private vs personal

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Senior Member
Hi all. How to use "personal" and "private" properly always gives me a headache. I think in many contexts, these two words are interchangeable,but I don't know what's the difference

between the two. "It's my personal life" and "it's my private life". Any difference between the two sentences above? Thanks you !
  • e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't think there's much (if any) difference between personal life and private life.
    But these two words are not always interchangeable. It depends on what follows them.
    For example, one might say that personal information is information about you that the public does not need know (such as your height, sexual preference, how many times a month you go to the cinema etc.). Private information, on the other hand, is information that the public should not know (such as your credit card numbers, computer passwords etc.).
    It is not easy to say whether these definitions are followed in practice.
    But I suggest you accept them as working definitions and see what you come across in your reading.

    Other examples: personal injury, private/personal property, a private/personal matter.


    Senior Member
    British English
    These two often overlap but are not the same.
    'personal' generally means of a person e.g. a personal message, personal hygiene, personal assistant.
    When we wish to emphasise that something is confidential we would be more likely to use "private".
    E.g. This letter is marked private and confidential.
    "Private" is also used as an antonym for "official" or as an antonym for "public".
    E.g. The minister has a private residence in her home town as well as an official residence in London.
    The sign on the river bank said 'Private Fishing'.

    But it is confusing!
    These official documents are private.
    And you go to a "public convenience" to do very private things!
    Some personal information is public.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    There is no real difference in what is meant by personal life and private life. Use either. My feeling, and it is no more than that is that it is a choice of what you wish to say and the time you say it and possibly your occupation.

    People may have a professional life, a personal life and/or a private life. Usually the converse of a professional life is a private life if you are speaking to someone who, at the time of speaking, is in his professional capacity.

    郭巨路: "Tell me judge, do you agree with hanging people?"
    Judge: "Are you asking me about the opinion that I have in my professional life or in my private life?"

    郭巨路: "John, is the rumour true that you go to a nudist beach?"
    John: "What I do in my personal life has nothing to do with you." (although this could also be said "private")

    I suspect that "private" is slightly more formal and stronger but I wouldn't put a lot of money on it.


    Senior Member
    I won't ask the first question; I am not interested. I will ask the second one, for I 'd feel honored to go there with a judge. Thank you, all of you. Very helpful .
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