When you revise, amend and modify something, your intention is all to improve them. so does it mean I can use them interchangeably?

3 Answers 3


Modify does not necessarily mean changing something for the better - just changing in general. The other two words imply more strongly that whatever it is you're amending or revising has some problem which needs to be fixed.

As for the difference between the other two - they're similar in meaning, but amending something is generally a shorter process focused on singular issues, while revising is more involved and typically means you've re-checked everything and made changes as necessary.

So in short:

  • if you modified your thesis, you made some changes to it, without saying what the changes are and whether they improve things or not,
  • if you amended your thesis, you corrected a few mistakes, likely related to a single issue
  • if you revised your thesis, you probably re-read all of it and fixed all the issues you've found

I think it depends mostly on what the something is. Are we changing a law, a computer program, a book, or a love letter?

Generally speaking, I'd say that laws are amended, programs are modified, and books and letters revised. There are no hard-and-fast rules about this, and you'll be able to find plenty of exceptions, but some words are simply favored over other alternatives in certain contexts. Therefore, I'd be careful about labeling synonyms as "interchangeable." The meaning of your sentence may not change, and you won't violate any grammatical rules, but that doesn't mean one synonym won't sound more natural than another.

We can examine a few Ngrams to see what they say:


Modify is the most generic. It means to make a change to something, not necessarily improving it in the process. Like change it can be used for anything. Example:

I modified my motorcycle to run on cooking oil instead of gasoline, but now everywhere I drive I smell like french fries.

In this sentence it's clear something has changed, but it's unclear whether I think the modification is an improvement

Revise means to change with the intent to improve in some way, and normally relates to documents or media. It can be used for things like personal opinions, but with the nuance that those are official points of view that may be on record.

The commissioner said that, based on public feedback, she has revised her earlier regulation, and would now allow unrestricted use of the facility.

Amend is similar to revise, in that there is an intent to improve in some way. It is also normally generally restricted to things like documents or official opinions. However it also includes a nuance that you are adding something on, even if that is just additional perspective:

President Trump later amended his statement, saying he misspoke and he meant to say "wouldn't" not "would".

Trump has added some additional information to his statement by admitting he made an error, and also improved the statement by fixing the error.

  • Thank you so much. However if I want to make some changes on a physical things like motorcycle and make it perform better. In this case can I use amend?
    – Young
    Aug 2, 2018 at 14:33
  • @Young I edited my answer. Amend is also normally used for documents and official opinions, not machines. For modifications that improve machines (particularly computers), upgrade has become common. "I upgraded my motorcycle's engine to allow it to use cooking oil." Other possibilities are revamp, enhance, boost, or augment,
    – Andrew
    Aug 2, 2018 at 17:06

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