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When should each of them be used?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 8 down vote accepted

By rearranging a sentence, you can figure out what your intention is. Remember that "specially" and "especially" are adverbs, so try to figure out what they mean for the verb.

Also remember that "especially" is the adverb of the adjective "especial", which means "unique".

For instance:

  • He has a specially made key. Making the key was special. (Replaced by an adjective.)

  • The key was made especially for him. Making the key was uniquely done for him. (Can't be replaced by the adjective.)
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In most contexts “specially” is more common than “especially,” but when you mean “particularly” “especially” works better: “I am not especially excited about inheriting my grandmother’s neurotic Siamese cat.” “Especial” in the place of “special” is very formal and rather old-fashioned. Source

"specially" Definitions:

  1. (adv) in a special manner
  2. (adv) to a distinctly greater extent or degree than is common

"specially" Usages:

  1. After 911, she organized the sale of specially designed T shirts to benefit a Twin Towers fund and spearheaded a p.
  2. The M80 achieves its remarkable draft with a specially sculpted hull that lets air and water flow underneath to reduce wind resistance and generate lift.
  3. Large, specially equipped Pave Low helicopters flew dark, low and fast toward the refinery from just over the Kuwait border.

"especially" Definitions:

  1. (adv) to a distinctly greater extent or degree than is common
  2. (adv) in a special manner

"especially" Usages:

  1. Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular.
  2. It's a wind turbine designed especially for home use.
  3. But American parents especially may wish to study up on the possible candidates.


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A few sources such as mention that:

  • especially is a bit more formal

  • especially good implies that there is one or a few specific other things which are less good.

    specially does not: only that it is more good than the average.

    It's a non-precise quantitative difference.

Personally, I wish one of them were killed, as the meanings are too close.

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specially is usually used with verbs. especially with sentences or adverbal phrases.

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This question was asked and answered. However, seeing as the question is about the distinction between the two words, I thought I might add a little comment on their intersection.

In cases when both words would be grammatical, 'especially' may emphasize on the purpose of the object, while 'specially' may emphasize on the process of the verb.

Consider the sentences:

I made the car especially for Jonathan.

I made the car specially for Jonathan.

The former sentence emphasizes that the purpose of the car was to give it to Jonathan, whereas the latter emphasizes on the fact that it was made specially. When doing something 'specially' you single out the object. When doing something 'especially' you single out a purpose.

If the sentence contains both an object and a purpose (as the ones above do),

  • 'specially' will single out the object and thereby single out the purpose, whereas
  • 'especially' will single out the purpose and thereby single out the object.

The difference is there and interesting to know, but subtle and effectively of little consequence, because in either case the car was made with special care because of Jonathan.

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