Continual vs. Continuous

Continual means repeated but with breaks in between; chronic.

Example: The continual problem of our car’s not starting forced us to sell it.

Continuous means without interruption in an unbroken stream of time or space.

Example: The continuous dripping of the faucet drove me crazy.

Posted on Thursday, January 25, 2007, at 12:05 am

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12 Comments on Continual vs. Continuous

12 responses to “Continual vs. Continuous

  1. Tom says:

    Jane: Another question from inquisitive Tom. Isn’t Web, Website, Weblog always initial capped? Is this not the modern, standard English usage of “Web words” today?

  2. Jane says:

    Tom, I can’t find anything about capitalizing Web, Web site, Weblog, etc. If anyone finds a credible source, please let me know.

  3. Jo Warfield says:

    Gregg Reference Manual 10th Edition (847f + note)
    “Note: The term Web site is still most commonly written as two words with a capital W. However, along with a few other Web compounds, it has started to appear as a solid word without an initial cap (website). In order to maintain a consistent style, it is better to retain the capital W until a majority of these terms (such as the World Wide Web and the Web) lose their initial cap as well.”

    The manual explains that compound words beginning with Web are usually two words. Examples: Web site, Web page, Web server.

    Exceptions: Webmaster, Webzine, Weblog

    The Gregg Reference Manual is my favorite business writing manual.

  4. Jane says:

    Jo, thanks for being a great sleuth regarding Web site v. web site v. website, etc. I also love using the Gregg Reference Manual even though it does not hold the same authority as The Chicago Manual of Style.

  5. j says:

    a drip implies there is an interruption/break between drops.

    • The dictionary definition of drip is “to let fall in drops.” If there was no interruption between drops, it would be running water. Continuous dripping indicates drops falling at a steady rate without interruption.

  6. dean says:


  7. jb says:

    An individual cited this page to support his pedantry in regard to talk in the software trade about “continuous integration”, but these distinctions do not reflect actual language practice, especially in that field. And even your example is a counterargument, since drips are, but nature, not continuous.

    • Our example does not say that the drips (drops) themselves are continuous. If a drop of water were continuous, it would be a stream of water. Our example says that the dripping is continuous.

  8. Kelsy Card says:

    I found this website very useful. Thank you, GrammarBook, for posting such knowledgeable information so that students like myself can learn and benefit from it.

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