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Is it grammatically incorrect to follow the abbreviations ie and eg with etc? My daughter's English teacher told her that this in an absolute no-no and is never permitted under any circumstances. He also said that this could warrant an F on an English submission. This must be an egregious grammatical error!

Consider these examples.

Mike brought the goodies (eg chocolate fudge, lemon meringue pie, etc) to the party.

When eating a squirrel taco, Bigfoot always added extra condiments (ie ranch dressing, ketchup, pepper, etc).

Good or bad?

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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, aedia λ, Marthaª, Matt Эллен, MrHen Feb 27 at 16:18

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I don't see anything wrong, or any reason to say that 'etc.' is out of place in either. It sounds to me as if there is some misunderstanding between your daughter and her teacher. –  WS2 Feb 26 at 16:55
Nope. I spoke with the teacher about this, and she adamantly maintained that this is grammatically incorrect under any circumstances. I'd love to prove her wrong. –  whippoorwill Feb 26 at 17:00
Just out of interest, are the school and teacher in question in the UK or elsewhere? –  WS2 Feb 26 at 17:10
It is odd to put et cetera in such a list, but it is not an issue of grammar. Your daughter's teacher has some unusually strong opinions about style, especially if he threatened an F. –  Anonym Feb 26 at 17:12
I can to some extent see the teacher's point. If you are using 'e.g.' meaning - 'for example', it would seem pointless to put an 'etc.'since you are simply giving examples, and 'etc.' is not exemplar of anything. The same sort of argument might apply to 'i.e.' However it does seem excessively pernickety, even to draw attention to it, let alone suggest that it could fail her the entire exam. –  WS2 Feb 26 at 17:16

3 Answers 3

Mentally translate from Latin abbreviations into English:

  • "e.g." = "for example"
  • "i.e." = "that is"
  • "etc." = "and so forth"

If it makes sense post-translation, then it made sense pre-translation.

That said, I'd probably omit "etc." in the case of "e.g.". A list of examples is already implied to be non-exhaustive, so explicitly ending the list with "and so forth" seems like overkill.

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e.g. says you are giving the examples. etc. then doesn't give all of them. I'd say those don't go together. –  Oldcat Feb 26 at 17:42

As "ie" means "that is", it is not appropriate to use it in an inexhaustive list, as you have done in your second example sentence; this is better with "eg": "...condiments (eg, ranch dressing, ketchup, pepper)". An exhaustive list, of course, has no other possible items, so it is nonsensical to use both "ie" and "etc".

It is similarly unnecessary to follow an "eg" list with "etc", as "eg" already implies an incomplete list, and either "eg" or "etc" should be used.

This blog entry points out a nice distinction between the two:

Another thing to pay attention to is whether the list is definite or possible members of a set. Generally, you will find that etc. tends more to imply that the things listed are all definite members of a fixed set, whereas e.g. is more able to allow possible members of a set. Compare:

Choose some music you like (e.g., Pet Shop Boys, Metallica, Beethoven).

Choose some music you like (Pet Shop Boys, Metallica, Beethoven, etc.).

The second is more likely to imply that you like all three of the artists listed, whereas the first tends more to allow that they’re just examples of music you might like.

Personally, I don't consider it a great sin to use both "eg" and "etc" - just a redundancy.

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Well, I believe your second example is a construct which shouldn't be used in the first place. "i.e." means "id est," which means "that is." It's really not accurate to use it to introduce a set of examples. "e.g.", for "exempla gratia," means literally, "for the sake of example" (thanks, user61979) So I'd say that you don't want to use 'i.e.' in the first place unless you're going to state exactly and completely what's being referred to. Use of "etc," then, is out of place in a "completely specified" list.

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Correction: exempli gratia 'for the sake of example'. –  Anonym Feb 26 at 17:09
Thank you -- I'll edit to match. –  Carl Witthoft Feb 26 at 17:49

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