Cite vs. Site vs. Sight: What’s the Difference?

Despite having identical pronunciations, cite, site, and sight are all different words with their own meanings and uses. So what exactly is the difference between these three? When should you use one over the other? In today’s post, I want to outline the differences of cite vs. site and site vs. sight and then give you a few tricks to remember their differences.

When to Use Cite

Cite is a verb, meaning to quote or refer to (something), to summon to bring in front of a court, or to issue a notice of violation. For example,

  • The advertisement cited a well-known study on the subject.
  • The summons cited three of the plaintiffs in the case.
  • The police officer did not cite me for speeding but gave me a warning.

Cite as a noun is the colloquial term for “citation.” This is something that refers to a source of information, such as in a research paper. For example,

  • The citation in the paper led me to a university journal.
  • Don’t forget to add citations to your report.

When to Use Site

sites-or-sights-homonymSite is a noun, meaning a place or location whether physical (a building, a mall) or electronic (a website). For example,

  • Meet me at the new building site at noon.
  • Have you seen my new website?

There are many variations of the word “site” that usually involve adding a prefix to the word, i.e., website, jobsite, worksite, campsite.

Site also has a specialized use as a verb meaning to situate or locate on a site. For example,

  • They sited the factory near the water.
  • City Council sited this area as residential.

When to Use Sight

Sight can be used a noun and a verb with a number of different meanings, including the ability to see, something worth seeing, a device to aid the eye, to perceive with the eyes, to aim, among others. For example,

  • I cannot imagine life without my sight. (Noun)
  • I want to see all the sights in New York City. (Noun)
  • This gun has only iron sights. (Noun)
  • After two months at sea, we finally sighted land. (Verb)
  • I sighted along the barrel of the gun and shot the target. (Verb)

Several popular phrases and idioms use the word “sight” in them. For example,

  • To set one’s sights on
  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • A sight for sore eyes

Quiz and Sentence Examples

  1. This will be a great _____ for a restaurant.
  2. The lawyer ______ a prior case to support his argument.
  3. When I renew my driver’s license, I take a ______ test.

Display answers below

Tricks to Remember

If you’re ever stuck between these words and which of them to use, there are a few good ways to keep them apart.

First, if you can remember that “cite” is short for “citation,” you can keep it separated from the other two. A citation is something that appears in a research paper or book.

Next, to remember “site” all you need to do is think about a “website.” A website is a location that you go and visit on the Internet.

Finally, you can remember the meaning of “sight” by thinking of the word “light.” You need light in order to have sight.

Summary

These three words all have different meanings, so it’s important to keep the apart.

Cite is to quote or refer to something. It is commonly used in academic settings.

Site is a place or location that you can visit. It can be physical or electronic.

Sight has numerous meanings that mostly deal with vision and eyesight.

Answers

  1. Site
  2. Cited
  3. Sight

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