improvise v. ad-lib

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tonguingaround, Sep 22, 2012.

  1. tonguingaround Banned

    Spanish Argentina
    Hi there
    I d like to know if "improvise" and "ad lib" are interchangeable.
    Thanks in advance

    The show is not scripted - the actors have to improvise.
    The show is not scripted - the actors have to ad lib.
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    They are equivalent in the above context: but not in all contexts.

    'Ad lib' also has an adverbial use ('as you like'):
    'With this construction system, you can include further modules ad lib.'
  3. Biffo Senior Member

    English - England
    In fact I argue that 'to ad lib' the verb is actually an abbreviation of "to improvise ad lib" which means "to improvise at one's pleasure".

    For example, in music, the composer could ask the performer to 'improvise for eight bars' in contrast to 'improvise ad lib' which would indicate 'improvise for as many bars as you wish'.

    The use of 'ad lib' as an independent verb has blurred the distinctions so now the two can mean the same depending on circumstance.
  4. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    In the given context, one of the performance being unscripted by design, I would say the actors are called upon to improvise. I would reserve ad-libbing for a situation in which there was an unscheduled departure from the script, e.g. an actor forgets his lines, or simply needs to fill up time.
  5. pob14 Senior Member

    Central Illinois
    American English
    Beryl's description is the way the phrases are used in the theatre.

    "Improvisation," or simply "improv," is the situation whter there is no script and the actors create the entire scene as they go.

    To ad lib is to create one or a few lines, either in the situations Beryl described, or when the actor thinks (usually incorrectly) that he can make up better lines than the writer did. :eek:

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