Conform vs. Confirm

What is the difference?


Many students confuse the words conform and confirm. How do you know when to use each one?

Both words are verbs, and there are only small differences in their spellings and pronunciations. However, you need to be careful, because the meanings of the two words are very different. It is important to know when to use each one, because one is used to speak about rules and regulations, and the other is used to say that facts and opinions are true. Using the wrong word can lead to confusion!

Conform vs. Confirm

In order to understand the differences between conform and confirm, let's look at some examples.

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses

Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All Tenses


Conform

The word conform means that something meets or fulfills the rules, standards or expectations.

do's and don'ts

Usually, the word is used in one of two circumstances.

First, conform can be used to speak about obeying rules of governments and other authorities.

a student and a teacher

When new buildings are constructed, they have to conform to government guidelines. Similarly, airplanes are designed in order to conform to international regulations. When buildings and airplanes do not conform to these kinds of laws, it is a big problem!

an airplane

The second common use of conform is to speak about human behavior. When we say that a person conforms, we mean that he or she acts in the way that society expects or does what he or she is supposed to.

Sometimes it is considered a good thing to conform, and sometimes it is seen as a bad thing. People who do not conform may be seen as free thinkers, or they may be viewed as rebels or rule breakers.

Conform has a variety of word forms. To speak about the idea of conforming, we use the abstract noun conformity. Meanwhile, a person who conforms is described as a conformist.

men in official clothes

And a person who does not conform is called a non-conformist.

a girl with style


Collocations

In order to specify what rule, regulation or expectation is being satisfied, we generally follow conform with the word "to."

Conform can also be followed by "with," but this is less common.


Examples

  1. The new school conforms to the safety guidelines established by the local government.
    (According to the government's policies, the school is considered safe.)

  2. Once an elevator is installed, the metro station will conform to regulations about disabled access.
    (After the elevator is put in, the metro station will satisfy regulations about disabled access.)

  3. At my new job, I need to wear a suit and tie in order to conform to the company dress code. (To satisfy the dress code at my new company, I need to wear a suit and tie.)

  4. Lucy has a distinct style. She dresses differently from others because she doesn't like to conform. (Lucy doesn't dress the same as other people because she likes to look different and have her own style.)

Lucy has a distinct style


Confirm

The word confirm is used in several ways, all related to truth, correctness and agreement.

First, confirm is used to say that you have checked the details of something. Things that are commonly confirmed are the times of appointments, the locations of meetings, the prices of products and the spellings of names. When used in this way, confirm means check or make sure that something is right.

a woman next to a calendar

Second, confirm can be used to explain why something is true, right or correct. Evidence is used to confirm theories, and facts are used to confirm opinions. When used in this way, synonyms for confirm are support, prove and show the truth of.

a paparazzi with a camera

Next, confirm can be used to say that you are definitely going to do something. A synonym for this use of confirm is promise. It is common to confirm your attendance at events and to confirm that you will complete work, projects and tasks within a certain time frame.

a wedding planner

Finally, confirm is used to mean that a decision has been accepted. This use of confirm is often related to people. For example, it is possible to say that someone has been confirmed as the director of an organization or confirmed as the head of a company. When used in this way, confirm means accept or approve.

a new director

Bear in mind that in all of these definitions, confirm is quite a formal word. However, it is still very common. Confirm has both noun and adjective forms. The noun form of the word is confirmation, and the adjective form is confirmed. Something that has not been confirmed is unconfirmed.


Collocations

The following list summarizes the most common collocations of confirm:

  • Confirm a detail such as a time, location, price or spelling
  • Confirm a theory, opinion or idea
  • Confirm attendance at an event or function
  • Confirm a decision, plan or schedule

After confirm, no preposition is needed.


Examples

  1. I need to confirm the time for my dentist appointment tomorrow.
    (I need to check the time of my dentist appointment tomorrow.)

  2. Many experiments have confirmed Isaac Newton's Laws of Motion. (Many experiments have proven that Isaac Newton's ideas about the Laws of Motion were correct.)

  3. The evidence presented in the trial confirmed that the suspect was innocent.
    (The evidence presented in the trial proved that the suspect was innocent.)

  4. Please confirm your attendance at our wedding by sending us the card enclosed with this invitation.
    (Please advise us whether or not you will be attending the wedding by sending us the card included with the invitation.)

  5. Last week, Mr. Brown was confirmed as the new head of the sales division. (Last week, Mr. Brown was approved as the new head of sales.)

  6. I am happy to confirm that the project will be completed on schedule.
    (I am able to tell you that the project will definitely be completed on time.)

students working on a project


Tips

Both conform and confirm are useful words, but confirm is much more common and has a wider range of meanings. Confirm will probably be more useful in your day to day speech.


A Story to Practice Conform vs. Confirm

Daisy is a non-conformist. Her way of dressing confirms that she does not like to conform. At her school, students are supposed to conform to the dress code. Instead of conforming and wearing the blue and gray uniform, Daisy wears bright colors like purple, red and green. When Daisy's parents call the school to ask if this is a problem, the school confirms that it is. So now, during the week Daisy conforms to the dress code, but on the weekends she wears what she wants.

Daisy's brother Peter doesn't mind conforming. When his parents tell him that he needs to wear a uniform, he confirms that it isn't a problem. The school director, who was confirmed last week, is happy that at least one person in the family conforms to the rules.

The differences between Daisy and Peter confirm that just because you are brother and sister, it doesn't mean that you will be similar people! Maybe in the future Daisy will conform, and Peter will decide not to conform. No one knows! If this happens, it will confirm that people can always change their minds about how they want to be.

Daisy making clothes


Quiz

Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.

Part 1:

  1. Which of the following is a correct definition of conform?
    1. To check
    2. To explain
    3. To fulfill
    4. To prove

  2. Which of the following is a correct definition of confirm?
    1. To satisfy
    2. To meet
    3. To do what is expected
    4. To support

  3. Which sentence is written correctly?
    1. The hospital conforms to the new hygiene regulations.
    2. A lot of evidence conforms the theory of relativity.
    3. Kimberly is a free thinker. She doesn't like to confirm.
    4. I want to confirm with the time of my appointment tomorrow.

  4. Which of the following is written incorrectly?
    1. The elevator conforms to the safety regulations.
    2. The car seat conforms to the rules about traveling with children.
    3. My boss was happy when I confirmed that the project was finished.
    4. Can you confirm of the time of your arrival?


Part 2:

  1. Can you ___________ the spelling of your name?
    1. conform
    2. confirm
    3. conform to
    4. confirm to

  2. When I was a child, I wanted to be different. I didn't want to ___________.
    1. conform
    2. confirm
    3. conform to
    4. confirm to

  3. Ted doesn't mind ___________ his company's dress code, because he likes wearing a suit and tie.
    1. conforming
    2. confirming
    3. conforming to
    4. confirming to

  4. One of my car's mirrors is broken, so right now the car doesn't ___________ the rules about safe driving.
    1. conform
    2. confirm
    3. conform to
    4. confirm to

  5. The weather report ___________ tomorrow there will be a big storm.
    1. has conformed that
    2. has confirmed that
    3. has conformed to
    4. has confirmed to

  6. If everyone ___________ their attendance at the meeting, the room will be very crowded and might not ___________ to safety regulations!
    1. confirms; conform
    2. conforms; confirm
    3. confirms; confirm
    4. conforms; conform


Answer Key

Part 1: 1. C | 2. D | 3. A | 4. D

Part 2: 1. B | 2. A | 3. C | 4. C | 5. B | 6. A


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