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Proceed vs. Precede

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  Angbeen Chaudhary  —  Grammar Tips

The English language is full of words that are similar to each other but also quite distinct. Some of these words sound the same, some are spelled the same, and some have similar origins, but they are all different in their meanings—if only slightly. The words precede and proceed, are two words that confuse even experienced writers and print journalists from time to time. Both words mean to go ahead, but they mean it in different senses.

Consider the following sentences:

A lecture from the professor preceded the documentary.

Once the protests subsided, the hearings proceeded.

Does the above sentences give you a clue of the difference in the meanings of both the words? If you are still confused, keep reading!


The word proceed originated from late Middle English: from Old French proceder, from Latin procedere, from pro- ‘forward’ + cedere ‘go’. The word precede also originated from late Middle English: from Old French preceder, from Latin praecedere, from prae ‘before’ + cedere ‘go’.

Proceed as verb:

In English, proceed is used as a verb which means begin a course of action.

The consortium could proceed with the plan.

To move forward is also known as proceed.

From the High Street, proceed over Magdalen Bridge.

Proceed is also used to explain originate from.

His claim that all power proceeded from God.


Precede as verb:

Precede is also used as a verb in English which means to come before (something) in time.

A gun battle had preceded the explosions.

To come before in order or position is also called precede.

Take time to read the chapters that precede the recipes.


Thought precedes words, words precede deeds. [Guardian]

Depression is a robust predictor of stroke, even independently of memory impairments that might precede a stroke. [Psychiatric News]

A brief period of freezing drizzle may precede the snow in the state’s north, but Clay said it shouldn’t take long to change to snow. [Texarkana Gazette]

Mining companies can proceed with their challenge to U.S. EPA’s new policies on mountaintop-removal coal mining. [NY Times]

She’ll proceed to the Miss Alabama pageant in June, where she’ll compete for a spot in the Miss America pageant. [Studio Ten]

Proceed or precede:

While these two words are exactly antonyms of each other, they do have very different means, and they are focused on very different things. It’s important to know when to choose proceed or precede for a given sentence. Precede means to come before something or someone else. Proceed means to carry on or go forward. Preceed is a misspelling that attempts to combine the two. The usual mistake involving these two words is mistaking proceed for the word precede. In order to avoid this mistake, always remember the following trick. Precede means to come before and the word has one additional “E” than does proceed. Precede means before. Proceed means to carry on or go forward. The words proceed and forward have the letter “O” in them, as does the phrase carry on.



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