Lonely vs. Alone: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever been happy to be by yourself? Has there been another time when you were by yourself, but wishing for the company of others?

In both of these situations, you were alone. But you were only lonely in one of them.

Alone and lonely are two adjectives with related, but different, meanings. They are similar enough to confuse many writers, but using them carefully will enhance your writing and make describing some emotional states easier.

If you have ever wondered whether you should choose lonely or alone to describe a feeling of isolation, continue reading for an exploration on the true meaning of each of these words.

What is the Difference Between Lonely and Alone?

In this article, I will compare lonely vs. alone. I will use each word in a sentence to illustrate its proper context. Plus, I will give you a useful memory trick to help you choose either alone or lonely for your own writing.

When to Use Lonely

alone but not lonelyWhat does lonely mean? Lonely is an adjective. It describes a feeling of sadness stemming from isolation or abandonment.

For example,

  • Andrea is feeling lonely because she does not have a romantic partner to bring to her friends’ Halloween party.
  • The store had an empty, lonely feeling just before it closed for good.
  • And I’m telling you, it makes a lonely Badger feel invisible. –The Wall Street Journal

A person can be alone without feeling lonely, since alone describes a state of being and lonely describes an emotional response to one’s circumstances. Most people don’t feel sad when they go to the bathroom by themselves, for instance.

When to Use Alone

Define alone and define lonelyWhat does alone mean? Alone is also an adjective. It describes a single person or object, separate from others. One who is alone is by oneself.

For example,

  • She went to the movies alone, because her friends talked too much.
  • Imam realized that she was alone in the desert.
  • Kerry was alone at the bar.
  • The narrator of Jane Alison’s restless, febrile novel “Nine Island” lives alone, but not unaccompanied. –The New York Times

As you can see, a person can be alone in the sense that no other people are present, or alone in the sense that he or she is unaccompanied, even in a crowd.

Lone vs. Alone: What’s the Difference?

Definition of alone definition of lonely definitionWhat does lone mean? Lone is another adjective with the same meaning as alone. It is a shortening of the word alone, but it has a different place in the English sentence.

Lone comes before the noun while alone comes after the noun.

For example,

  • He is a lone wolf.

-not-

  • He is an alone wolf.

-but-

  • The wolf is alone.

These mistake is rarely made, but it is still worth mentioning.

Trick to Remember the Difference

how to be alone but not lonelyHere is a helpful trick to remember alone vs. lonely.

Alone and lonely are both adjectives, but they have different meanings.

A person is alone when he is by himself. A person is lonely when he feels abandoned or sad due to isolation.

Since alone and solitary both contain the letter A, you can remember that alone refers to a state of solitude, rather than an emotion.

Summary

Is it lonely or alone? Lonely and alone are both adjectives.

  • Alone describes a state of isolation or solitude when one is outside the company of others.
  • Lonely describes a feeling of sadness or abandonment.

Loneliness is often, but not always, a result of being alone.

Since alone and isolated both contain the letter A, you can remember that alone and isolated are synonyms.

Now that you know the difference between these words, be sure to check other areas of this site for all your writing needs. You can also reread this article any time you need to for a quick refresher on the difference between alone and lonely.

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