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Please, help me to understand the difference in meaning between "various" and "different".

Example sentence:

Various methods of inter-process communication are available in Windows.

Is it possible to build this sentence like:

Different methods of inter-process communication are available in Windows.

Is the second sentence correct? If yes, what would be the difference between the two?

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Two minor remarks. To me, "different methods" could be just two, while "various methods" sounds more broad, like "manifold" or "many different". Also, various is kind of self-contained, as in "different from one another", while different has a connotation of "another", "different from something else entirely", "different from something previously mentioned". That being said, "various" and "different" are being used interchangeably in many situations. –  RegDwigнt Sep 30 '10 at 11:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

They are synonyms. Similar to what RegDwight pointed out, there is usually a connotation of many with "various," whereas "different" often refers to distinctions between 2 things.

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I agree with Flotsam, the key here is that 'different' implies some distinction between the subjects. –  kchau Sep 30 '10 at 15:16
They are synonymous in this meaning, but not in all their uses. –  Colin Fine Oct 1 '10 at 15:37

For this usage, I think "various" is better, because "different" implies a comparison. Different from what?

For example: "OSX provides certain methods for inter-process communication, while different methods of inter-process communication are available in Windows."

"Different" is certainly used colloquially to mean "various," but I would avoid that in formal or technical contexts.

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thanks, helpful remark about colloquial nature of using "different" instead of "various" +1 –  rem Oct 3 '10 at 15:26
Amen. As a technical writer, I try not to use "different" when I mean "various". –  Brian Hitchcock Sep 13 at 12:54

I agree with all of the above, but there is another possibility: 'differing'. As the other participants say, 'different' implies 2, or something specific, whereas 'various' implies several ... but so to does 'differing' imply several.

to visit various places near to Hobart = to visit differing places near Hobart; but to visit different places near Hobart implies places that are unique or different in some way, like Richmond which is a heritage listed historical town, or Port Arthur which is the top tourism destination in Tasmania.

I hope this helps.

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"Different" is simply wrong in this context, if the first sentence is the meaning required, i.e. that more than one method of inter-process communication is available in Windows. The colloquial usage of a word does not make it correct. The second sentence means that the methods of inter-process communication available in Windows are different to those available somewhere else (presumably in some other operating system). This is very far from the intended meaning. At best, it is ambiguous. I hope that helps you.

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"The colloquial usage of a word does not make it correct." Uhh, why not? That's basically the definition of normal language use. –  curiousdannii Sep 13 at 23:43

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