English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have seen many textbooks and scientific literatures at least at college level, frequently using "in particular".

I was wondering whether it (always) has the meaning of "for example"? If yes, does it have other meaning besides that and what differences do they have?

share|improve this question
A closer equivalent to in particular used this way might be "specifically" or "especially." If someone says, "Unicorns, in particular, pink and purple unicorns, tend to be invisible to the casual observer," you might see these as examples; however, they are given because the speaker or writer wants you to know that pink and purple unicorns are especially likely to be the invisible ones. – aedia λ Jan 14 '12 at 3:58
@aediaλ: Firstly, this is a perfectly good answer -- it shouldn't be a comment. Secondly, why would you use pink and purple together with invisible ? Colours are incompatible with invisibility, or, at the very least, it creates a confusing example. Change the example and make it an answer. – ThePopMachine Jan 14 '12 at 6:46
I disagree with the closevotes. Per Will's answer, things may not always be as simple as mustafa says (though overall I for one think if there must be a single "best" answer, mustafa's should by rights be the most upvoted). – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 17:25
up vote 6 down vote accepted

For example gives instances of the thing being discussed.

In particular restricts attention of the thing to specific instances, but can also mean especially. In mathematical texts, this is usually used in the former sense.

share|improve this answer
I disagree that the primary significance of in particular is to "restrict attention to to a specific instance". More importantly, as @mustafa said several hours earlier, it conveys that the specific thing cited exemplifies whatever is being spoken of more than any other examples. – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 15:53
I think I can just about see what you're getting at. I assume you mean that in scientific literature it's more likely that the text may continue by devoting extended consideration to the particular example chosen - not necessarily because it's the most exemplary case, but simply because some greater level of detail will be required to expound on whatever point is being made, and this can only be done by focussing on a single example. Downvote reversed, but overall I'm still sticking with @mustafa's answer. – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 17:21
@FumbleFingers the OP talks about textbooks and scientific literature. The sense of restricting the attention is the one I know of. – Theta30 Feb 5 '12 at 10:08
@Theta30: As Will says, in particular can mean either specifically (this is the example we're going to expand on, but the choice of example may have no other significance), or it can mean especially (this example is being explicitly identified as an archetypal or extreme instance). It's quite possible the first meaning actually is more likely in textbooks. But the expression is commonplace in more general contexts such as Mustafa's example, where I'm in no doubt that the second meaning is usually what's intended. – FumbleFingers Feb 5 '12 at 13:37

In particular is used to say "more than others". E.g:

I like reading books. For example; science fiction books, fantasy books, and horror books but I like horror books in particular.

share|improve this answer
Agreed, "more than others" is the key difference between an instance cited "for example" as opposed to "in particular". – FumbleFingers Jan 14 '12 at 15:49


"In particular" is seen as the opposite of "In general". This is usually synonymous to "especially".

For example means As an example of..., this is synonymous to "For instance", "e.g" and "Such as".

Though "In particular" and "For example" may be used in similar cases, note that they do not have the same meaning. They may in some cases mean the same thing, but not always.

Cases with Different Meaning

The chancellor talked about the curriculum, the core courses in particular.


The orchestra was outstanding, the strings in particular

Here "in particular" cannot be replaced with "for example".

I can play quite a few musical instruments, for example, the flute, the guitar, and the piano.

Using "In particular" over here may change the meaning of the phrase. Using "In particular" may imply that the person is especially good at playing the flute, the guitar and the piano. Which may not necessarily be the case.

Cases with Similar Meaning

The book has quite a few plot holes. For example, it's never explained why the main character came to town to begin with.

Here "For example" may safely be replaced by "In particular".

share|improve this answer
I disagree with your plot example. "in particular" stresses the primary importance of the item given. "For example" does no such thing, allowing unmentioned items to be of even greater importance. – ErikE Feb 27 '12 at 7:59

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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