Continual and Continuous

There IS a Difference

By Annette Rey

Let’s make this simple.

Use continual when you want to convey something that occurs on and off.

  • Jason continually called in sick.
  • Mike made only a continual effort to better his grades.

Use continuous when you want to convey something that occurs chronically, in a sequence, non-stop.

  • The continuous back spasms offered no relief.
  • The mountain ridge ran continuously through three states.

I use mnemonics (a technique to help memory) to remind me of the difference between continual and continuous.

I see the last letter of continual – L – and think of lite – meaning a lesser version of something, like lite dressing. It is a lesser version of the original product. In this case, I think of lite as an interrupted process. So continual – L = lite = occurs with interruptions.

  • April brings continual showers.
  • He continually fell asleep in class.

I see the last letter of continuous – S – and I think of stream – a steady flow of something = NO interruptions.

  • The Mississippi River flows continuously from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of New Orleans.
  • It is said that during a period of the French Reign of Terror the guillotine continuously operated until blood ran in the streets.

You may find a different reminder that works better for you. Please share it with the rest of us. Many thanks.

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