What is the different between "I am done" and "I am finished"? I mean, which of these phrases means "My life is finished" - the former or the latter? Or maybe none of them has such meaning? Can some of them mean "I am lost"?

  • 3
    Welcome to ELL! What did you find when you looked each word up in a dictionary and why didn’t that help? – ColleenV parted ways Mar 6 '19 at 21:52
  • "I'm dead." means "My life is over, in a bad way." "[Now I've seen everything.] I can die now." means "My life is over, in a good way." – Jasper Mar 6 '19 at 22:17
  • @JamesK I don't think this is a duplicate. "I am done/finished!" in the sense that your life is over is not the same thing as "I just finished my homework". – ColleenV parted ways Mar 10 '19 at 13:06
  • For what it's worth, my brother says, "Meals are done. People are finished." – RenniePet Nov 28 '19 at 5:49

These are almost perfect synonyms. They are listed as synonyms, but then a lot of words that are listed as synonyms have differences of nuance, or are only synonyms in some senses of each word.

Idiomatically, though, there's a slight difference between "I'm done" and "I'm finished". In the context where someone has been working, either might be used if they have completed their task - but "I'm done" might be used for them giving up on the task, at least temporarily. "I'm finished" won't be used for that as often. However, they both take that meaning if you add, for example, "...for the night":

I'm done for the night.
I'm finished for the night.

Both mean that you're stopping working for the night.

There's also an idiomatic use of "I'm finished" that you wouldn't expect to be able to use interchangeably with done. That's when you are using it to indicate that your situation is completely unrecoverable.

That's it. I can't make rent on the shop this month, and there's no way I can get another loan. I'm finished.

That would mean that the business is going to go under, there's nothing that can be done to save it.

Essentially, finished is used when something is complete, there is no more to be done, no further to fall, or no work left to do, and so on. Done is used when you aren't doing any more. This leads to a huge overlap in meaning, and the difference is essentially one of nuance.

Most of the time, though, they are interchangeable.


‘Done’ means something that has been brought to a conclusion or an end, as in: It is done when the timer goes off. The word ‘finished’ means completed or concluded, as in: He finished the race first. They are listed as synonyms for each other in any dictionary or thesaurus as well. They should be able to be used interchangeably and in actuality, often are in everyday English conversation and writing.

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