It is easy to misuse words in writing if they look or sound similar. But you can also confuse words when they have subtle differences in meaning. A case in point is eventually and ultimately.
These words do not look or sound the same. However, many people use them interchangeably without really knowing the difference. Such ‘loose’ use may be fine when speaking with friends, but in academic writing precision is essential.
To help you avoid errors of this kind, in this blog post we explain the difference between eventually and ultimately.
Eventually refers to a point in time after a pause or delay. This can be a known point after a delay has already occurred, such as in:
We had to wait for hours, but the bus turned up eventually.
Alternatively, it can be an anticipated point in the future. For example, if I do not know exactly when the bus will arrive, I might say:
The bus is not on time, but it will arrive eventually.
Meanwhile, ultimately means ‘in the end’. This can be confusing, since ‘eventually’ can be used in the same way, but ‘ultimately’ has a more specific meaning. We might therefore say:
Ultimately, everyone will die.
Another use of ultimately that isn’t interchangeable with ‘eventually’ is to mean ‘at the most basic level’:
Ultimately, running a marathon is all about physical fitness and persistence.
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