To be honest, I am more interested in contextual examples in which we cannot replace the words "specific" and "particular" with each other, keeping the intended meaning intact. Of course, the examples that we can replace them with each other in a synonymous manner are also welcome!

Added. I've realized that this previously asked (and now closed) question, "particular" vs. "specific", is in a way similar to my question. Thus, I try to explain what I have in mind to better direct the answers I am looking for. Somewhere else (in my writings) I've made a distinction between "the number 5" and "a number, say 5", thinking of the former 5 as "specific" since the five-ness of five matters, the latter 5 as "particular" since the five-ness of five does not matter. My question (here) is looking for "everyday" examples of this distinction.

  • 1
    It is very difficult to think of instances where they would not be synonymous.
    – WS2
    Dec 8, 2015 at 9:33
  • 2
    Only if you're not too specific about your terminology.
    – Hot Licks
    Dec 8, 2015 at 11:09
  • @HotLicks Good one!
    – WS2
    Dec 8, 2015 at 14:51

2 Answers 2


Searching for "in particular", I have found this as an example sentence on Google.

"He socialized with the other young people, one boy in particular."

But, a search for "in specific" on Google doesn't yield similar results. In the above sentence, particular cannot be replaced by specific.

However, there are hundreds of instances when both the words can be interchanged without making any significant change in the intended meaning of the sentence.

"I am specific/particular about a lot of things."

"I want a specific/particular answer for the question I have posted today."


"it is particularly/specifically cold tonight"—specifically does not work here, nor would it for any instance where "particularly" is used to mean "quite/very".

"she has a particular/specific way of speaking"—I would use particular but would accept that the two words are more or less synonymous in this context.

"the specific person mentioned in the report"—if one used particular here one might be referring to the person mentioned in the report who is identified by the fact that they are particular in their habits, for example.

as mentioned above, "in particular" cannot be replaced by "in specific", but it can often be replaced by "specifically":

"… other young people, one boy in particular/one boy specifically/one specific boy"—in particular is the more common phrasing here, but that doesn't make the "specific" formulations wrong.

  • In fact, your example, "the specific person in the report" and the distinction that you made between "specific" and "particular" in this "specific example" (referring to the exact same example that you mentioned) is the reason that I've asked the question. Dec 8, 2015 at 11:45

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