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My understanding is the following:

  • I anticipate everyone will come here by 10.

    = "I hope it's gonna happen, but I'm not so sure about the result".

  • I expect everyone will come here by 10.

    = "I do believe it's gonna happen, because I've made sure with everyone ahead. Just like it's the time we will rally up here for sure."

Is this distinction correct?

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5 Answers 5

In ordinary speech anticipate is merely a synonym of expect—“to regard (a future event) as probable”. It is perhaps a little more ‘dignified’ (or pretentious), but not different in meaning.

This meaning, however, is comparatively recent. The nearest definition given in OED 1 (the relevant fascicle was published in 1884) is “9. to look forward to, to look for (an uncertain event) as certain”, which is not quite the same thing.

In formal discourse, consequently, anticipate is at least as if not more likely to bear its original meaning, which was “to take action in expectation of some future event"—in some cases action in order to realize or profit from the expected event, but in its oldest uses, action to prevent or forestall it. Here are some contemporary examples—the first five hits on anticipate in Google Books:

  • Blindside: How to Anticipate Forcing Events and Wild Cards in Global Politics, 2008. “Focuses on developing analytical tools to anticipate and manage low-probability events.”
  • Anticipate: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do, 2012. “Staying the course requires a company to anticipate and be ready to decisively address the obstacles that will arise over time.”—
  • Anticipate the School You Want: Futurizing K-12 Education, 2008. “Futurizing an academic system requires skillfully honed, practiced and encouraged skills, abilities, and tools for thinking and doing the future. […] a constructed place.”
  • Heads Up: How to Anticipate Business Surprises and Seize Opportunities First, 2004. “Provides a four-step approach that business leaders can use to obtain the right information at the right time in an effort to avoid business catastrophes and realize potential opportunities.”
  • Proactive Companies: How to Anticipate Market Changes, 2012. “The authors present their new model for Market Proactiveness which shows organizations how to anticipate change and respond to it before they are forced to do so.”

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Yes. you have it (nearly) right. The difference between them is nuance. This is what Oxford dict has to say:

anticipate verb [with object]1
regard as probable; expect or predict: she anticipated scorn on her return to the theatre

expect verb [with object]
regard (something) as likely to happen: it’s as well to expect the worst

Expect : believe with confidence that its going to happen. Eg: My expectation is that John and Mary will get married.

Anticipate : to think or be fairly sure that something is going to happen. (and take action towards it). Eg My anticipation is that they will be married in June next year.

Here is a BIG list of examples which will further help you understand the difference.

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Anticipate is unconditional to a certain degree, whereas expect shows a level of certainty.

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My understanding is :

Anticipate is to foresee something will happen, no matter we like that or not. e.g. I anticipate the disaster will come. I anticipate there will be two scientists to join our team.

Expect is to foresee something will happen, with that you show no opposition, and sometimes you want that to happen. I expect there will be two scientists to join our team. I expect I shall have two birthday gifts tomorrow.

But normally we won’t say I expect the disaster will come.

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Hello, CHAN JUCK YUNG, and welcome to English Language & Usage. Your explanation of your understanding of how anticipate and expect differ seems quite reasonable, but it would be even stronger if you cited some independent reference work that corroborated your view. This site especially appreciates such evidence-backed answers. Please consider adding this type of support to your answer. Thanks! – Sven Yargs Jun 14 at 6:43
No. Sometimes expect has such a positive connotation in English ("We are expecting you for dinner"), but in general it does not. You can very well expect a bad outcome. Many people are expecting a very big earthquake in California - "The Big One" - within the next 100 years. Expectation is a bit of a false friend in English, for those used to French or Spanish. – Drew Jun 14 at 6:57

Unlike Camelbrush, I am not sure you have grasped the difference properly. "Expect" is just what you think is going to happen, no more, no less. It is little different from saying "I think". "I expect it will rain today" just means "I think it is going to rain" - that is what I regarded as likely to happen.

"Anticipate" is not just a vague thought about what is going to happen, but is more of a definite prediction of the future, with some implication that you are taking steps to deal with the forecast outcome. "I anticipated that at least 20 people would come to the party, so I cooked enough food for 20 people".

Anticipate is more proactive - as if someone is thinking ahead and taking steps to deal with what arises. "I anticipated it would rain, so I had an umbrella ready".

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At least in the United States, expect can have a somewhat imperative or peremptory quality, e.g., a mother to her children: I expect that you will behave yourselves. Fleshing this out, one gets: You know that I want you to behave and, since you fear disappointing me, I regard it as likely that you will behave. – Animadversor Apr 20 '13 at 1:13

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