In Charge Of vs. Responsible For – What’s the Difference?

Can we say “In Charge Of” and “Responsible For” and convey the same meaning? It’s important to know, because we always want to make sure we aren’t sending the wrong message in our conversations with other people.

Let’s look at each expression’s meaning and assure we use them correctly.

In Charge Of vs. Responsible For – What’s the Difference?

“In Charge Of” is an expression we use to indicate who has control, or the power to supervise something. Being in charge equals having some level of authority in that scenario. “Responsible For”, however, is more related to having a duty, a commitment to make sure things are well done.

In Charge Of vs. Responsible For

We’ll look at each expression separately. But before we do it, let’s see some examples:

  • Derek is in charge of the recruitment department.
  • Derek is responsible for finding new recruits for the company.
  • Anna is in charge of the kitchen.
  • Anna is responsible for cooking dinner tonight.

As you can see by the two sets of sentences in the example, changing the form from “In Charge Of” to “Responsible For” lowers the level of authority one has in a given situation.

To say Derek’s “In Charge Of” a department tells me he’s the boss. It indicates he’s running the department, and has the power to decide how it’s going to operate.

On the other hand, to say Derek’s “Responsible For” finding new recruits only tells me this is an activity he’s supposed to perform – but it doesn’t tell me, at all, he’s the boss or has authority to decide which recruits will be hired.

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What Does “In Charge Of” Mean?

To be “In Charge Of” indicates having authority and some level of control over an activity or project. Someone who’s “In Charge Of” something can make decisions, assign responsibilities and manage what’s in their hands. They’re the boss.

In the The Cambridge Dictionary we find that being “In Charge Of” is to be responsible for something or someone.

Take a look at the examples below, to understand this concept better:

  1. Melissa was in charge of the classroom.
  2. Lee is in charge of the HR department.
  3. Harriet is in charge of the Design department.
  4. I am in charge of the project.
  5. Smith is in charge of all the nurses.

Can you sense the weight of being “In Charge Of” something by those sentences? To say someone is “In Charge Of” is quite a statement.

What Does “Responsible For” Mean?

To be “Responsible For” is related to having a duty, a responsibility to take care of something, someone or an activity. It also involves having some sort of authority (given you need to have the tools to accomplish what you’re responsible for), but not as much as being in charge.

The definition we find in The Cambridge Dictionary corroborates this idea. Let’s look at some examples:

  1. Melissa is responsible for teaching the children.
  2. Lee is responsible for overseeing operations in the HR department.
  3. Harriet is responsible for managing projects in the Design department.
  4. I am responsible for making sure we are finishing the project in time.
  5. Smith is responsible for making sure all the nurses are in their correct stations.

Can you tell the difference in tone, when comparing those sentences with the ones used to illustrate “In Charge Of”? To be “Responsible For” is important, but it’s not as powerful as being “In Charge Of”.

Which Is Used the Most?

Which one of those forms is used more often? Do you think people would say “In Charge Of” or “Responsible For” more frequently?

The graph from Google Ngram Viewer below will let us know.

In Charge Of vs. Responsible For usage

“Responsible For” appears with much more frequency than “In Charge Of”, and we think it makes a lot of sense. For example, a department within a company would have one person in charge, but many people with different responsibilities, right?

With that in mind, it sounds quite reasonable that “Responsible For” would appear more often in conversations than “In Charge Of”.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between “In Charge Of” and “Responsible For” depends on the message you wish to convey. If you refer to someone who’s the boss, with authority to run a certain situation, you use “In Charge Of”. However, if you refer to a collaborator, with some responsibility, use “Responsible For”.

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