Inter vs. Intra: Differences, Examples, Definitions 

by Arushi Gupta

Inter and intra are one of the commonly confused prefixes in the field of research, and the correct usage of inter vs. intra baffles a lot of researchers. With just one alphabet separating them, they can be hard to tell apart, but once you understand the basic difference between inter and intra, you won’t have to look up the dictionary to check when to use inter vs. intra in your writing.    

Let’s clear up the confusion between inter vs. intra by outlining their definitions, showing you some examples to explain when to use inter vs. intra, and sharing an easy trick to remember their differences. 

Table of Contents

Difference between inter and intra

If you go by the definitions to understand the difference between inter and intra, the prefix inter is used to refer to something “between” two or more than two groups or places whereas intra is used to indicate that something is happening “within” the same group or place.  

Let’s take you back to your school days to explain this better. 

Students from all over the city came to our school to participate in the interschool competition 

In the example above, it means that a competition was conducted between different schools.  

Gryffindor and Slytherin competed against each other in the intraschool competition

The sentence above refers to a competition between different groups of the same school. 

Common writing errors in academic writing

When to use inter vs. intra

Now that the intra vs. inter definition is clear, let’s understand how to use these. 

Inter is used when you want to convey the meanings “between; among” or “mutually; reciprocally.” It is used to suggest events such as a competition, an examination or a match between two groups, associations, institutions, schools, colleges or any other establishments. 

For example,  

Interdisciplinary research is regarded as the key to tackle contemporary complex societal challenges. 

In the sentence above, research is interdisciplinary because the study integrates the knowledge and methods from different disciplines to conduct the research. 

On the other hand, the prefix intra is used to convey the meanings “on the inside; within.” The word is used in the formation of several common research related words such as ‘intracranial’, ‘intranet’, ‘intravenous’, ‘intramuscular’ and the like. 

For example, 

Problems that go beyond the limits of individual subfields within a research discipline can often be solved with an intra-disciplinary approach.  

In the sentence above, the researcher aims to resolve the research problem by tapping knowledge from various subfields within a broader discipline. 

Do you need a hyphen for these prefixes?

When it comes to the usage of inter vs. intra, both, inter and intra can be attached to common nouns without a hyphen. For example, intermolecular, interstate, intramural, intradermal. Though different style guides have different suggestions as to when to hyphenate a word, it is recommended to use these prefixes without a hyphen. 

How to remember the difference between inter and intra

Here’s a great trick to help you remember when to use inter vs. intra.  

Inter = Open. Try to remember this by noticing that inter and open both have the letter “E” in them. 

Intra = Contained. Try to remember this by noticing that intra and contained both have the letter “A” in them. 

That’s all the information we have on inter vs. intra! Now that you’ve understood the basic difference between inter and intra, you shouldn’t have a tough time with these troublesome prefixes again.  

Keen on reading more such grammar-related trivia for your research? Check out our grammar section here.

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