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Continual vs Continuous


  • ‘Continual’ (adj) means ‘being repeated frequently; recurring’.
  • ‘Continuous’ (adj) means ‘happening without interruption’.

What’s the difference between ‘continual’ and ‘continuous’?

Both adjectives are derivations of the verb ‘continue’, which makes them easily confused. Some people think they are interchangeable, but the truth is they mean slightly different things.

  • ‘Continual’ refers to something that is frequently repeated, but which has breaks in between. ‘Continuous’ refers to something that is nonstop.
  • Note that ‘continual’ can carry a negative connotation (as in the event that regularly occurs is annoying or inconvenient), while ‘continuous’ may have discipline-specific meanings.
  • In mathematics, a continuous function or curve changes gradually in value as the variable also changes in value. In statistics, a continuous variable has a continuum of possible values.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘continual’

  • Both organizations share a culture of continual improvement.
  • Several methods have been proposed to foster continual learning.

Example sentences with ‘continuous’

  • An interesting case of continuous fermentation was observed.
  • We propose a new method for generating continuous distributions.