Precede and proceed are two commonly confused words in the English language. How do you know when to use each one?
Both words are verbs, and their spellings are very similar. Their pronunciations are similar too! However, the definitions of the two words are not related. It is important to learn the difference between precede and proceed because one word is used to talk about the past, and the other is used to talk about the future. You wouldn't want to mix them up!
Let's look at some examples to help you understand the difference.
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
The word precede means to come before. It can be used in the sense of to come before in time or to come before in position, or physically.
It can mean either directly before, or sometime/somewhere before. The opposite of precede is to follow, or to come after.
Precede is a regular verb (precede, preceded, preceded). The word is often used to talk about lists of events, especially in history.
A useful way to remember the definition or precede is to look at the prefix, pre-. This prefix comes from Latin and means before. Words that begin with pre- are usually related to the concept of prior or previously.
Other examples of this pattern are prearrange (organize before), pre-book (reserve before), preheat (warm up before) and even prefix itself (letters added to the beginning of a word).
Precede has a noun form, precedent. A precedent is a similar action or event that happened before. This concept is often used in law.
There is also an adjective related to the word, unprecedented. Something that is unprecedented is something that has never happened before.
The word proceed has two definitions. On the one hand, it can mean to move forward, or to continue.
The word can be used to describe physical progress, as in "We proceeded down the main road until we arrived at our destination" or figurative progress, as in "Let's proceed with the investigation."
Proceed also means to originate from or to come from. This use of proceed is quite formal. For example, "The sound of applause proceeded from the auditorium," and "Singing sounds proceeded from their room."
Like precede, proceed is a regular verb (proceed, proceeded, proceeded).
Proceed also has two noun forms. The word proceeds means money that is raised by an event or activity. When charitable organizations host events, they earn proceeds.
Keep in mind that when proceed is a verb, the stress is on the second syllable (pro-CEED). When the word is a noun, the stress is on the first syllable (PRO-ceeds). The noun proceeds is always plural.
From proceed, we also get the noun proceedings. Proceedings means a series of events or activities. The word proceedings is often used in business and legal settings.
Hannah works as a judge. Her days typically begin at 9am, when people proceed to the courthouse to explain and to listen to testimony. Needless to say, her workday is preceded by a healthy breakfast – otherwise she wouldn't be able to proceed! Sometimes her days at work are also preceded by a trip to the gym, because keeping in shape is important too.
In the courthouse, proceedings are very formal. Hannah has to wear a long gown and a wig. She had never worn a wig before taking this job. Dressing up in one was unprecedented!
Hannah's current case concerns some missing proceeds. The money was lost after a charity event. Hannah hopes they find the thief. As soon as they do, he or she will proceed straight to jail. And then Hannah will proceed on to her next case!
Answer the following 10 questions and then check your answers. Each question is worth 10 points.
Part 1: 1. B | 2. D | 3. A | 4. D
Part 2: 1. D | 2. B | 3. A | 4. C| 5. B | 6. A
Return from Precede vs. Proceed to Confusing Words
Return to Really Learn English Home Page