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Elicit vs Illicit


  • ‘Elicit’ (verb) means ‘to cause or provoke a response or outcome’.
  • ‘Illicit’ (adj) refers to something illegal or not permitted.

What’s the difference between ‘elicit’ and ‘illicit’?

Because they look and sound similar, these two words are easily confused. However they are very different.

  • First, they are not semantically related (as shown by the definitions above).
  • Second, one is a verb (elicit) while the other is an adjective (illicit). You cannot use either word in any other way.
  • The verb ‘elicit’ is frequently followed by nouns such as ‘information’, ‘beliefs’ or ‘response’. The adjective ‘illicit’ is frequently used with nouns such as ‘drugs’, ‘use’ or ‘substance’.

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How they’re used

Example sentences with ‘elicit’

  • We used a questionnaire to elicit teachers' beliefs on collaborative learning.
  • Such characteristics were found to elicit negative responses from practitioners.

Example sentences with ‘illicit’

  • Illicit drug use decreased by half thanks to implemented measures.
  • Little research has been carried out on the illicit use of stimulants by college students.