Can I rewrite this sentence "Many teenagers feel that social media and their smartphones are mandatory", by substitute "mandatory" with one of these words: compulsory or necessary or essential? Is the meaning the same? Thanks a lot.

  • 1
    I think there are at least two different things that sentence could mean, and which of those substitute words would fit would depend on which meaning is intended. Are you writing this yourself, or trying to understand what someone else wrote?
    – Dan Getz
    Sep 15, 2020 at 15:22
  • It was a sentence from an article and I write a similar sentence. The original one is this one: "What a lot of teens told me is that social media and their phones feel mandatory".
    – ryuk
    Sep 15, 2020 at 15:29
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    I'm still unclear—why do you want to write a similar sentence? Is that because you're trying to understand what the article meant, or because you're trying to say something that you mean to say?
    – Dan Getz
    Sep 15, 2020 at 15:32
  • @DanGetz it's because I want to improve my vocabulary and using synomims :) that's all. Obviously the meaning of the sentence "a lot of teens told me is that social media and their phones feel mandatory" is that a lot of theens are addicted to social media and their phones. Thanks :)
    – ryuk
    Sep 15, 2020 at 15:37
  • 1
    Actually I thought it obviously meant one of two different things than that, so maybe it doesn't have an obvious meaning—that's why I wanted to know if you were trying to understand the meaning.
    – Dan Getz
    Sep 15, 2020 at 15:39

2 Answers 2


While very similar in meaning, mandatory and compulsory have slightly different meanings than necessary and essential.

Mandatory and compulsory mean (or at least imply) that it is a requirement that will be enforced by some form of official agency, such as the government.

"Military service during World War 2 and the Vietnam war was compulsory in the United States."
"It is mandatory that students submit their high-school transcript as well as a recommendation from a teacher in order to be considered for the admittance to university."

Essential and necessary are usually used when something is needed as a matter of fact or circumstance.

"Food is a necessary part of life."
"Sauce is an essential part of pizza. Without it, you're really not making a pizza."


I think compulsory is the closest in meaning, but to me it has a sense that someone is explicitly saying "you must have this, you must use it". Like there's a formal rule in place, or someone is enforcing a requirement. Mandatory feels like the same level of pressure, but without the sense that it's a formal rule, more that it's "just the way things are".

(Mandatory can mean there's a formal requirement - it comes from mandate which is literally an order - but it sounds figurative here, whereas compulsory sounds more literal. To me anyway!)

Necessary and essential don't feel as strong, they lack the same sense of negative consequences. Necessary is stronger, but it still misses that "you have no option" tone. These feel more like strong recommendations, not warnings, if that makes sense?

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