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What is the difference between fulfill and fill? In the following example, do they have the same meaning?

I'll fill the form tomorrow.

I'll fulfill the form tomorrow.

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Fill means to add content to the container or gap until it is full.

In particular, "filling" tends to involve a physical action, such as filling a mug with water, or filling a form in with a pencil.

Please fill this jug with water

Please fill in this form.

I have filled in all of the empty days on the schedule with stuff to do.

We need to fill the hole in the road with new gravel

We need to fill the vacancy in sales before Tuesday.

Fulfil on the other hand means to complete an action or requirement. In particular, one tends to fulfil metaphorical or non-tangible things, such as requirements, objectives or promise.

You need to fulfil all of the requirements before the end of January.

Fulfilment of the key objectives is our primary goal.

I'll fulfil my promise to help you with your homework before it's due in, really I will!

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  • until it is full and to complete the item, I'm still confuse – Jonathan de M. Feb 8 '13 at 5:20
  • For instance, suppose a jug is half full of water. You can FILL it up to the top. Whereas a requirement that must be completed is something you can FULFIL by completing it. – Matt Feb 8 '13 at 5:31
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Fulfil (or US "fulfill") means has two commonly used meanings.

1) Achieve:

Example- Do you think I am unable to fulfil my ambition?

2) Carry out a duty or role as expected/ promised:

Example- I am sorry but currently I am unable to fulfil your request as promised.

And Fill means like we all know "cause to become full" or "appoint a person to hold (a vacant post)" or "occupy or take up (a period of time)". These are the meanings "fill" is commonly used for.

In your context, we want to "fill the form", not "fulfil". Also note that "fill out" a form is more used than "fill form".

Related Ngram

UPDATE- After @mcalex's comment I searched for fill in and it seemed to be a rather British usage for filling a form, whereas fill out seemed to be a chiefly US usage. However both are correct in terms of "add information to complete an official form or document".

Extended Ngram

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  • 1
    And really, we'd say fill out the form rather than just fill- at least in the U.S. – Jim Feb 8 '13 at 5:14
  • @Jim, Yeah nice point. Surely add that. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 5:30
  • Interesting: fill in the form would probably be the most likely version on this side of the pond – mcalex Feb 8 '13 at 7:22
  • @mcalex, See my Edit. – Mistu4u Feb 8 '13 at 8:03
  • 2
    In American English, you fill out a form by filling in the blanks. – nohat Feb 9 '13 at 0:08
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1) Fill vs Fulfill (also spelled[also spelt "spelt"] "fulfil") :

Fill means to add content to the container or gap until it is full.

In particular, "filling" tends to involve a physical action, such as filling a mug with water, or filling a form in with a pencil.

Please fill this jug with water

Please fill in this form.

I have filled in all of the empty days on the schedule with stuff to do.

We need to fill the hole in the road with new gravel

We need to fill the vacancy in sales before Tuesday.

Fulfil on the other hand means to complete an action or requirement. In particular, one tends to fulfil metaphorical or non-tangible things, such as requirements, objectives or promise.

You need to fulfil all of the requirements before the end of January.

Fulfilment of the key objectives is our primary goal.

I'll fulfil my promise to help you with your homework before it's due in, really I will!

2) The answer to the second question is no; In the example, "fill" and "fulfill" do not necessarily convey the same meaning.

To complicate things, for this particular example, the semantic meaning is ambiguous:

I'll fill the form tommorow.

Depending on context, this can have different meanings.

The most likely meaning is "Tomorrow, I will fill (i.e. complete) the form (i.e. document template) by filling-in (same as "filling-out" in this case) the blanks with appropriate text."

Another possible interpretation would be "Tomorrow, I will fill (fill-up) the form (i.e. the shape/mold, e.g. a jello mold), with the appropriate substance."

I'll fulfill the form tomorrow.

This is an unusual(i.e. uncommon) sentence, but the most likely meaning of this sentence is "Tomorrow, I will fulfil (i.e. perform the required duties imparted by receipt of) the form(i.e. official document conveying an order)."

E.g. If a banker receives a completed bank transfer request form right at the end of business hours, he might tell his client "Your bank transfer form looks in order, but we just closed. I'll fulfill the form tomorrow."

Another possible interpretation is "Tomorrow, I will fulfil (i.e. provide significant sustenance to) the form (i.e. one's corporeal or spiritual being), by like meditation or something like that."

3) In general, "fill" and "fulfill" are not synonymous, there are, however some counter examples like:

a) A pharmacist fills/fulfills a medical prescription.
b) Sometimes when describing satiation: After eating a good meal one feels full/fulfilled.

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What makes things confusing is Dictionary.com says "fill" and "fulfil(l)" are synonyms for each other, although older dictionaries and thesaurus don't show the two words as interchangeable. This may be another case of modern misuse of a word such as "issue" which is presently the most commonly misused word in the English language (a "problem" is NOT an "issue"). Note that the 23rd definition at Dictionary.com for "issue" is slang for "problem", while older dictionaries (1990s) make no mention of this even as slang. Some companies have taken to calling warehouses that fill customers' orders for merchandise "fulfillment centers." Sounds so much more fulfilling than warehouse, doesn't it? It seems that modern society misuses words to mean anything it wants them to mean.

As an example, an employee at a store check-out station was totaling my purchases, and after taking a drink from her water bottle said,"I'm so dehydrated" instead of the more accurate "I'm so thirsty." If she had actually been "so dehydrated," I doubt that we would have had that conversation.

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  • All societies use words to mean what they want them to. Also, this doesn't really answer the question…. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 14 '15 at 1:10

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