Immigrate vs Emigrate vs Migrate

What is the difference?

There are many pairs of confusing words in English. The words immigrate and emigrate are pronounced the same, but they have different meanings. When do you use each one?

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and emigrate are pronounced the same. They are homophones. That means they have the same sound, but they have different meanings. In this lesson, you will learn how to correctly use these two words in your writing. You will also learn about the word migrate, and how to use it in a sentence.


Immigrate is a verb. To immigrate is to come to a new country or region to live there. Immigrate is usually used with to.

Immigrate = Arrive / Come In

Example sentences:
  • Sally immigrated to Canada in 1989.

  • When did you immigrate to our country?

  • Australia has strict rules on immigration.

  • They immigrated to Germany for a better life.

  • Both of our families immigrated to America in the same year.



Emigrate is also a verb. To emigrate is to leave a country or region to live somewhere else. Emigrate is usually used with from.

Emigrate = Leave / Exit

Example sentences:
  • Sally emigrated from Brazil in 1989.

  • When did you emigrate from China?

  • His family emigrated from Germany for a better life. 

  • My family emigrated from Europe in the early 1800s to settle in America. 

driving in a car


Immigrate = Arrive or Come In

Emigrate = Leave or Exit

Someone who leaves Europe to live in America emigrated from Europe.
That same person immigrated to America.

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Migrate is also similar to immigrate and emigrate

Migrate is a verb. To migrate is to move, but it is not always a permanent move. However, it is more than just a short vacation.

Some people migrate (or move) to a warmer place during the cold winter months. Then, they move back home during the warm summer months. In America, retired adults sometimes migrate to Arizona, Florida, or another warm state during the winter months.

Some people migrate to other areas or other parts of the country for work or to be near their family. People can also migrate to other places for better living conditions.

Immigrate and migrate are very similar. Many people use them as synonyms.

But, there are differences.

Immigrate is used to talk about people who choose to move to a new place to live there.

Migrate is used to talk about these three things:

  • a temporary move
  • refugees  (A refugee is a person who is forced to leave his country to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.)
  • people who are forced to move for work or other economic reasons.

Migration can also refer to a move by a group of animals. For example, some birds and other animals migrate south during the winter.

Example sentences:
  • The Jewish people migrated to many parts of Europe.

  • These migrant workers work in Australia for a few years, and then they return to their home countries.

  • The birds migrate every year in the early winter.

  • Every year, my family migrates to Texas to harvest wheat.

  • After the earthquake, thousands of refugees migrated from their homes to America.
Migrate = Move

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