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I have noticed an interesting thing going on with these two words. Somehow they add-up to each other instead of being interchangeable while being so close in meaning.

  • We can build a house but the place where we do it is called a construction site.
  • We can construct a house but the result will be a building and not a construction.
  • We can build a house and then reconstruct it but we can't construct a house and then rebuild it.

In some cases a construction is a building and vice versa.

Am I right in my explorations?

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    I suspect that's the same thing but the origins are different, that is, Anglo - Saxons for the word build and Latin for the word construct. But, certainly, in time, each one acquired specific connotations. – Lucian Sava May 10 '17 at 20:16
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For me, a British person, build is associated with everyday items such as houses, roads, bridges, office buildings etc.

The word construct, to me suggests a requirement for an element of ingenuity. They are going to construct an underground reservoir/ a space station/ a hydro-electric dam that utilises its own electricity etc.

If it is bulk standard, it is built, if it is something new and ingenious it is constructed. That is my basic sense of the two words. Though it is a general comment which I accept is not true 100% of the time.

I do not believe we use construct nearly as often as do Americans. Hardly anyone would say, for example, they are going to construct a house on the site. For such everyday things it would always be build, building site etc.

As regards building and construction, if it is occupied by people (e.g. house, office block, department store, factory) it will be a building, if it is a device that is either ornamental (e.g. The Angel of the North) or useful (e.g. a gantry crane for unloading vehicles) it is a construction.

  • For me, an American person, I would say the same thing exactly. But I do not believe the verb construct is used more by Americans. It is used more in certain contexts: to construct an argument or to construct an alibi. Also, your examples with reservoir etc. And am I not right in thinking that would be same for you? Then, there's always the fact that some people only like to deal in cónstructs. :) – Lambie May 10 '17 at 23:33
  • @Lambie Umm. I'm sure you must be right. But I seem to hear Americans in my mind talking about a construction site. Indeed that is how the OP starts out. – WS2 May 11 '17 at 7:06
  • In the states, we say construction site or building site, but I was referring more to the verbs, not the nouns. But other than that, it's the same thing. You didn't go into the construction/building site thing. No worries. It's amazing the extent to which there are no differences in fact. – Lambie May 11 '17 at 14:03
  • Would you say construct or build a diagram from the data? – skan Dec 28 '18 at 21:33
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    @skan If I were talking about it conceptually I'd probably use construct, but if about the painstaking job of doing it, then probably build. – WS2 Dec 30 '18 at 22:59
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You are generally correct that the two words have very similar meanings.

We can build a house but the place where we do it is called a construction site.

Building site is often used in BrE.

We can construct a house but the result will be a building and not a construction.

When construction is used, it is often a qualifier for the materials used

The building is a construction of glass, steel, and concrete.
The building is a constructed with glass, steel, and concrete.
It is constructed using glass, steel, and concrete.

We can build a house and then reconstruct it but we can't construct a house and then rebuild it.

Not so, a house can be rebuilt or reconstructed, the former usually means the house was destroyed and replaced on the same location,

The houses destroyed by the tornado were rebuilt within two years.

the latter may mean it was made on a new location or is a facsimile of an original

A copy of the castle was reconstructed in his backyard.
The movie is a reconstruction of the events that occurred.

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