According to dictionaries, "inchoative" and "inchoate" are both adjectives and both denote "initial". I couldn't find slightest difference between them. So I was wondering can they be used interchangeably or are they different in some ways?

  • What dictionaries have you been looking in? The two words do not mean the same at all in their most common uses. I just checked four different dictionaries easily available online, and all of them had the two distinct meanings spelt out very clearly. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 12 '13 at 22:12
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thank you for your attention. The adjective "inchoative" only in "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary - © 2005 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated" and "WordNet English Dictionary". The adjective "inchoate" in those dictionaries and also in "Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English" and "Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary". First adj is defined as "INITIAL, FORMATIVE <example: the inchoative stages>" and the second adj is defined as "just begun and therefore not clear or developed. example: inchoate ideas". All these dictionaries are offline. – Nate Sep 12 '13 at 22:43
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    The latter meaning is the more common for this word. If you look up ‘inchoative’, you should see that it is almost exclusively used to refer to inchoative verbs, which is a grammatical term. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 12 '13 at 22:44
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Thank you so much. This simple response solved the mystery. You will be surprised to know how many people have difficulties understanding what you understood and communicating interactively in the way that you did. – Nate Sep 12 '13 at 23:35

It would be grammatically acceptable to use the adjective "inchoative" instead of "inchoate" in a given context. This usage, however, probably wouldn't sound very natural, as the adjective "inchoative" has always been chiefly used in reference to grammar.

In the same way, "inchoate" can be used instead of "inchoative" only if "inchoative" is not pointing to "inchoative verbs".

Thanks to Janus Bahs Jacquet whose useful comment you can be found above this answer.

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