure.
- ○ They asked me to keep the documents in a safe place.
- ○ They asked me to keep the documents in a secure place.
- ○ ✅ I needed to secure the luggage on top of the van.
- ○ ❌ I needed to safe the luggage on top of the van.
“Secure” vs. “Safe”
Secure and safe have similar definitions when used as adjectives (words that describe or modify a noun).
- Safe: “Free from harm or risk”
- Secure: “Free from danger”
Typically, these two words can be interchanged when used as adjectives.
I wanted to go to a safe location.
I wanted to go to a secure location.
There are some instances where one word suits a sentence better than the other. Consider the following sentence:
The water is safe to drink.
This sentence implies that there is no risk to drinking the water. The word secure can suggest protection against intentional harm/danger. In that sense, secure wouldn’t fit as well in the example sentence above.
The water is
secure to drink.
Secure and safe cannot be interchanged when they’re functioning as anything other than an adjective. We’ll explain more below.
“Safe” as a Noun
As a noun, safe refers to “a strong metal box or cupboard with a complicated lock used for storing valuables.”
Eric doesn’t trust the safes at hotels, so he takes his passport with him everywhere.
We bought a safe to store our important documents and expensive jewelry.
Grether forgot the combination to the safe and couldn’t retrieve her items.
Secure is never a noun, and therefore cannot take the place of safe in sentences like the ones above.
“Secure” as a Verb
Secure can also function as a verb, which means “to relieve from exposure to harm” or “protect from danger.”
The police secured the premises.
You need to secure your computer by installing antivirus software.
We secured our property by installing gates and cameras.
As a verb, secure can also mean “to obtain or achieve something” or “to attach or fasten something so that it does not move or get lost.”
Their win secured them a spot in the tournament.
They want to use a rope to secure the luggage on top of the car.
The word safe is never a verb. Only save can be used as a verb, which means “to keep safe.” Secure, on the other hand, can be used as a verb exactly as is.
The Difference Between “Safe” and “Secure”
More often than not, the words safe and secure can be used interchangeably when they are used as adjectives. However, only safe can be used as a noun and secure can be used as a verb: You can secure a safe, but you can’t safe a secure.
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