What is the difference between increase, growth, go up and rise? And what is the difference between decline, fall, go down and drop? I really don't know which is the best to describe parts of a graph. :/

I can't find any information in the dictionary about this, and I need to know what words to use in the IELTS Writing task 1.


Increase (used as a verb or a noun):

This chart shows the increase in sales.
This chart shows how sales are increasing.
This chart show that sales are going to increase.

Growth (used only as a noun):

This chart shows the growth in sales.

Go up (used only as a verb, and generally only in the future tense):

This chart shows how sales are going to go up.
This chart predicts how sales will go up.

Rise (used as a verb OR a noun):

This chart illustrates the rise in sales.
This chart demonstrates how sales are rising.
This chart shows that sales are going to rise.

As you can see, rise and increase are synonyms.

Decline/fall/drop are all synonyms, and they are all antonyms to rise/increase. All three can be used as a verb or noun, just like their antonyms. Go down is an antonym to go up.

The parts of a graph:

X-Axis: the horizontal portion of a graph
Y-Axis: the vertical portion of a graph
Legend: a box containing explanatory text
Grid: the intersecting lines on the body of the graph
Units: the units in which data are displayed

In describing a rising trend on a graph, I would use increase/increasing, and for a falling trend, I would use decrease/decreasing. Those will keep you pretty safe.

  • 1
    Happy 2.5K!
    – Daniel
    Mar 12 '12 at 19:04

This answer addresses a single aspect of the question: the difference between rise and increase. Rise (as defined in wiktionary) has, besides less-relevant meanings, these two: "(chiefly UK) An increase (in a quantity, price, etc); a raise" and "(UK, Ireland, Australian) An increase in someone's pay rate." A possible inference is that American English speakers may be less likely than British English speakers to say (e.g.) "This chart shows the rise in sales" than "This chart shows the increase in sales." Before the 1970's that may have been true, but probably is not so now.

Statistics from ngrams for rise in sales,increase in sales in print in the American English corpus show that prior to 1910 neither phrase was particularly common; frequency of both rose markedly until about 1930, then leveled out; and increase in sales has been written 10 to 20 times as often as rise in sales.

Statistics from ngrams for rise in sales,increase in sales in print in the British English corpus show that frequency of increase in sales has risen steadily and rapidly since 1970, with use of rise in sales poking along. In comparison to increase in sales, rise in sales has become rare in printed British English as well as in printed American English, and recent frequencies are somewhat comparable in the two corpara.