Chance vs. Opportunity – What’s the Difference? (+Examples)

“Chance” and “Opportunity” are words that can sometimes be interchangeable. But they aren’t exactly synonyms, and possess different meanings.

What is the difference between “Chance” and Opportunity”? Let’s find out, so you can know exactly how to express yourself when telling a story about things that happened to you.

Chance vs. Opportunity – What’s the Difference?

“Chance” is often a random event, or something that could potentially lead to a loss. “Opportunity” usually carries a more positive connotation. A person can create or be given an “Opportunity” and when it happens, the expectation is that it’ll bring a positive outcome.

Chance vs. Opportunity

Take a look as some examples, before we dig deeper into each word:

  • I met Chris by chance, at the subway.
  • Jerry was offered the opportunity to work at an important company.
  • Julia took a chance by quitting her current job and moving to a new company.
  • We had the opportunity to move to this city, and we took it.

To meet someone by “Chance” means it was not planned, or expected. It could be a good thing, if it turns out to be a good friendship. But could also turn out to be a bad experience – if there’s a break up in the future.

To get an “Opportunity”, on the other hand, implies an active participation from the subject, or the expectation that the opportunity will lead to a good outcome. Jerry likely was interviewed and had to impress people at his new company, to be offered the job.

In other words, Jerry earned his opportunity.


“Chance” is an occasion that allows something to be done. It tends to refer to a neutral event that has a level of uncertainty attached to it – meaning that could have a positive or negative outcome. 

In The Cambridge Dictionary we find a definition that agrees with that line of thought. Therefore, this is how “Chance” appears in a sentence:

  1. Lana took a chance at love.
  2. He didn’t get a chance to say goodbye.
  3. Are you saying that, if they win this game, it’s completely by chance?
  4. Mike didn’t take the chance.
  5. There’s a slim chance Moira is right.

Sentence 1 gives a great example of “Chance”. Lana took a “Chance” at love, and then what? We don’t know. It could pay off, and she might find the love of her life. But it may backfire just as much, and Lana might end sad and broken hearted.

“Chance” implies not knowing what the outcome will be. It also implies the subject not having much control over it. Whatever is the outcome of Lana’s “Chance” at love, there’s only so much she can do to assure it’ll be a happy ending.


“Opportunity” refers to the occasion which allows a person to do something they want to do (or have to do). An “Opportunity” usually carries the expectation that the outcome will be positive (even when it’s not).

“Opportunity” is also less passive than “Chance”. A person might seek and get an “Opportunity”, for example. According The Cambridge Dictionary “Opportunity” is the situation that makes it possible to do something.

This is how “opportunity” appears in a sentence:

  1. When given the opportunity to go to college, Henry took it immediately.
  2. Jess was offered an opportunity to act professionally.
  3. I had the rare opportunity to meet a penguin.
  4. Visiting new countries offers a unique learning opportunity.
  5. Tom would never miss the opportunity to play soccer with his friends.

As you can see from the sentences, “Opportunity” doesn’t sound as random as “Chance”. It’s more intentional by nature, and even if a positive outcome isn’t guaranteed, there’s always this sense of hope, when talking about an “Opportunity”.

Which Is Used the Most?

Do you believe in “Chance” or in “Opportunity”? What do you think people talk more about? The graph from Google Ngram Viewer will show us which word is more commonly used by people.

Chance vs. Opportunity usage

For the longest time, “Opportunity” was used more often than “Chance”. It changed in the early 2010’s, when “Chance” flipped the game and became more common.

Final Thoughts

“Chance” and “Opportunity” aren’t the same, although sometimes they might interchange in a sentence. “Chance” should be used to describe random, unexpected events that allow for a person to do something. “Opportunity” is less passive, and usually indicates the hope for a positive outcome.