In and of Itself, Continual vs. Continuous



In this week’s newsletter we’ll review two classic topics that continually draw comments from our readers.

In and of Itself

To many people, the phrase in and of itself sounds clunky and old-fashioned. However, when used sparingly—and correctly—it serves a purpose.

Example:
The weather was not, in and of itself, the cause of the traffic delays.
vs.
The weather was not the cause of the traffic delays.

In both sentences, we understand not to blame the weather for the traffic delays, but the first sentence tells us that the weather played some part in the traffic delays. The second sentence tells us that the weather had nothing to do with the traffic delays.

 

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 Tuesday, August 28, 2018, at 11:00 pm

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8 Comments on In and of Itself, Continual vs. Continuous

8 responses to “In and of Itself, Continual vs. Continuous

  1. D Jeffery says:

    “In and of itself”?? No, no no. Surprised to see this nonsensical phrase appearing in this newsletter. There’s no occasion this can be of any possible use.

  2. Roger Brady says:

    I disagree that there is any use for this expression.

    Consider the sentence “The weather was not, in itself, the cause of the traffic delays.” This is a waste of ink or electrons, depending on the medium.

    Consider the sentence “The weather was not, of itself, the cause of the traffic delays.” This is also nonsense.

    One might write “The weather was not itself the cause of the traffic delays,” thereby conveying the meaning “the weather played some part in the traffic delays” with fewer words and greater clarity.

  3. Mr. Mark says:

    I love, really enjoy and use, and most important, share your helpful hints and emails.

  4. vincent evers says:

    If the drips were continuous they won’t be drips – it would have a been a stream of water. We had a continuous flow of water leaking from our faucet.

    • The definition of drip is “a small drop of liquid.” Therefore, continuous dripping indicates drops falling at a steady rate without interruption. Continual dripping would not be steady and uninterrupted.

  5. Leonard Martinez says:

    So sorry to see the error in the example for “continual.” Sentence should read, “The continual problem of our car’s not starting forced us to sell it.” “Starting” is a gerund, and therefore “car” should be in the possessive. Tsk. Tsk. This is the single most common mistake among good writers of English, and it always mars an otherwise excellent piece of prose.

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