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Lonely vs. Alone

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Have you ever been happy to be by yourself? Has there been another time when you were by yourself, but wishing for the company of others? In both of these situations, you were alone. But you were only lonely in one of them. Alone and lonely are two adjectives with related, but different, meanings. They are similar enough to confuse many writers, but using them carefully will enhance your writing and make describing some emotional states easier.

If you have ever wondered whether you should choose lonely or alone to describe a feeling of isolation, continue reading for an exploration on the true meaning of each of these words.

Origin:

The word lonely originated in late 16th century: from lone + -ly. The word alone originated from Middle English: from all + one.

Lonely as adjective

Lonely is used to describe someone who is sad because one has no friends or company.

Lonely old people whose families do not care for them.

Alone as adjective:

Alone means having no one else present; on one's own.

She was alone that evening.

Alone also means indicating that something is confined to the specified subject or recipient.

He is answerable to Parliament alone.

Examples:

Andrea is feeling lonely because she does not have a romantic partner to bring to her friends’ Halloween party.

The store had an empty, lonely feeling just before it closed for good.

And I’m telling you, it makes a lonely Badger feel invisible. –The Wall Street Journal

Imam realized that she was alone in the desert.

Kerry was alone at the bar.

The narrator of Jane Alison’s restless, febrile novel “Nine Island” lives alone, but not unaccompanied. –The New York Times

Lonely or alone:

Lone is another adjective with the same meaning as alone. It is a shortening of the word alone, but it has a different place in the English sentence. Lone comes before the noun while alone comes after the noun. Lonely is an adjective. It describes a feeling of sadness stemming from isolation or abandonment. Alone is also an adjective. It describes a single person or object, separate from others. One who is alone is by oneself. Alone and lonely are both adjectives, but they have different meanings. A person is alone when he is by himself. A person is lonely when he feels abandoned or sad due to isolation. Since alone and solitary both contain the letter A, you can remember that alone refers to a state of solitude, rather than an emotion.

We hope you didn’t feel lonely while reading this article.

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"Lonely vs. Alone." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 21 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/lonely_vs._alone>.

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