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Consider:

He gained entry into the building.

He gained access into the building.

Any difference in usage or meaning?

  • Well if you really mean access, I feel it should be he got/gained access *to the building. I think you get access to or of something not access into. So the entry sentence sounds better to me – Maulik V Mar 15 '14 at 14:33
  • Yep, you are right about it, but I still want to know the difference. – Kinzle B Mar 15 '14 at 14:42
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In Modern English, according to the OED, access is defined, in this context, as "The power, opportunity, permission, or right to come near or into contact with someone or something; admittance; admission."

Entry, on the other hand, is defined as "The action of coming or going in," in this context (while the word does have a definition listed which is synonymous with access, that definition is considered obsolete).

In other words, to gain entry into the building means to get into the building. This can be done sneakily, or with permission, or even by brute force, barrelling your way in.

On the other hand, to gain access literally means that you have gained the power or "permission" to enter the building. You are being allowed into the building by the building's security (whether this security is a system of guards or a computer system), or you can reasonably get past the guard.

Obviously, this can be done in a number of ways, from hacking into a computer mainframe to access security keys, to pickpocketing a guard for literal keys, to dressing up and presenting yourself as a high-authority figure, to buying an admission ticket. However, at this point in time, if you have "gained access" to the building, you now have what can be essentially described as an unlocked and unblocked pathway into the building.

If you get in, you have gained entry.

If you are allowed in, you have found a way you can get in easily, or if you have gotten in and you pose little risk of being removed, you have gained access.

  • so "gained access" does not neccessarily mean you did get in, but you did have the right or ability to get in, am I right? – Kinzle B Mar 15 '14 at 14:34
  • I would say yes, with the slight distinction that the ability to get in is more or less unapposed. In that context, there needs to be virtually no way in which a guard can prevent that entrance. There needs to be a visible, tangible, open pathway to get in unopposed. It's more or less "easy" to get in. "Gained entry", on the other hand, makes no supposition of ease of entry. Perhaps you had the right, and perhaps you had the ability to enter easily, but perhaps not; the only important thing is that you're in now. – Cmillz Mar 15 '14 at 14:43
  • thx again, but what do you mean by "unapposed"? – Kinzle B Mar 15 '14 at 14:51
  • I mean unopposed, and now it's not going to let me change it, so I apologize for any inconvenience. In case you need me to define "unopposed", I mean "without opposition". As in, there's very little (if anything) that is preventing me from getting in, and, in particular, very little security barring this particular passageway. – Cmillz Mar 15 '14 at 14:58
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    Correct. I would add, however, that if you find a locked door, most people would say that you haven't quite gained access until the lock has been picked, unlocked, or broken. – Cmillz Mar 15 '14 at 15:11
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In your example, I don't see any real difference in meaning. Perhaps there is a small implied difference:

"Access" - he acquired access through the proper (legal) means.

"Entry" - holds (for me) a slight implication that maybe he didn't use "legal" or "proper" methods.

Generally speaking, "access" means being able to make use of, approach, enter or exit (see here), whilst "entry" is the act of entering, and perhaps more importantly, the privilege or right of entering. See here.

However, since you specify "into the building", in my opinion, the difference is nullified. That said, your second sentence sounds better as "to" rather than "into" the building, since "enter/entry" already carries the connotation of "in".

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