English, like all languages, contains many words which differ from each other by only a few characters, yet have totally different meanings and usage cases.
Prospective and perspective are two such words in English. These words are spelled only slightly differently, but cannot be substituted for each other in a sentence. To do so would alter the meaning of the sentence at best, and at worst, could render it nonsensical.
Many beginning writers and nonnative English speakers confuse these two words, but to do so weakens your writing and could damage your credibility in academic or professional settings. This article will help you remember the difference between these two words, so that you will always know whether to use prospective or perspective.
What is the Difference Between Prospective and Perspective?
In this article, I will compare perspective vs. prospective. I will go over the definition of each word, and I will use each word in an example sentence for illustration. Then, I’ll give you a helpful trick to remember whether to use perspective or prospective in your writing.
When to Use Prospective
What does prospective mean? Prospective is an adjective that means expected or expecting. It is often used in such a way as to be a rough synonym of future, as in the following examples:
- The prospective homebuyers made an offer below the asking price.
- Prospective changes to the support plan must be reviewed and agreed upon by all members of the team.
- After a year of speculation, and prospective trades falling flat. Jay Bruce is no longer an outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds. Bruce was traded today by the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Mets. –USA Today
When to Use Perspective
What does perspective mean? Perspective is a noun. It refers to a viewpoint, attitude, or set of ideals. Perspective is often used in the context of the visual arts or in persuasive writing. Here are some examples:
- Many optical illusions are dependent on forced perspective.
- From this perspective, I can see both of them.
- You will be able to craft stronger arguments as you develop your ability to adopt your opponent’s perspective.
- The one constant in college football over the last 80 years has been the AP poll. It has helped link the past with the present and provided perspective. –Newsday
Trick to Remember the Difference
If you still aren’t sure that you can keep track of prospective vs. perspective, here is a helpful memory tool.
Prospective means expected or expecting and is used in the context of something that is likely to happen in the future. It is always an adjective.
Perspective is a point of view or an attitude. It is always a noun.
You can remember which is which by linking two related words in your mind: prospective and prospecting. If you are going prospecting, you are searching for gold that you expect to find in the future. This makes you a prospective gold finder.
Is it prospective or perspective? Even though perspective and prospective have similar spellings, they mean very different things. They are even different parts of speech.
A perspective is a viewpoint or attitude. Prospective is an adjective that describes expected events in the future.
An easy way to keep these words straight in your head is to remember that a prospector searches for gold that he expects to find in the future. A prospector can be said to be a prospective finder of gold.
By keeping this trick in mind, you can always be sure to use perspective and prospective correctly in your writing. For a quick refresher course, you can refer back to this article as well.