Can you tell me in which context I should use caution and warning?

Caution seems more formal, and more serious than warning. Caution can imply fatal, while warning refers to errors or mistakes.

4 Answers 4


Caution seems more formal, and more serious than warning.

Actually, in some contexts, the opposite is true. In the US, there is an ANSI standard for safety signage (and I believe a corresponding ISO standard) that specifies how these words are used in signs in the workplace:

Warning—Indicate a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.

Caution—Indicate a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, may result in minor or moderate injury. Caution may also be used to alert against unsafe practices.


For example,

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  • @truongha, Thanks for the accept. But be aware this isn't a complete answer, just a focus on one particular use of these words. In general conversation, they are more-or-less the same.
    – The Photon
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 19:28

Warning is an explanation about a thing or an act at a particular place where a person might accidentally harm his/herself. It is a symbol or a message conveyed to the person in a place where a factor of risk occurs.

Caution maybe the procedures to note something before touching or acting on a thing or product.


When warning means "a statement telling somebody that they will be punished if they continue to behave in a particular way," it is synonym with caution. Two of the meanings of caution are:

  • A warning that is given by the police to somebody who has committed a crime that is not too serious (British English)
  • A warning or a piece of advice about a possible danger or risk (Formal)

Caution also means "care that you take in order to avoid danger or mistakes; not taking any risks." In that case, you cannot replace it with warning.

* Statistics should be treated with warning.



The words danger, warning, and caution have very specific meanings when used in signs and instruction manuals.


OSHA guidelines:

  • DANGER means if the danger is not avoided, it will cause death or serious injury.
  • WARNING means if the warning is not heeded, it can cause death or serious injury.
  • CAUTION means if the precaution is not taken, it may cause minor or moderate injury.


A good summary of the meanings for these safety words is at uksafetystore.com

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