Make Your Editor Cry: Continual vs Continuous

Make Your Editor Cry: Continual vs Continuous

The words continual and continuous both come from the word continue, but continual means start and stop, while continuous means never-ending. Continual is chronic, like a cough that comes and goes, or a teenager’s sporadic rebellions against “The Man.” Continuous is like a circle, or a nightmare carousel that never ever stops.

The adjective continual describes something that’s recurring, that happens again and again. If your pet wolf keeps up his continual howling all night, your neighbors will let you know about it. Continual things come and go, like arguments or rain. If your parents’ continual arguing drives you crazy, just be glad they stop sometimes. With continual rain, you’ll get some sunny breaks, as Ireland’s forecasters like to say.

The adjective continuous describes something that occurs over space or time without interruption. Some computer fans make a continuous noise—a constant hum—that can drive you to crazy. Continuous is nonstop. With continuous rain, you’ll never see the sun.

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