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I still get confused between the two as English is not my mother language.

I tried the following links to understand but still couldn't:

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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

thefreedictionary actually explains the difference under "definite":

Usage: Definite and definitive should be carefully distinguished. Definite indicates precision and firmness, as in a definite decision. Definitive includes these senses but also indicates conclusiveness. A definite answer indicates a clear and firm answer to a particular question; a definitive answer implies an authoritative resolution of a complex question.

I was writing a very similar description and example but I think this is worded better and more precisely accurate.

You might say that an answer I wrote would be definite, but the dictionary's is definitive.


The distinction has more to do with certainty.

A field has a definite boundary if the boundary is well-marked, perhaps with a fence. But maybe the farmer made a mistake and put the fence a few feet away from where his property actually ends; it's still definite because it's clearly marked. The boundary could be said to be definitive if it was outlined and set in a manner that made its position correct beyond question.

A lower court's ruling is definite because it is clearly put forth, but the Supreme Court's rulings are also definitive because they are the final word on the subject.

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Can you provide more examples if you don't mind? It is still a bit cloudy. What is the criteria for a complex question?? –  Joze Dec 2 '11 at 16:15
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In addition to Kevin's fine answer here are some tips

  • Definitive -> final; conclusive
  • Definite -> precise; explicit and clearly defined

So things can be clear and explicit, but might lack the conclusiveness. Or someone can give you their definitive answer, but it can be completely unclear.

Of course something can be definitive and definite at the same time.

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