In Tact of Intact – Which is Correct?

In English, two words that have been joined together to form a single word are called compounds. English has many, many compounds, like waterproof, sleepwalking, dodgeball etc.

While intact looks like a compound of in and tact, it is not a compound at all. The prefix in- is actually a Latin negation. More on that below, but suffice it to say that you cannot use intact and in tact interchangeably.

Continue reading to learn more about these confusing words.

What is the Difference Between In Tact and Intact?

In this post, I will compare in tact vs. intact. I will outline the correct spelling of this word and use it in a few example sentences, so you can see how it appears in context.

I will also show you a mnemonic device that can help you remember whether to use in tact or intact.

When to Use Intact

in tact versus intact What does intact mean? Intact is an adjective that means unbroken or in a state of wholeness.

If you drop a glass and it does not break, the glass remains intact. An ancient Mesopotamian artifact that is relatively undamaged by time and the elements could also be described as intact.

Intact comes from Latin. In- is a negation, and the morpheme tact comes from a verb that means to touch. Intact, therefore, means untouched.

We could say that the ancient Mesopotamian artifact remains untouched by forces that would damage it.

Here are a few more examples,

  • Johnny has deficits in reading and oral comprehension, but testing shows that his raw cognitive abilities are intact.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers survived the first two rounds of the playoffs mostly intact, but could not pull off a World Series victory.
  • Mara said he anticipates the front office staying otherwise intact, but that decision would ultimately fall on the next general manager. –New York Post

When to Use In Tact

definition of in tact definition of intact definitionWhat does in tact mean? By itself, the word tact has a different meaning than intact. As its own word, tact refers to the ability to handle difficult interpersonal situations sensitively, without offending anyone.

In is a preposition that means inside something or relating to something.

If someone says something in tact, they are saying something with care and sensitivity. In tact becomes an adverb phrase when used this way because it describes how a verb is performed.

You would probably be better off using the adverb tactfully in these situations, but the sentence below shows one possible usage of this phrase,

  • When you break up with someone, be sure to do it in tact, or you will hurt his or her feelings.

Trick to Remember the Difference

what is intactSince these terms are different parts of speech, your choice depends on how you use each word in a sentence.

  • Intact is an adjective.
  • The phrase in tact would be used as an adverb.

You should probably choose tactfully instead when you need an adverb, though.

Intact vs. In Tact Check: Since intact is a single word, like intractable or infinitesimal, it should be simple to remember to use it as an adjective.

Summary

Is it intact or in tact? These terms are not interchangeable.

  • Intact is an adjective that could be literally translated to untouched, but in practice it means entire or undamaged.
  • In tact would be an adverb phrase, but you should use tactfully instead.
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