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What is the difference between partly and partially? An example of usage for each word would be great.

4 Answers 4

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Partially is mostly used in contexts involving non-tangible description of things.

Example:

Your views are partially correct.

Whereeas partly is preferred for tangible description.

Example:

The construction is partly built on stone.

Moreover, 'partially' is more abstract and concrete w.r.t usage than that of 'partly'.

Try to think of it this way:

Specific and concretely describing

'half of the liquid' partly goes more with this.

Vague and non specific description

'Some of the liquid' partially is more apt here.

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    Could you please clarify what you mean by "more abstract and concrete" in phrase: "Moreover, 'partially' is more abstract and concrete w.r.t usage than that of 'partly'".
    – Ayrat
    Oct 13, 2016 at 18:00
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These words are almost interchangeable and I don't think there is a case where it would be wrong to use one and not the other.

There is, however, a pretty simple rule for common usage:

Use partly when the "in part" is part of a tangible whole, and partially when it's not.

For example, if we say "The door is partly open", then we can easily see that it's also "partly closed". In the phrase, "Her life was partly tedium", we easily infer that her life was partly excitement.

Partially is used when we can't say that the part we're specifying is part of some tangible whole.

"His explanation partially explained it." You wouldn't say "His explanation partly explained it, and partly didn't explain it", so you use partially.

However I should make clear that both are correct in all of those sentences. It's not wrong to say "His explanation partly explained it."

The only exception I can think of (I'm sure there are more) is "partly cloudy" or other weather-phrases just because those are common phrases burned into our minds.

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They are not at all different. You can say that partly is a synonym of partially or partially is a synonym of partly. They both means exactly the same thing.

Its just that when we use 'partly' it is a little rude whereas using 'partially' is better as an option because its an official word which is used normally and is not considered to be rude in any way till the time the tone is perfect.

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    Partially is an official word according to what authority? Apr 17, 2020 at 11:03
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    And according to what authority is 'partly' rude?
    – user570286
    Jan 12 at 2:32
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Lexico, formerly known as the Oxford Living English Dictionary, defines ‘partly’ as “To some extent; not completely.” and ‘partially’ as “Only in part; to a limited extent.”, giving the following examples (emphasis added):

‘the result is partly a matter of skill and partly of chance’

‘the work partially fulfills the function of a historical memoir’

I would say that, in this sense, there is no significant difference between the two words.

However, there is one significant difference that otherwise has been overlooked: ‘partially’ is literally “in a partial manner”, and ‘partial’ also can mean, again according to Lexico, “Favouring one side in a dispute above the other; biased.”

Thus, Lexico's usage example for ‘partially’, quoted above, could mean that either

  • the work partway fulfills the function of a historical memoir, but does not completely fulfill that function (maybe only part of the work fulfills the function of a historical memoir, or maybe the whole work was intended to fulfill the function of a historical memoir but does not entirely succeed), or
  • the work fulfills the function of a historical memoir, but does so in a biased manner, favouring one side in a dispute above the other (certainly this is something a historical memoir can do!).

If one wants to choose one word or the other, in my opinion one may as well choose ‘partly’ because it does not have this other meaning.

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