At a first sight, “valuable” and “invaluable” seem to be pretty clear regarding their meanings. But in fact, they are some of the most commonly misunderstood words. People tend to use them with the wrong meaning, quite often, due to the confusions they create.
We’re going to explain below why “invaluable” is usually used wrongly or misspelled, and why “valuable” and “invaluable” are not actually opposites, as you are first tempted to think.
Valuable vs. Invaluable
Firstly, you have to know that “valuable” and “invaluable” are not antonyms. They do not refer to opposite concepts. In fact, both adjectives are used to express the same importance of something, the same “value”.
You might think that it’s the same situation as for “correct”/“incorrect”, “efficient”/”inefficient”, “expensive”/”inexpensive”, “equal”/”inequal” etc., but it is not. “Valuable” and “invaluable” are actually synonyms, rather than antonyms, as they refer to similar things.
When do we use “valuable”?
“Valuable” is usually used correctly, and everything about it is actually easy and logical. It’s an adjective, a derivate from the noun “value”, describing something that can be sold for a lot of money, or something that is very helpful or important.
Example 1: I have some truly valuable earrings and bracelets, they are made of gold and real diamonds. – when used to describe an object, “valuable” shows that if sold, that object is worth a lot of money.
Example 2: She gave me some very valuable information about the entire situation. – “valuable” can also refer to a piece of information or advice, which is very helpful.
When do we use “invaluable”?
In fact, this is the word that is mostly used wrongly or misunderstood. The main reason is because people tend to believe that the prefix “in-“ turns it into the opposite of “valuable”. But it’s not the case. “Invaluable” is actually used to describe something crucial, vital, essential, something that is beyond “valuable”. “Invaluable” is used when referring to something very useful, something that can’t miss, that has such a great value that it cannot be valued with money.
Example: The CEO has some invaluable contacts in the government, regarding the company and its success. – “invaluable” is used when referring to something very important, very useful, that is essential for something else.
To shorten everything, “valuable” refers to something that has a great value, usually in money, whereas “invaluable” is somehow a synonym for “valuable”, not an opposite, referring to something even more “valuable”, something very useful.