“Use” and “usage” are almost identical when written down. However, there are some nuances that you need to understand that allows for native speakers to create a subtle difference between them. This article will explore when to use which variation.
What Is The Difference Between “Use” And “Usage”?
“Use” works when something is being used. It is a verb form, so we must always use it when we are “using” something (i.e. “not in common use”). “Usage” is the state of being “used,” and it refers to how something might be used (i.e. “not common usage”).
You can think of “usage” as the noun form of the verb “to use.” We use it to describe the state for something to be used.
Of course, this doesn’t help too much when presented with nearly identical examples like this:
- This uniform is not in common use.
- This uniform is not common usage.
Both of these examples are correct. The only subtle difference is “in common use” or “common usage.” We use “in” as a preposition because “use” is a verb that shows that we are using something.
“Usage” is a noun, meaning that a preposition is not required in a sentence.
What Does “Use” Mean?
Let’s start by exploring the usage of “use” first. It’s the verb form, so it’s the one you’re more likely to come across.
“Use” means that we are using something. It is from the verb form “to use,” which shows that we are making something work or making it do things in an intended manner.
It’s common for us to use “use” synonymously with the noun “usage.” However, this is mostly true informally, and there aren’t many formal cases where it’s acceptable to write “use” in place of “usage.”
Example Sentences With “Use”
Some of these examples should help you with it:
- If you’re looking to use this correctly, we would recommend reading this guide.
- I’m sorry, but his use of this product is not ideal! We need to take it away from him right away.
- Your use of those strong words is almost unbearable for me. Please do not use them ever again.
- My language use has come under fire a few times. I’m not particularly happy about the way people treat me for it.
- If you hadn’t looked into how to use this thing, I’m sure we would have completely destroyed it by now.
- Your use of this machine is remarkable! How did you ever find out how to use it in such a way?
- This item is ready to use whenever you want, sir. I’ve made all the required changes that you wanted.
“Use” is a verb, and we use it to show that someone or something can “use” an item. It is sometimes correct as a noun (replacing “usage”), but this is only true colloquially.
It’s best to try and avoid using “use” and “usage” synonymously in your writing. You need to make sure you’re able to make the difference clear formally.
What Does “Usage” Mean?
So, what exactly is the difference we’re looking for?
“Usage” is a noun. It refers to the state of something being used. Usually, a subject pronoun does not come before it (like you would expect from a verb). Instead, we let other nouns or object pronouns come before it or just show the state of how something happens when it is “used.”
If you’re confused about the pronoun rule, you can look at the following:
- Subject pronoun: I use this.
- Object pronoun: Her usage is quite remarkable.
Example Sentences With “Usage”
Perhaps some more examples will help you make sense of it:
- Your usage of this language after only a few weeks is remarkably impressive!
- His usage makes me squirm. I don’t like the way he did those things.
- If your language usage was any better, I’d have to find out where you got your brains from!
- I need to understand this energy usage bill! I really don’t like what I’m looking at here.
- The fuel usage of this car is almost too much to handle! I can’t afford the expense it gives.
- Whatever the usage numbers are going to be, I’m more than happy to pay them for you!
- I’ll need to understand the usage numbers before the end of the week. Please file the report on my desk.
“Usage” is a noun. We use it with an object pronoun or another noun (i.e. “language usage”). It’s a great way to show how something is being used rather than the direct act of using it.
Are “Use” And “Usage” Interchangeable?
If writing informally, there is no reason why “use” and “usage” cannot be used interchangeably. However, it can create a bad habit in your writing, so it’s best to treat “use” as a verb and “usage” as a noun where it counts.
With that said, we can still provide a few interchangeable examples to show you how it works informally:
- Your language usage is impressive.
- Your language use is impressive.
- His usage of these phrases is baffling to me!
- His use of these phrases is baffling to me!
While it is correct to write “use” and “usage” synonymously in the noun form, there is never a case where it can be written the other way. “Usage” can never be a verb:
- Correct: I use a lot of toothpaste.
- Incorrect: She usage all the good toys!
Is “Use” Or “Usage” Most Prevalent?
Let’s quickly refer to some graphical evidence to see which is the most popular of the two phrases.
According to Google Ngram Viewer, “use” is vastly more popular than “usage.” However, these data points aren’t necessarily fair to “usage” since “use” is a very common verb that’s used, meaning that it is much more likely to be used in common English writing.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way we can separate the direct verb usage of “use” to compare it more closely to “usage” in a similar context.
However, you would most likely still find “use” the most popular of the two phrases. After all, there are plenty of times where it can be used in place of “usage.”
Common Confusions About “Use” And “Usage”
Finally, let’s finish off with some common confusions that people have over the terms “use” and “usage.” Hopefully, by this stage of the article, you’ll have a much better understanding of how each of the following works.
Is It “Language Use” Or “Language Usage”?
“Language use” and “language usage” are both correct. We can use “use” and “usage” synonymously as nouns when working with the word “language.” This is a common trend that native speakers use. “Usage” is more formally correct, but they both work well.
- Your language use is really impressive.
- I do not have much of this language usage under my belt.
Is It “Energy Use” Or “Energy Usage”?
“Energy usage” is grammatically correct. We use it in this form because it refers to a noun. It means the amount of energy that we use rather than the act of actually using the energy. Therefore, you should always use “usage.”
- Correct: Energy usage is the main contributor to why our bills are so pricey.
- Incorrect: Energy use isn’t going to go up by much more at the end of this month.
Is It “For Future Use” Or “For Future Usage”?
“For future use” works best when we are talking about an action. This allows us to utilize “use” as a verb (as long as another verb is present to aid it). “For future usage” works as a noun, which allows us to state the future usage we expect from someone.
- For future use, I recommend you try out one of the following products.
- You should remember that one for future usage.
Is It “Ready For Use” Or “Ready For Usage”?
“Ready for usage” is correct because we need the noun form when talking about the state of whether we can use something. If we used the preposition “to,” then “use” would be correct as a verb to show that it is ready to use.
- Correct: This building isn’t ready for usage, so you should come back later.
- Incorrect: This vehicle is not ready for use just yet.
Here is the alternative form we can use with “to” that allows the verb form to work:
- Correct: This is ready to use now if you’d like to take it back with you.
- Incorrect: I’m sorry, but this isn’t ready to usage now!
Quiz: Have You Mastered Use vs. Usage?
Let’s finish up with a quiz to see what you’ve learned from this! As a side note, make sure you stick to formal writing rules for these answers!
- Your language (A. use / B. usage) is very strange. Who taught you?
- I did not (A. use / B. usage) any of the items you asked me not to.
- She thought her (A. use / B. usage) was better than others, but it was not.
- My (A. use / B. usage) of these abhorrent words was unforgivable.
- The car is finally ready to (A. use / B. usage), Mr. Smith.
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.