Difference Between Sent and Delivered

Sometimes, when you’re talking to someone on an app such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, you might find that, underneath a message from you, to the other person, a one-word message from the app.

This word is either going to be “sent” or “delivered”.

But aren’t those two the same thing?


Sent means the message has left your phone. But delivered means that it has arrived at their phone.

Think of it like letters used to work in the days when they were still a thing. If you sent a letter, it means you had put it into the letterbox. But if your letter had been delivered, that would mean the postman would have put it through the other person’s letterbox.

Does it matter?

But does it matter? Do you really need to know the difference?

If you’re just talking to your friends, probably not. But sometimes, it’s not just our friends we talk to. We need to talk to our bosses or people we work with. We might also need to arrange a bank transfer or speak to important people such as investors.

In these cases, we need to be aware of the state of our messages. We should understand why there has not been a reply yet.

Our techno-world

I think this kind of discussion does go to show how technology has changed us, and how we view other people.

In the past, we would sometimes have to just accept that sometimes people weren’t there when we wanted to talk to them, and we would need to wait until a time when they were.

But today, because we all have our phones on us 24/7, we have come to have an expectation that people should reply to us immediately. Everyone thinks that the world revolves around them. We might even get annoyed when replies take too long.

Delivered vs Read

Another one-word message that your app might display is “read”. And there could be a few of you who think that “delivered” and “read” are the same thing.

They aren’t.

Delivered just means that their phone has received it, and they could read it at any moment. Whereas read indicates that they have read what you have said.

Think of it like how when a letter is delivered, the postman has put it through the letterbox, but it’s not been read until the other person has opened it, taken it out the envelope, and read it.

When you’re the problem

Occasionally, you might get a message that says “failed to send”, in this scenario, you’re the problem. Or more likely, your phone is the problem.

It could be that you have put it onto flight mode and forgotten to turn it off, or maybe you just aren’t connected to the internet. And there is, of course, a chance that your network is just down in your area.

The least likely option is that you happen to have been blocked by the other person.

When they’re the problem

If however, the message is “sent” that will mean it has not yet been delivered. In this case, the problem is on their side.

Any of the problems that we spoke about in the previous paragraph can also apply to them. Maybe their phone is on flight mode, they’re having trouble connecting to the internet, or their network is down.

Or maybe, they’ve just switched their phone off; which is a thing that we’ve heard some people sometimes do.

If your message has been sent, there is no chance that they will have blocked you.

What to do when it’s not been delivered

There will be some situations where you do really need to speak to someone. You need answers asap and will need the message to go from “sent” to “delivered” as soon as you possibly can.

The first thing you should do in this situation is to wait. Chances are, they just turned their phone off for a purpose, and will turn it one when that purpose has been served.

If you tried texting them on WhatsApp or Facebook, they could just be having issues with the internet. Try giving them a regular text.

If none of that works, you might have to just forget about it, and contact someone else instead.


I believe that if we’re going to be using words, we should know why we use them and understand where they came from.

Send comes from the Old English “Senden” which means cause to go.

Delivered, however, is slightly more interesting.

“De” is Latin for away. Whereas the livered part comes from the Latin “Liberare”- to set free. This has the same origins as the phrase “Liberate”.

So to deliver means to send away and set free, which is what you do to your message or letter.

Old Language

What I find to be rather amusing is that even though we’re living in an age which is dominated by technology and social media, we still use the same language that we used when we lived in an analogue world.

Sent and Delivered are both words which we used to use to talk about letters- the kind made of paper, that we had to put into a letterbox, and wait for the police.

This is likely because as human beings, we can be nervous about change. Even when things get radically different, we use the same language as before to make the differences less visible. Using Post Office language makes the whole process seem more human.


Sent is when a message has left your phone. Delivered is when that message has arrived at their phone.

Usually, this won’t matter, but it could do when talking to your boss or someone important.

If it’s not been sent, you’re the problem. But if it’s not been delivered, they’re the problem. This can be due to a network issue, Wi-Fi issue, or just because the phone is turned off.

Should you ever find a message has been sent but not delivered, there is little you can do other than wait, or try a different method.

Even in 2020, when our supreme AI overlords rule over us, we still use the same words that we used to in a simpler time.