inadvertently accidentally


Senior Member
Cantonese, Hong Kong
Bill Gates may have inadvertently (accidentially) revealed that Microsoft’s flagship Windows Vista operating system is faring poorly compared to Windows XP.

How do I tell apart inadvertently and accidentially? Is it correct that accidentially implies that Bill Gates revealed the figures, which is a unintentional mistake, and inadvertently means the revelation is unintental, but not necessarily a mistake? Thanks
  • -mack-

    Senior Member
    American English
    The difference is very subtle. The words are basically synonyms and interchangeable most of the time. They both indicate a mistake was made — however, inadvertently to me implies a mistake made because the person wasn't paying very much attention to what they were doing: I inadvertently left my car unlocked this morning. Accidentally to me implies a bigger, more active mistake: I accidentally deleted the file. Both words convey that it was unintentional.
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