Presents vs. Presence: What’s the Difference?

Words that are pronounced the same, but do not necessarily share meanings, are called homophones. English has many homophones, and they can be confusing for beginning writers or learners of English.

Presence and presents constitute one pair of such homophones. They mean completely different things, but they are pronounced the same. Read on to discover whether you should choose presence or presents in your writing.

What is the Difference Between Presents and Presence?

In this article, I will compare presents vs. presence. I will use each word in an example sentence, so you can see how they are properly used.

Plus, at the end, I will show you a helpful trick to aid you when choosing presents or presence in your writing.

When to Use Presents

presents versus presenceWhat does presents mean? Presents is a plural noun. It is a synonym of gifts.

The word is commonly used like this in sentences,

  • My aunt did not bring me any presents for my birthday.

Presents is also a verb. It is can mean to show, as when a political figure gives a speech outlining a policy, or when military personnel raise their rifles in preparation for a 21 gun salute. It could also mean to give, with regard to a reward or gift.

See the following examples,

  • Today, an official presents awards for the best dressed man and woman at the convention.
  • President Wilson gave a speech to present his economic vision for the country.
  • On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dance Project presents the New York premiere of his “Helix” (score by Esa-Pekka Salonen). –The New York Times

When to Use Presence

Definition of presents definition of presence definitionWhat does presence mean? Presence is also a noun, where it has several senses. It can refer to a state of being where one occupies the same physical or mental space as others.

For example,

  • Katharine Hepburn’s presence at an awards ceremony was never a guaranteed proposition.
  • Several major sponsors said their presence in Rio is on par with previous Summer Olympics, and dismissed suggestions that concerns about security and public health might have led them to scale back their plans. –The Wall Street Journal

It can also mean one’s personal space or one’s immediate vicinity.

For example,

  • “Remove this beggar from my presence,” the king commanded.

Less commonly, presence can also refer to a spirit or otherworldly being which has entered a room or area.

For example,

  • When I completed the ritual, my eyes stung and my throat grew dry, and I felt a dark presence come into the temple.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define presence and define presentsHere is a helpful trick to remember presents vs. presence in your writing.

If the word in question is a verb, presents is the only choice. Presence is never a verb.

If the word functions as a noun in the sentence, you should consider the context. If you’re referring to gifts or party favors, use presents.

For someone’s state of being or personal space, use presence.

You can remember to reserve presents for contexts involving gifts since presents and gifts are both spelled with a T.

Summary

Is it presence or presents? Presence and presents may sound the same, but they do not share meanings.

Presents can be a noun or a verb. As a verb, it is a synonym of gifts. As a verb, it can mean to show something or to give something.

Presence is not a verb, but, as a noun, it can mean a state of being, someone’s personal space, or someone’s personality or ability to metaphorically fill a room.

You can remember that presents is a synonym of gifts by noticing the T shared between these words.

If you still need help remembering, you can refer back to this article for a refresher.