Wonder vs. Wander: What is the Difference?

Not only are wonder and wander spelled almost the same, some people also pronounce them very similarly. This can be very confusing for someone who isn’t totally comfortable understanding imprecise, casually spoken English.

Some writers also mix up the meanings of these words, even though they mean quite different things and aren’t interchangeable. These mistakes can damage your credibility and confuse your readers.

Read on to find out how to tell the difference between wonder and wander, and how to use each one correctly.

What is the Difference Between Wander and Wonder?

In this article, I will compare wander vs. wonder. I will use each in a word in their proper context to illustrate their correct use. Plus, at the end, I will show you an easy trick to help choose whether to use wander or wonder.

When to Use Wander

wonder versus wanderWhat does wander mean? Wander is a verb that means to travel aimlessly. The distance or length of time doesn’t matter.

Wander is a regular verb. You can add -ed to form the past and past participle tenses, and -ing to form the present participle.

See the following examples.

  • Kelsey wandered through the mall for an hour.
  • Jack Kerouac spent several years wandering around the United States in the 1940s.
  • The zone was an effort to protect park wolves who wander outside of its boundaries. –The Washington Post

Wander can also be used in a figurative sense, like in these sentences,

  • During the long lecture, Laura’s mind began to wander.
  • Our conversation finally wandered away from politics.

When to Use Wonder

Define wander and define wonderWhat does wonder mean? As a verb, wonder means to imagine or to question. Like wander, it is a regular verb and can be conjugated similarly.

Here are some examples,

  • I wonder how long the bridge will be under construction.
  • “How old is Marc?” Alex wondered aloud.
  • “I was just wondering, does the burger come with fries and a drink?” Carlos asked.
  • Yet it’s hard to look at the valuation question and wonder just what investors can realistically expect over the next months and years, and whether that’s enough to justify stocks at these prices. –The Wall Street Journal

Wonder is also a noun that means a state of amazement or excitement, like in this example,

  • Erin gazed in wonder at the splendor of the esplanade.

An object of great beauty or magnificence could also be called a wonder.

Here is an example,

  • The Great Pyramid of Gaza is one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Definition of wonder definition of wanderHere is a helpful trick to remember wonder vs. wander.

Wander means to travel aimlessly. Wonder means to question or imagine as a verb, and a state of wonder or excitement or a magnificent object as a noun.

You can remember the verb meaning of wonder if you notice that it is spelled almost exactly like the word ponder, which also deals with imagining or thinking about something. They are only one letter apart, and they both deal with processes that involve thought.

Summary

Is it wander or wonder? Even though wander and wonder are spelled very similarly, they have very different meanings. Wander deals with traveling or moving, while wonder deals with thinking, questioning, and being amazed.

To summarize,

  • To wander means to travel or move.
  • To wonder means to think, question, or ponder.

It’s easy to keep these words straight. Wonder is spelled almost exactly the same as ponder, and both can mean to think about something. If aren’t sure whether to use wonder or wander, this trick should help.

You could also check this website if you need a refresher, or any time you have a question about writing.

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