Dictionary.com Word FAQs

When should I use continuously as opposed to continually?

Continual means frequently recurring or intermittent. Continuous means occurring without interruption or unceasing. Continuous refers to actions which are uninterrupted: The upstairs neighbor played his stereo continuously from 6:00 PM to 3:30 AM. Continual actions, however, need not be uninterrupted, only repeated: My mother continually urges me to do my homework. / Rivers flow continuously, but the telephone is more likely to ring continually. A related mistake is to use continuous for something that happens at regular intervals. There are other adjectives that mean 'occurring repeatedly over a long period of time': "constant" (implying persistence, steadiness), "ceaseless" and "incessant" (referring to uninterrupted activity), "eternal" (lasting forever), "interminable" (seemingly endless, wearisome), "perennial" (going on year after year, with self-renewal), and "perpetual" (implying both duration and steadiness). So, try to remember to use -al for something which is either always going on or recurs at short intervals and never comes to an end, and -ous for something in which no break occurs between the beginning and the end.

Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
About PRIVACY POLICY Terms Careers Advertise with Us Contact Us Our Blog Suggest a Word Help