Sometimes words can be misleading, and terms that might seem like they mean one thing actually end up meaning an entirely different thing. Such is the case with “consumable” and “non-consumable”, two opposite terms that many people don’t fully understand. That’s why this article will explain the difference between them.
A “consumable” item is simply one that needs to be periodically replaced, presumably within a reasonable time. A “non-consumable” item doesn’t need to be replaced periodically, and it is understood that once you have purchased it, you won’t have to replace it anytime soon.
The words “consumable” and “non-consumable” might fool people into thinking that they refer to things that can and can’t be eaten, respectively. However, the terms really have nothing to do with consumption of food.
However, don’t let this fool you into thinking that food can’t be consumable. The groceries you buy are, in fact, consumable goods.
The key point here is that more items are consumable beyond just foodstuffs, and not everything that is consumable is edible.
It is worth remarking upon the fact that, technically, all goods that one can buy are “consumed” in the end, and thus some people, who are particularly pedantic, might say that all goods are consumable.
However, this “correction” would miss the point of the distinction in the first place, which is to distinguish what goods need to be disposed of after a limited amount of use.
A consumable good is one that needs to be replaced fairly regularly within a given period of time, because it’s used up after a set amount of time or uses. When a good is consumable, you can expect to have to buy it every set amount of time.
According to the definition provided by The Cambridge Dictionary, a consumable is “bought regularly because of being quickly used and needing to be replaced often”. This definition makes it clear what makes something consumable.
Consumable goods will be, therefore, items that we constantly use in our day to day lives, and that are probably not that expensive compared to non-consumable goods, because they have to be replaced more often.
When you look at all of these different examples of consumable goods, it will help you understand what a consumable good is:
- Printer ink
- Printer paper
- Trash bags
- Engine oil
A non-consumable good would be one that does not need to get replaced periodically, because it doesn’t get “used up” nearly as quickly as a consumable good would. Because of this fact, when something is non-consumable it’s normally fair to assume that it will last for a very long time.
While “consumable goods” are a very easy to understand category of items, “non-consumable goods” are not normally thought of as being in the same vein.
This is because “non-consumable” is an entire classification that is not built on what the items are, but rather what they are not instead. A “non-consumable” is not used up quickly.
This means that “non-consumable” is generally found in legal contexts beyond anything else, while “consumable” is a very popular word in general.
When something is non-consumable, it means that it can be enjoyed and utilized without its main attributes directly deteriorating to the extreme degree that can happen with consumable goods.
This doesn’t take into account, however, deterioration that takes place over several years of use. This definition is more so focused on goods that are directly affected by their use immediately after it happens.
Though they’re not as well-established of a category in the public eye as consumable goods are, there are still plenty of examples one could showcase to help you better understand “non-consumable goods”. Here are some of them:
- A plot of land
- An apartment
- A house
- A warehouse
- A sofa
- A company’s stock
- A title
- A car
- A television
- A bed
Broadly speaking, electronic items are nearly always non-consumable. This is because they’re designed to be utilized over and over again over long periods of time. One notable exception to this would be certain kinds of electronic batteries, but besides those, electronic items can be reused a reasonable amount of times.
Most electronic devices that we all use in our day to day lives are designed to be used over extended periods of time. This applies to televisions, cellphones, video game consoles, computers and tablets.
If something has an intricate enough design to be considered electronic, then it’s doubtful that it’d be produced only to be disposed of after a small amount of use.
This is exactly why most electronic devices will be non-consumable by nature, because they’re normally big enough investments for the people who are purchasing them.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.