You are here:

General Writing and Grammar Help/Make A difference - make THE difference

Advertisement


Question
Dear Ted:

Do you say/write, "to make A difference" or "to make THE difference"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

For instance, should I say, "People who make THE difference" or "People who make A difference"?

Thank you,

Paolo

Answer
Dear Paolo:

Do you say/write, "to make A difference" or "to make THE difference"?

If both are possible, do they have the same meaning?

If not, when should I use each of them?

Would you please give me some examples?

*** Both are correct, but they have different meanings.  "A difference" is very general."  "THE difference is quite specific."

EXAMPLE:  

Elected politician to the people at his victory celebration:  "All of you made A difference in my campaign."  [Very general expression]

A man to his fiance:  "You are THE difference that has changed my life."  [Very specific]

For instance, should I say, "People who make THE difference" or "People who make
A difference"?

*** Either one of these can be used.  Most often we say "make A difference," because there is nothing specific mentioned.  However, if you are referring to a particular incident or action performed by the people, you would use "THE."  You are the people who made THE difference in stopping the mass slaughter of whales.  [These people formed a blockade with their votes, preventing the whaling ships from reaching the whales.]

Ted

General Writing and Grammar Help

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

Experience

I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

Education/Credentials
B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.