What is the difference between finally and eventually?
- He eventually escaped and made his way back to England.
- He finally escaped and made his way back to England.
The two words are very similar, and can indeed be used interchangably in many contexts – but not always.
A good way to figure out the subtle nuances of each word is by consulting a thesaurus. For example, if you want to imply something will happen after a long wait, you would not use finally:
But you could use finally after the fact:
If you want to say that something is the last of a sequence of steps, you would not use eventually. For example, on a cooking show:
But you might use eventually to say that you'll get around to doing something later:
You knew I'd get to the thesaurus entries eventually, right?
Finally, here's the entry for finally:
He eventually escaped and made his way back to England. This connotes a gradual progress in his mission to escape, he must have faced several troubles before he was able to escape. Possibly he was caught or lost several times before he reached England.
He finally escaped and made his way back to England. This carries a sound of expectation, as if the escape was long-awaited. He must have planned his escape long ago and was able to escape when he put his plan into action.
Both the adverbs mean 'in the end' or 'at last' but they differ in the emphasis, former is a long and gradual (step by step) process and the latter is long awaited.
Both "finally" and "eventually" suggest waiting for a period of time. "Finally" suggests something occurring at the end of a sequence of events (relating to the word "final"), and also has connotations of exasperation and overcoming something. "Eventually" also suggests something at the end of a series of events, but without an absolute finality. The two words can generally be used interchangeably, at least in the above example, without much meaning being lost.
In short, "finally" = "eventually" in the above example.
I could not find any reliable source which points out the difference between "finally" and "eventually". Some may say the difference is in emphasis or the number of series or longer time! But I think the difference between them is that you use finally to introduce the last point you want to make, and you can use eventually to say what the result or outcome of something was. ldoce reports:
They have more or less the same meaning and impression. However:
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