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Yesterday, I went to my friend's art exhibition and heard people using the word exhibit instead of exhibition. I told him

I like your exhibition

with which I meant that I loved his show and pieces, but later when I heard native speakers using

I love your exhibit, it is amazing

that makes me wonder which is the correct word to use here.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Hmm, were those people you spoke to Americans?

In American English, Exhibit = Exhibition and they both mean the show of painting, photograph, or other artwork.

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There were native american english speakers. –  Tarik Sep 2 '11 at 16:01

One obvious difference is that exhibit can also be used as a verb, but exhibition can't.

Although there are contexts where the two words are synonymous as nouns, I think most people would accept "exhibits shown at an exhibition", but not "exhibitions shown at an exhibit".

In short, an exhibit is far more likely to mean a single item being displayed, whereas an exhibition is more likely to be an event where many different things are displayed.

Having said that, this distinction is something of a Briticism. Americans don't use exhibition so often anyway, so for them exhibit tends to have both noun meanings, as well as being a verb.

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It seems so they looked at me weirdly when I used "Exhibition" and I found this very weird. –  Tarik Sep 2 '11 at 17:17
@Braveyard: US Usage probably varies by region/social grouping, but I don't think any of them would say, for example, "Don't make an exhibit of yourself –  FumbleFingers Sep 2 '11 at 17:32

AHDEL gives the following definitions of exhibit:

exhibit noun

  1. The act or an instance of exhibiting.

  2. Something exhibited: studied the dinosaur exhibits at the museum.

  3. A public showing; an exhibition: spent the afternoon at the space exhibit.

  4. Law Something, such as a document, formally introduced as evidence in court.

Judging from the third definition, exhibit and exhibition are synonyms, overlapping in OP's sense.

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The simple difference here, to me, is exhibits are items or objects displayed at an exhibition whereas exhibition is the formally organised event at which items are shown for public view at a trade fair or mesium.

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Hello, Charles. If you read the above answers, you will see that (though I use the words the same way you do) your answer is a personal or regional preference rather than the whole story. The other answers give a truer overall picture of acceptable usages (and one adds authoritative corroboration, which is important). –  Edwin Ashworth Jun 16 at 11:10

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