English is full of confusing words. If you’re not dealing with a confusing set of homophones or homonyms, you’re trying to understand the difference between two words with incredibly similar meanings, like convince vs. persuade. While many writers use convince and persuade interchangeably, there are distinctions in meaning that careful writers and speakers try to preserve. Today, I am going to outline the traditional differences between these two words and give you a few tips to remember the difference between them. I will go over their definitions and use example sentences along the way. After reading this post, you should be able to easily answer the question to anyone who may ask, “Should I use convince or persuade?”
The word convince originated in mid-16th century (in the sense ‘overcome, defeat in argument’): from Latin convincere, from con- ‘with’ + vincere ‘conquer’. The word persuade originated in late 15th century: from Latin persuadere, from per- ‘through, to completion’ + suadere ‘advise’.
Convince as verb:
Convince is used as a verb which means to cause (someone) to believe firmly in the truth of something.
Robert's expression had obviously convinced her of his innocence.
Persuade as verb:
Persuade is also used as a verb which means to induce (someone) to do something through reasoning or argument.
It wasn't easy, but I persuaded him to do the right thing.
But it would take her three and a half months, five court hearings, three letters from her landlord and a copy of her lease to convince the judge. –The New York Times
A 40-year-old St. Louis woman isn’t dead, but she said she spent months trying to convince credit reporting agencies that she’s alive. –Washington Post
If you’re not convinced that the other side is trustworthy, you’re going to try to limit their scope of action as much as possible. –The New Yorker
I persuaded him to apply to both colleges.
The Senator persuaded members or either party to side with him on the upcoming vote.
Convince or persuade:
Do I use convince or persuade? Of course, that depends on the context of your sentence and your audience, but these words are becoming more and more interchangeable every day. It is sometimes said that a person is convinced by an appeal to reason or logic and a person is persuaded by an appeal to feelings or emotions. This is not necessarily true. Both convincing and persuading can be done through arguments and reason. As I said above, the key difference is between action and non-action, not what is being appealed to. The difference between these words—remember—has to do with action vs. non-action. You persuade someone to do something. You convince someone of something. You can remember this because persuade has to do with action, and both of those words have an “A” in them. Convincing has to do with the mind, and both of those words have an “I” in them.