There was the following passage in the New York Times’ (June 17) article that came under the title, “Experts on aging, dying as they lived.":

“They told us where we could find copies of their wills and health directives, explaining that these documents clarified their wishes and we would not have to bear the full weight of making end-of-life decisions for them. As a teenager I hated these discussions. - - They were reassuring me about scenarios that I did not want to think about. I could not have known how grateful I would be now. My parents were prepared, but that is not the same as being ready.” http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/17/experts-on-aging-dying-as-they-lived/?

COD defines ready as “in a suitable state for an activity or situation: fully prepared,” and OALD defines it as fully prepared for what you are going to do.

Is the difference between “being prepared” and “being ready” only whether it is “fully,” or not? Are there any significant psychological / mental attributes to “being ready” other than addition of “fully”?

  • There is no difference. The sentence is completely silly.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:32
  • Not that it matters, but it's almost certainly, also, a typo. What the writer is trying to say is something like ">> I << was prepared, but I was not 'emotionally ready'."
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:37
  • ODO prepare 2 Make (someone) ready or able to do or deal with something (oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/prepare) -- being "ready" is not the same as being "able to do or deal with."
    – Kris
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 7:10
  • @Joe Blow. I don't think the sentence, "My parent were prepared, but that is not the same as being ready" is simply a typo. The author is clearly saying "My parent were ready (for the end of life). It's different from being prepared (for the end of life), and she clearly recognizes distinction between "being ready" and "being prepared." Whether the sentence is rubbish (per your saying), or not is purely a subjective matter, about which I as a non-native English speaker don't want to meddle in. Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 11:12

2 Answers 2


There's a subtle distinction between the two. "Being prepared" in this case, I believe, means having done work in advance so that when the event in question occurs, there is a plan in place to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Think about a surgery: the medical team is prepared for the surgery if they have studied all of the techniques, have all of the necessary tools and specialists on hand, etc.

"Being ready," in this case, I think refers to an emotional preparedness or readiness. Going back to our surgery analogy, the surgery team may be prepared to perform a dangerous, life-or-death operation, but they may still be extremely nervous about it or otherwise be anxious that it might not go well.

I think this is the meaning intended in the piece. You can prepare for the death or incapacitation of a loved one by ensuring that there's a clear plan about what that person wants done and who will handle all aspects of what happens (being prepared), but not be okay with someone dying and not be emotionally capable of handling it (being ready).

Hope this helps!

  • Just to add to this, the original article is really just a poor distinction between logical preparedness and emotional preparedness. Additionally, "prepared" normally has a connotation of proactive readiness. Someone can be "ready" without consciously having "prepared".
    – Cord
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 3:44
  • I like this answer. For me also, being prepared implies something more physical than being ready. Humans may be prepared to explore space, but we are not ready. Mark Oshiro may be ready to read Harry Potter but he was so not prepared. Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:10
  • Templa - in the first two paras you have explained nicely what the writer probably meant. But the sentence is rubbish.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:41


You can prepare for a case or an event that might take place somewhere in the future. Preparing is kind of an action you do beforehand.


You should be ready, when it is about to happen. Being ready is more of an actual state one is at mentally and or physically.

Example 1: Cooking

I prepared all the ingredients and tools I need to cook the dinner this evening, so I will take a nap on the couch, before I have to start.

I am ready to cook, since I got all tools I need and am already wearing my kitchen apron.

Example 2: Racing

They had been preparing the car for the racing day all week.

The driver was ready to start when the green lights flashed and he stepped immediately on the gas.

For some reasons you can prepare yourself a lot, but never really get ready to face the events you were preparing for. (Like in the questions example the loss of a beloved person.)

On the other way round you might have nothing prepared but are ready nonetheless. (Like spontaneously go swimming in a river, due to unexpected hot weather, even if you have to go naked or in underwear as you did not brought swimsuits etc.)

  • However, these are different senses from that used in the bad example text. The example sentence is completely silly; it means literally nothing.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 4:34
  • @JoeBlow Which one or both and why?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jun 18, 2015 at 6:13

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