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Biannual vs. Biennial

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips
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Biannual and biennial are treated as if they are interchangeable or they mean the same. Some people who know the difference but still get confuse about which is which.

Consider the two sentences below;

We have biennial flowers in our garden.

They held biannual conferences; every other year.

Can you make the meaning of both the words from these examples?

Most often marketing departments of companies mistake these words and marketing departments should be extra cautious, as misusing these two words could cost them quite a bit of money.

Origin:

Biannual is a combination of two English words; bi and annual. Biennial originated from early 17th century: from Latin biennis (from bi- ‘twice’ + annus ‘year’) + -al.

Biannual as adjective:

Biannual is used as an adjective in English language where it has only one meaning which is occurring twice a year.

The biannual meeting of the planning committee.

Biannual vs. Biennial

Biennial as adjective:

Biennial is used as an adjective in English language where it means taking place every other year.

The first of a series of biennial exhibitions.

Biennial is also used to describe a plant taking two years to grow from seed to fruition and die.

Onion is a biennial plant.

Biennial as noun:

Biennial is also used as a noun where it implies a biennial plant or an event celebrated or taking place every two years.

The top antiques fairs are the Milan and Florence biennials.

Biannual or biennial:

Biennial means once every two years. Thus, this adjective can be used with things that happen every other year. For example, the biennial chess tournament is a tournament that happens once every two years. If the last competition was in 2015, then the next competition would be in 2017. Biannual means twice a year. Thus, it can be used to describe something that happens two times a year. For example, a journal that is published only twice a year is called a biannual journal. A meeting that only happens twice a year is called a biannual meeting. Solstice is also a biannual event.

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3 Comments
  • trash.block
    "They held biannual conferences; every other year." This implies that they hold 2 conferences in one year (biannual) and then the next year they don't but the year after that they hold 2 conferences again. Is that what you intended with this statement? If so, it's a very confusing statement to introduce a reader to the difference between biannual and biennial. I believe you intended "biennial conferences" instead. 
    LikeReply6 months ago
  • zuzubird
    Terrific article! I thought I knew everything, but turns out I don’t.
    LikeReply9 months ago
  • Abe Navarrete
    Abe Navarrete
    Biannual and biennial are treated as if they are interchangeable or they mean the same. Some people who know the difference but still get confuse about which is which.

    What I pasted above is from your post. The first is a complete sentence. The second is not. And shouldn't "confuse" be "confused" even if it is part of an incomplete sentence? 
    LikeReply 64 years ago
    • Robert A Vick IV
      Robert A Vick IV
      https://www.grammar.com/ says the passage is correct.
      LikeReply4 years ago
    • Chironeta
      No. "...but who still get confuse(d) about which is which" is a dependent clause, not a conjunction. The phrase "get confused" is also correct, as confused in this case is an adjectival and not a verb. "Get confuse" is nonsensical. Remove the "but" and add the -d and you're good to go. 
      LikeReply1 year ago

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