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Last updated at 12:19 GMT, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Intent / intention

'I went to the bank with the intention of opening a bank account'

Babak from Iran asks:
What is the difference between intention and intent?

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Gareth Rees answers

Click to listen to Gareth's answer:

Hello Babak. Thank you for your question about intent and intention. Both words are nouns that come from the verb intend, which means to have something in mind as a plan or purpose.

In terms of meaning, there is little difference between these two nouns. They both mean a plan, or purpose, to do something. However, there is a difference in the way we use the words. Intent is used in more formal situations, such as in legal contexts, whereas intention is used in a wide range of situations; it is a more everyday word. Also, in grammatical terms, intent is an uncountable noun and intention is a countable noun.

So, for example, in a newspaper report about a court case you might read: "He was carrying a gun with intent to commit a bank robbery."

Whereas, in a conversation with a friend, someone might say:"I went to the bank with the intention of opening a bank account, but I forgot to take my passport, so I couldn't even do that."

There is one other important difference. Intent is also an adjective, but intention is only a noun. If you are intent on doing something, you are determined to do something.

For example, "She was intent on becoming an actress, so she went to drama school even though it was against her parents' wishes."

So, my intention was to answer your question, and I hope, Babak, that I've managed to do that.

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About Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees has a BA (hons) in History and Philosophy of Science, CTEFLA, and DELTA. He has taught EFL, EAP and Business English in China, Spain and England, and he is the co-author of the Language Leader Elementary and Pre-Intermediate English language course books (Pearson Longman). He currently teaches English in the Language Centre at the University of the Arts, London.


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