Both "differentiate" and "distinguish" are verb transitive. They are of the same meaning. There are many words in dictionary and thesaurus which words are differentiating in their usage. If we use other words of the dictionary which are distinct. Do we have to use numerous words separately which are distinct?

If one does not want to use the words "differentiate" or "distinguish" repeatedly. If one wants to use dictionary, thesaurus meanings of the words, sometimes these are not appropriate and distinctly different. Will I have to go for higher study because there is no alternative? Can I use the word "between" after "differentiate" and "distinguish" if it is grammatical?

1 Answer 1


Differentiate and distinguish share one synonymous meaning, but each word has other meanings that aren't synonymous.

For example, it's possible to use differentiate intransitively (example from Google) without a between structure:

the receptors are developed and differentiated into sense organs

but you can't substitute distinguish here.

Also, using differentiate instead of distinguish, when you are taking about someone's observations, sounds awkward.

I looked at what the ladies were wearing and could distinguish between the expensive and cheap dress.

Using differentiate in the above sentence would sound like you're trying to sound technical or scientific.

  • 1
    My only quibble is I don't think that biology example from Google is an example of an intransitive use of the word. I read it as "the receptors are developed and (are) differentiated into sense organs". This transitive usage in biology is attested in Merriam Webster.
    – Eddie Kal
    Jan 2, 2021 at 8:19
  • What is the difference? 1 It’s hard to distinguish between an apple and a pear. 2 It’s hard to differentiate between an apple and a pear.
    – user1425
    Dec 1, 2021 at 9:20

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