‘Allude’ and ‘elude’ sound alike, but using the wrong one could change the meaning of a sentence entirely, so you need to be careful! Follow our advice below and you should be able to avoid mistakes in your written work.
Allude (Suggest Indirectly)
The verb ‘allude’ means ‘suggest indirectly’ or ‘hint at’ something:
In his use of metaphors about family throughout the novel, the author alludes to his domestic life, but he does not make this explicit.
Here, for example, we say ‘alludes to’ to show that the author only hints at his domestic life in his writing. The alternative would be to directly say ‘this is about my domestic life’. The noun form of this word, meanwhile, is ‘allusion’.
Elude (Escape or Fail to Achieve)
On a literal level, the verb ‘elude’ can mean ‘escape from’:
The criminal eluded the police for two months.
However, ‘elude’ often indicates a failure to achieve something rather than a literal escape. In cases like this, we say the thing in question has ‘eluded’ us, as if we were chasing it and it had got away.
For instance, if we were having trouble sleeping, we might say:
Sleep eludes me.
Likewise, if you can’t remember a word, you could say that it has ‘eluded’ you.
Summary: Allude or Elude?
These verbs sound similar, but they are very different in meaning:
- To allude to something is to hint at it or mention it indirectly.
- To elude something can mean ‘escape’ or ‘evade’. However, it can also indicate a failure to achieve or realise something (e.g. if sleep eludes you, you may suffer from insomnia).
If you struggle to tell them apart, remember that elude and escape both start with ‘e’. So if you’re escaping something, or something is escaping you, the right word will be ‘elude’ with an ‘e’. Otherwise, you may need ‘allude’ instead.
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