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Proceed vs. Precede

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2:16 min read
  Marius Alza  —  Grammar Tips
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Proceed” and “precede” are illustrating a great example of paronyms, words that have very similar spellings, varying through few letters only, but define completely different actions. The fact that they look and sound almost identically are tempting English users to believe they also have similar meanings, but that is not happening with these two.

“Proceed” and “precede” are two actions with different connotations and must not be confused, because there would appear a massive difference in the message and, of course, a misunderstanding of the meaning of the communication. Here’s more on “proceed” and “precede” and how to correctly use them.

Proceed vs. Precede

Regarding the similarities between “proceed” and “precede”, there are quite many. First, there’s their form, their spellings and pronunciations, which are almost identical. Secondly, both words are broadly used in formal contexts, they are formal words frequently used in official or distant conversations. And then, there’s their grammatical functions. It’s tempting to consider them synonyms, therefore, because both are verbs and refer to actions related to time and continuity.

Still, the core elements of these words, which are their lexical meanings, are completely different, and this plays the essential and central role in distinguishing “proceed” and “precede” as different verbs with unidentical meanings that should not be confused. Read more on what these words refer to and in which contexts they can be used correctly right below!

When do we use “proceed”?

“Proceed” is a formal verb and it refers to the action of continuing to do something according to a previously agreed plan. In fact, a perfect synonym expression for “proceed” would be to “continue as planned”, as both refer to exactly the same action. Example: The directors of the company decided to take the advice of their lawyers and not to proceed with the case. – “proceed” is a verb used in formal contexts with the meaning of continuing an action as it was planned.

When do we use “precede”?

“Precede” is another formal verb, mostly used in passive voice. The word carries the meaning of pre- existing, used when referring to something that existed or happened before something else happened or existed.

Example: The ritual of bathing in essential oils and flower petals will precede the actual ceremony. – “precede” is a verb used when referring to something that happens before something else.


Even though both “proceed” and “precede” are formal verbs with similar spellings, related to time and continuity, they are, in fact, completely different: the first refers to actually continuing something, whereas the second relates to succession of actions or existence. Remembering this lexical difference is the key to correctly distinguishing “proceed” from “precede” and using these words accordingly, without any doubts and confusions.

Proceed vs. Precede

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