Distinguishing Between Preventive & Preventative

Preventive vs. Preventative

English is a language with numerous pairs of words that sound similar but have very different meanings. However, there are also pairs that sound similar and have similar meanings. One such pair is preventive and preventative, which have similar meanings but differences that prevent them from being synonyms. This does not stop people from using the words preventive and preventative interchangeably. Let us take a closer look.


In the medical world, particularly in medicine, the word preventive has great significance and use. Drugs used to prevent the onset of a disease or play a role in delaying a disease are commonly referred to as preventive drugs. In industries, preventive maintenance is a periodic checkup or maintenance procedure carried out at regular intervals to ensure that machines and tools continue working smoothly, preventing work stoppage due to avoidable faults or breakages. Thus, preventive is a word that describes something helpful in preventing the occurrence of an undesirable event.


It is a fact, and dictionaries around the world corroborate this, that preventive is the adjective traditionally used for anything that prevents an undesirable event such as disease or breakdown. However, lately, preventative has increasingly emerged as an alternative for preventive. The use of preventative has increased so much that about a third of users are freely using it in place of preventive. Preventative is also seen in the content of many websites. There are cases where the two words have been used in the same sentence, with preventive as an adjective and preventative as a noun.

If we go by logic, representative comes from represent, and so the choice should be preventative, as it comes from prevent, and not preventive. However, logic has only limited place in the English language.

Key Takeaways

  • Preventive and preventative have similar meanings, both referring to something that prevents the onset of something undesirable.
  • Preventive is more common of the two words and is used primarily as an adjective, while preventative is preferred as a noun.
  • The suffixes +ive and +ative convey the same meaning of having a tendency to prevent, but +ative is less commonly used than +ive.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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