especially / specially: what’s the difference?

Here’s another one that came up in a Bec Higher class. The answer to this little riddle is taken from Bizarrely, given the nature of the site, the original post is completely wrong but thankfully for us a couple of the readers responded with the correct definitions, along with some fine examples. So here they are (credits below each):

Specially is used to mean in a special way or for a particular purpose. To say, for example, “I baked this cake specially for you” is to say that I used a special recipe… maybe you are allergic to eggs, so my special method of preparing this cake eliminated the eggs.

Especially is used to indicate preeminence or noteworthiness. To say, for example, “I baked this cake especially for you” is to indicate that this cake is primarily for you (although I probably don’t mind if others try it), or that I was thinking of you specifically when I made it.

Another example:

“SWAT forces are specially trained police officers”. This usage of specially indicates that they have training for a particular purpose.

“Police offers are highly trained, especially SWAT forces”. This usage of especially indicates that SWAT forces are trained above and beyond the rest of the police officers.

ri on June 9, 2009 9:19 am

The adjectives ‘special’ and ‘especial’ are not interchangeable. The difference typically has to do with whether the specialness is intrinsic to the object or arises from the feelings of the subject. Take the following example:

“I have an especial interest in photography.”

In this case, there is nothing intrinsically special about the interest in photography. Instead, the emphasis is on me, and my feeling that, of all my interests, photography is the most special. Compare that with the following:

“I have a special interest in photography: I like black and white photos of circus animals.”

In this case, it is the interest itself that is specialized. There is not necessarily the implication that I am more interested in B&W circus animals than other subject matter, only that I consider that interest unique enough to be worth mentioning.

bandur on July 31, 2009 7:56 pm

And here is how to us especially in context:

You cannot start a sentence with especially.

Especially I like chocolate. (WRONG!)

I especially like chocolate. (CORRECT)

Especially is often used to introduce an example (don’t forget the commas).

Many Asian students, especially Koreans, study English.

I like superhero movies, especially “Spiderman” and “Batman.”

Taken from

About Robert D. E. Senior

Fully qualified and experienced Professional English teacher / trainer UK native speaker BA (hons, first class) Linguistics and TEFL 15 years experience in UK, Spain and Austria FCE - CAE - CPE - BEC V - BEC H - TOEFL - IELTS Business, Academic and General English
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