I recently found the word "dictate". As always, I dived into the dictionary and took a look for definition. Following is what I found.

to give orders, or tell someone exactly what they must do, with total authority

(from Cambridge Dictionary)

At the moment I saw this definition, the word "instruct" directly came to my mind and I was a bit confused. So, I searched for definition of "instruct".

Dictionary told me

to order or tell someone to do something, especially in a formal way

Two words seems interchangeable for me! So I googled "dictate vs instruct" sort of things. However, I could not able to find any useful information: usually means they are used in very different situation.

What are the difference between them and what situations and mood or vibe they are typically used respectively?

1 Answer 1


Use dictate for authoritative commands, emphasis on authority. Use instruct for educational descriptions of processes, emphasis on making expectations clear.

Dictate has two general uses: either A) to issue decrees in an authoritarian manner, or B) to speak words that are intended to be transcribed by another person.

A dictator is (MW.com):

1a : a person granted absolute emergency power especially, history : one appointed by the senate (see senate sense 1b) of ancient Rome

b : one holding complete autocratic control : a person with unlimited governmental power

c : one ruling in an absolute ... and often oppressive way fascist dictators

2 : one who says or reads something for a person to transcribe or for a machine to record : one that dictates...

Instruct carries more of a sense of teaching or guiding someone about how they are expected to perform a task.

An instructor is (Mw.com) "one that instructs : teacher."

  • 1
    Helped a lot! Thank you so much.
    – Mint Bee
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 4:22
  • Not quite true, at least in UK English. Here I have to "instruct" a lawyer to act for me in certain matters like house purchase. If I do that I am certainly not teaching them anything, I am commissioning them to do work for which they are qualified but I am not. Also I don't "direct" them because I am a client, not a superior.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 4:30
  • dictate has another general meaning: to require or determine necessarily, e.g., The weather will dictate how long we stay, and Injuries dictated the choice of players. (m-w)
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Jul 31, 2021 at 20:36

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