Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How does one properly use i.e. in a sentence? I'm not referring to Internet Explorer.

share|improve this question
4  
There are some good answers below, but you also might want to consider not using it and writing "that is" instead. It's just confusing otherwise. –  Peter Eisentraut Aug 12 '10 at 21:19
6  
Ah I thought IE as in Internet Explorer –  Midhat Aug 13 '10 at 3:46
4  
@Midhat ha! Based on what I learned below, you could say that as "Ah I thought IE i.e. Internet Explorer" :-) –  7wp Aug 13 '10 at 5:34
4  
Consider changing the title to say "id est" or "i.e." It'll minimize the confusion a bit. –  Jagd Aug 13 '10 at 5:58
5  
"My browser, IE, has crashed 25 times today." –  JohnFx Aug 13 '10 at 6:42
show 3 more comments

4 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I assume you are referring to the common abbreviation for the Latin id est, which is commonly translated as "that is to say". So, think of the English when you would use it, i.e. when you're about to write i.e. think to yourself "that is to say".

See how I did that? As to the stylistic issue, I would always do it as I did above: lower case, periods in place. A common variant is ie. instead of i.e..

Contrast with e.g. which is from the Latin exempli gratia meaning "for example." One can construct sentences where either one is acceptable, but usually just contemplating the English meaning of each and picking the best fit is the way to go.

If you're referring to Internet Explorer, just say Internet Explorer.

share|improve this answer
2  
Or "Infernal Exploder". –  user362 Aug 13 '10 at 12:54
add comment

i.e. is an abbreviation for the Latin "id est", meaning "that is" (or more loosely, "in other words"). Its English usage follows precisely as such. The abbreviation is simply used to signal that the following phrase is another way of expressing the preceding phrase.

(Note: i.e. is often misused to indicate an example; this is incorrect. Always use e.g. in that case.)

share|improve this answer
    
"It's English usage"????? –  delete Aug 13 '10 at 2:36
2  
Me fail English? That's unpossible! –  jathanism Aug 13 '10 at 3:43
    
@Shinto: Oops, typo! 'Twas late. –  Noldorin Aug 13 '10 at 9:02
add comment

via http://theoatmeal.com/comics/ie

Ever done this?

"When eating a squirrel taco, Bigfoot always adds extra condiments, i.e., ranch dressing"

This is wrong!

I.e. is an abbreviation of a latin phrase meaning "that is." It's not used for listing examples; it's used for clarifying a statement. Think of it as "in essence" or "in other words." By using it above we're declaring that ranch dressing is the only condiment in existence, which is false.

In the previous example, we should have used e.g., which means "for example."

For example:

"The best way to take out a unicorn is with a Claymore, i.e., a directional mine which explodes shrapnel into a designated kill zone."

Another example:

"Eating a squirrel taco without any ranch dressing is like playing leapfrog with a unicorn, i.e. a very bad idea."

share|improve this answer
2  
argh you beat me to it! full link here: theoatmeal.com/comics/ie –  Jin Aug 12 '10 at 21:15
    
Hah. Nice comic there... though it does sort of ruin the readability of the page. –  Noldorin Aug 12 '10 at 21:16
    
I couldn't resist... I thought the reference to unicorns was quite funny. –  7wp Aug 12 '10 at 21:18
2  
reformatted for plain text searchability and readability –  Jeff Atwood Aug 13 '10 at 2:34
1  
You may want to add that "i.e." stands for "id est", which means "that is". –  Vincent McNabb Aug 13 '10 at 4:11
show 3 more comments

If you're referring to Internet Explorer, depending on the context you may have to indicate that it stands for that.

If you're referring to id est, i.e. "i.e.", The Oatmeal has just published a comic on that.

In all seriousness though, you use it to mean 'that is' or 'in other words' or 'in essence'. When you're explaining something, you use i.e. or its synonymous English phrases when you are about to express the explanation in different terms, as a means of clarity for instance.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by Thursagen Aug 24 '11 at 10:40

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.