Continually vs. Continuously: The Fine Line Between the Two Words

by Arushi Gupta
Continually vs. continuously: The fine line between the two words

The English language has many words that are similar in sound and meaning, and while not all of these words are classified as homophones, there are words like continually vs. continuously that are close enough in sound to cause confusion. Additionally, their meanings are somewhat similar, making it even more difficult to choose the correct word. But once you understand the distinction, selecting the appropriate word becomes straightforward. This article is here to do just that – explain the fine differences between the two words, continually vs continuously. 

Difference between continuously and continually

Continually is an adverb, and the corresponding adjective for it is continual. Continually and continual are both used to describe things that recur regularly or frequently and are intermittent with intervals of interruption.  

Continuously is an adverb too, with its corresponding adjective being continuous. Continuously and continuous are also used to describe duration, specifically things that are uninterrupted in time, sequence, extent. 

Pro tip: The usage of continuous vs. continual is the same as the usage of continuously vs. continually. 

When to use continually vs. continuously

Use the words continuously and continuous when you are talking about events that are happening without interruption and going on ceaseless. On the other hand, use continually and continual while talking about events that are recurring and keep happening with a break in between them. 

For example,  

  • This video of the child’s birth was captured in one continuous take. 
  • The baby shrieked continuously the entire time I was sleeping. 

In the above example, the video was shot in a single take, without any breaks or stops in the camera. Similarly, the baby shrieked the entire length of the time the mother slept, with no periods of silence in between. 

  • The HR-training manual is continually updated by the company. 
  • The continual bangs of rain showers during the storm kept waking me up. 

Here, the noise of the rain is continual. It keeps happening over and over, with small stops in between. Similarly, the manual is updated every month or every year, so there are breaks in the time duration when it is updated.  

Examples of continuously vs. continually

  • The machine runs continuously without any breaks or interruptions. 
  • The dog barked continually throughout the night, keeping the neighbours awake. 
  • The rain fell continuously for hours, causing flooding in the streets. 
  • The athlete trained continually, pushing herself to improve her performance. 
  • The computer system updates continuously, ensuring that it stays current. 
  • The company is continually expanding, opening new locations in different cities. 

Remember the difference: Continually vs. continuously

Remembering where to use continually or continuously may sometimes get tedious. You’re focusing on the research, you don’t want to think about these things, do you? That’s when some tricks can come handy.  

Continual (continually) = Recurring and intermittent. Continually, recurring and intermittent, all have double letters in them. 

Continuous (continuously) = Steady and sustained. Continuous, steady and sustained all contain the letter “s” in them. 

In conclusion

If you keep using the two words continually and practice their applications, the confusion between the usage of continuously vs. continually will be entangled easily. 

You may also like

Your Paperpal Footer