The situation is I'm writing a paper, and I want to use different words to express the meaning of "adopt" a method or approach.

All the three words "use", "utilize" and "employ" have the meaning of

to make use of something

So, is there any difference of the three words in aspect of expressing this meaning. And is there a best word to use in some specific conditions?

  • 2
    I think this would be a much better question if you explained the sorts of conditions you're thinking of using these words in. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 12 '15 at 3:16
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There is a subtle difference. For example, I can use an ice cream maker, but I can utilize the ice cream maker's ability to make ice cream. Employing, on the other hand, is fairly similar to the word "Use", but it is also harder to explain, so I apologise if I get this part wrong.

When employing something, one is exicuting it, so, for example, if I were to say, "I employed the ice cream maker for churning." I would be saying that I used the ice cream maker much in the same way one would use "use". The only difference I can see it that use is more of a passive word, but employed tends to signify more of an involvement, as well as more of an emphesis of the action being done; though they are, almost always, interchangeable.

The unabridged Oxford Dictionary is the English language bible equivalent. Go to the Oxford Dictionary for exacting knowledge.

The following are my understandings of these words - usage, utilization, employment (it is not gospel, but a simple guide) which I have gleaned over 36 years working for the Department of Defense:

Use is simple and works in most all cases and is universally understood at all reading levels.

Utilize is shunned in most literary circles because it is one of the most misused words in the English language and it is frequently used to make the author seem more knowledgeable. Utilize, means to use something in a way other than originally intended as in new ways or it can mean to begin reuse of an item left idle or thought obsolete.

Employ is more dynamic. It can mean to hire or have a contract for a person(s) work or services. It can mean to actively engage an item. Frequently, employ is used with the logistic transport of items to a location that they will be used or of best use as with weapons, drugs, chemicals, medicines or transport systems.

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