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What is the difference between partly and partially? An example of usage for each word would be great.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Partially is mostly used in contexts involving non-tangible description of things.

Example:

Your views are partially correct.

Whereeas partly is preferred for tangible description.

Example:

The construction is partly built on stone.

Moreover, 'partially' is more abstract and concrete w.r.t usage than that of 'partly'.

Try to think of it this way:

Specific and concretely describing

'half of the liquid' partly goes more with this.

Vague and non specific description

'Some of the liquid' partially is more apt here.

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These words are almost interchangeable and I don't think there is a case where it would be wrong to use one and not the other.

There is, however, a pretty simple rule for common usage:

Use partly when the "in part" is part of a tangible whole, and partially when it's not.

For example, if we say "The door is partly open", then we can easily see that it's also "partly closed". In the phrase, "Her life was partly tedium", we easily infer that her life was partly excitement.

Partially is used when we can't say that the part we're specifying is part of some tangible whole.

"His explanation partially explained it." You wouldn't say "His explanation partly explained it, and partly didn't explain it", so you use partially.

However I should make clear that both are correct in all of those sentences. It's not wrong to say "His explanation partly explained it."

The only exception I can think of (I'm sure there are more) is "partly cloudy" or other weather-phrases just because those are common phrases burned into our minds.

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