I Both Anticipate and Expect a Reaction

Two words that share similar nuances are anticipate and expect. Both mean “to look forward to.” But anticipate also carries the idea of taking action in expectation or preparation for a future event. Expect carries more certainty and does not require action.

  • The Johnsons anticipated a long winter. (They took steps to prepare, perhaps stocking a cellar with canned goods, having supplies of heating fuel, etc.)
  • The Morgans expected a long winter. (They are certain of what lies ahead, but the sentence implies no preparations.)

Expect also has other meanings. Expecting is often used to refer to pregnancy. A couple who is planning to start a family, may anticipate being pregnant by a certain time, but once the pregnancy is certain, we talk about expecting a baby. Barring any complications, the arrival of a baby is an almost certain probability.

Expect can also mean something that is required.

  • I expect your chores to be done when I come home.
  • His parents expected him to excel in school.

Now that you know the difference, I expect you will use these terms correctly in the future.

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  1. I see the difference, except for one thing: expecting in the sense of pregnancy, a family has much preparation for the coming child they had anticipated. Or have I misunderstood your meaning?


    1. Parents might take a class in anticipation for the impending birth, for example. But our common terminology is that, for the fact of being pregnant, a woman is termed “expecting,” which corresponds to the fact of being pregnant rather than the mind-set, if that makes sense. Yes, they can anticipate the event by taking certain action as well.

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