Clothes vs. Clothing – Difference Explained (With Examples)

Some words in English seem to refer to the same concepts and be synonyms of each other. This is a common assumption people make with “clothes” and “clothing”. But are they the exact same? Or are there any differences between them? This article will answer all of these questions.

Difference Between “Clothes” and “Clothing”

“Clothes” and “clothing” can refer to the same thing, meaning the things that you wear. However, when you say “clothing”, you usually can refer to a specific type of clothing, as opposed to “clothes” which is always a very broad and general term. “Clothing” is also more formal.

Clothes vs. Clothing

You might prefer to use the word “clothes” in a situation in which you’re talking about several things, one of which is “clothes”.

However, “clothing” is the preferable term when you want to specify what kind of clothing you’re using.

Ultimately, they can be interchangeable words, but this isn’t always the case, and it depends on the situation. In more formal contexts, you will want to use “clothing” instead of “clothes”.

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Clothes

“Clothes” is the word you’d use to refer to the things that you wear on your body, for necessity, fashion, or both. Shoes, pants, hats, shirts, everything that you wear on your body can be classified as clothes. This is one of the first words people learn in English.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “clothes” are “things such as dresses and trousers that you wear to cover, protect, or decorate your body”. Anything that falls into these categories can be referred to as “clothes”.

In case you’re unsure how to use the word “clothes”, here are some example sentences that will help you:

  1. I have carefully selected all of my clothes and they are all worth keeping in my closet.
  2. Your clothes are really good, I am always astonished at your impressive collection.
  3. You have to admit that her clothes are on point always, even when she’s being rude to us.
  4. Their clothes were odd, in some way, like they had been all copied from real, normal clothes.
  5. My clothes are a lot nicer than they were back in the day, because I make more money now.
  6. Her clothes were dazzling, so I couldn’t help but stare at all her different outfits.
  7. His clothes are really well made, if you look at the stitching and the seams you’ll see it.

Clothing

“Clothing” is a word that, like “clothes”, can also be used to refer to the things that you wear on your body. You distinguish it from “clothes” because of two things. “Clothing” is used to specify what kind of clothes you’re wearing, and because it’s a more formal expression.

According to The Cambridge Dictionary, “clothing” means “clothes, especially clothes of a particular type or those worn in a particular situation”. Therefore, “clothing” is a synonym for “clothes” that allows for more specificity.

If you don’t know how to use “clothing” in a sentence, these examples will show you what to do:

  1. Their winter clothing section is essential for anyone living in that part of the country.
  2. All of her clothing is simply incredible, you’ll love her gifts, trust me on this.
  3. You should make sure that all of the clothing you will need at the conference is packed.
  4. My clothing for the wedding has now been selected, I’m really excited to show off my tie.
  5. Her clothing had been torn to shreds by the terrible weather, but she had arrived safely otherwise.
  6. My safety clothing has been specifically designed for this sort of rough work environment.
  7. If you wish to create good clothing then you ought to buy better materials to work with, I think.

Which Word Is Used the Most?

According to the Google Ngram Viewer, “clothes” is significantly more popular than “clothing” in the written text. This makes sense because of the fact that “clothes” is a casual word and “clothing” is more of a formal term.

Clothes vs. Clothing usage

Because there are more informal situations than there are formal ones, “clothes” is the more popular term. However, it’s worth pointing out that this hasn’t always been the case.

“Clothes” only really overtook “clothing” in popularity in the middle of the 1990s, and before that point “clothing” was actually slightly more popular of a word.

The gap between the two, however, was far from immense until this specific moment, with them alternating their popularity spots.

Final Thoughts

“Clothes” and “clothing” are, broadly speaking, the same concept. The difference is that “clothing” can be used to specify slightly more on what you’re talking about, and that “clothing” is a more formal term as opposed to the casual “clothes”. But they are synonyms of each other.