Continual vs. Continuous—Know the Difference

Continual and continuous both mean ‘continue’ and refer to an ongoing action, so it is easy to mix them up. Let us elucidate the meaning and the subtle difference between continual and continuous. 

When is continual used?

Continual or its adverb continually is used when referring to a series of events that are continuous but have breaks. The action stops and starts multiple times. For instance,

It was continually raining today. 

This means it rained for a while, stopped for some time, and rained again at uncertain time intervals, but it did not stop raining altogether. Given below are some more examples.

  • They were talking to each other continually. 
  • Sam continually drove until he reached Texas.
  • She has a habit of studying continually.

When is continuous used?

Continuous or its adverb continuously means a nonstop action. The process goes on without any breaks or stops. For instance,

The teachers saw continuous improvement in her academic performance.

It means her performance has been constantly good without any lags or interruptions. Given below are some more examples.

  • He runs continuously for 45 minutes every day. 
  • She snacks continuously while watching the television.
  • Over the last 5 years, the business has grown continuously.

Let us consider examples of using continual and continuous correctly in academic and technical writing.

Incorrect: We had to mix the reactive compounds continuously to avoid explosion.

Correct: We had to mix the reactive compounds continually to avoid explosion.

 

Incorrect: The distillation process was continually monitored for accurate findings. 

Correct: The distillation process was continuously monitored for accurate findings.

We hope this helps you differentiate and choose correctly between continual and continuous without any more confusion!

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