• 2-minute read
  • 19th January 2019

How to Use ‘Respectively’ in a Sentence

Today, we’re looking at a term used to refer to something previously mentioned: ‘respectively’. This is a useful word when used correctly, but it’s also easy to misuse if you’re not sure how it works. Let us look first at how this word should be used, then, before looking at a couple of common errors.

How to Use Respectively in a Sentence

‘Respectively’ is an adverb that means ‘in the order mentioned’. We use it when we want to emphasise the relationships between two pairs or the items in two parallel lists (i.e. two lists that contain the same number of items). For example, we could use ‘respectively’ as follows:

Paris and Berlin are the capital cities of France and Germany, respectively.

This sentence tells us that Paris is the capital of France and that Berlin is the capital of Germany. We know this because ‘respectively’ means that the first city mentioned (Paris) goes with the first country mentioned (France), and likewise for the second city (Berlin) and country (Germany).

Common Error: Non-Parallel Lists

There are two common errors made when using ‘respectively’. One is to use ‘respectively’ without preceding parallel structures, or without a direct one-to-one relationship between items:

The wires connect to the diode and fuse, respectively.

Here, for example, ‘respectively’ does not make sense because we don’t know how many wires there are or how they are distinct from one another. To correct this, we would need to write:

The orange wire and green wire connect to the diode and fuse, respectively.

In this version, we can clearly see which wire connects to which component.

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Common Error: Unnecessary Use of Respectively

Another error is to use ‘respectively’ when it is not necessary. For instance:

Dogs and cats are common household pets, respectively.

In this case, since both dogs and cats are pets, we can lose ‘respectively’:

Dogs and cats are common household pets.

We would, however, use ‘respectively’ if we were distinguishing between the two somehow. For example, to clarify the genus of each species:

Dogs and cats belong, respectively, to the genera Canis and Felis.

Here, without the ‘respectively’, it would not be 100% clear which species belonged to which genus. This is, therefore, a good use of the term.

Comments (1)
Prakash Naik
20th April 2019 at 18:43
Good. I got to know the right way of using "respectively " thanks for those who posted this aeticle keep posting such things

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