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.

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.
share|improve this question
add comment

5 Answers 5

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:

The Eagles will win a championship eventually.

But you could use finally after the fact:

The Eagles have finally won a championship!

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:

Finally, put the lasagne into the oven, preheated to 350 degrees.

But you might use eventually to say that you'll get around to doing something later:

That was a great lasagne; time for a nap! We'll do the dishes eventually.

You knew I'd get to the thesaurus entries eventually, right?

enter image description here

Finally, here's the entry for finally:

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
1  
What a nice way to explain your point! And the result is also entertaining. +1. –  Paola May 8 '12 at 14:43
add comment

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.

share|improve this answer
2  
Very nice! Well done. One more thought: if an author didn't want to express either one of those sentiments (that is, if the escape was neither long and gradual, nor long-awaited), one could simply write: "He later escaped and made his way back to England." –  J.R. May 8 '12 at 12:23
1  
Since the escape was neither gradual nor long awaited, i think the author may get rid of "later" in his statement. It totally depends on the story prior to the statement, though. Cheers!! –  Fr0zenFyr May 8 '12 at 13:05
add comment

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.

share|improve this answer
    
I might be wrong, but I think "finally" implies we are not interested in what was after. If "something finally happened" it is that "something" we were interested in. "Eventually" on the other hand is rather used as a condition. As in "eventually something happened" would mean that "something" allows "something else" to happen/continue. –  elmo May 8 '12 at 12:26
1  
It will be nice if you explain how is 'finally' same as 'eventually' in the example. I will still give it to you if 'finally' = 'at last' = 'ultimately' (and maybe 'in the end' too), but i don't think finally = eventually is correct. –  Fr0zenFyr May 8 '12 at 13:13
    
@Fr0zenFyr: What about if we changed the equation to "finally ≈ eventually"? (i.e., 'is roughly equal to'). I agree with your answer below, and Sebastien's answer above. In one sense, you eloquently described a very subtle difference that might sway an author to select one word over the other. Yet I can also easily imagine contexts where either word could be used, particularly at the end of a relatively short synopsis. Some dictionaries list "finally" as a definition of "eventually", so it's hard to argue that they can never be equivalent. –  J.R. May 8 '12 at 21:48
add comment

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:

  • Use finally or eventually to say that something happens after a long time.

Finally we managed to get the car to start.

When she eventually turned up, the food was cold.

  • Use eventually or in the end to say what the result or outcome of something was.

They eventually got bored and went home.

In the end we decided to cancel the trip.

  • Use lastly or finally to introduce the last point you want to make, the last action in a series of actions, or the last item in a list

Lastly, I would like to remind you that smoking is not allowed.

Load the paper, select the number of copies, and lastly press 'Print'.

You add flour, salt, and finally milk.

share|improve this answer
add comment

They have more or less the same meaning and impression. However:

  • Finally has a meaning of some kind of difficulty or effort
  • On the other hand, eventually has a meaning like "that's taken a little longer than expected"
share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

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.