Things I Didn't Know

From a reader:

Preventive care is for people.
Preventative care is for cars.

Sounds like flammable / inflammable to me, but I will try to get it right.


  1. Charlie Bratten:

    Cite please. Both the Random House and New Oxford say they are the same word.

  2. Larry Sheldon:

    I have an Occam's Razor (sortakinda) rule: The least number of syllables among equivalent words is the correct choice.

  3. Bill:

    I'm with Larry. Preventive = Correct. Preventative = the waste of a perfectly good syllable. Those who use it are not as wrong, however, as those who use "litiginous" when they mean "litigious." When did that "n" come from anyway?

  4. Jens Fiederer:

    Both are correct in either case.

    While there is no clear-cut difference, "preventive" IS far more common with medicine (11M google hits with the rival excluded vs 3K vice versa). "Preventive" out-googles "preventative" by a factor of only about 2 rather than 30 with maintenance.

    Your reader is engaged in a possible worthwhile effort to produce a distinction between these words - but nobody can currently say "wrong" to any use.

    Some history is at

  5. ilovebenefits:

    Yesterday's reports on vaccination and immunization rates among people 60 and older makes you wonder. The rates for flu, shingles, pneumococal and hepatitis are extremely low. Preventive measures such as these avoid health care costs.

    The government is touting increased efforts in these areas as ways to bend the cost curve. Last I looked flu vaccine costs were very low or outright free to most insured plan participants. Medicare covers these and we can't get out of even the 60% compliance.

    Is the Federal Government going to mandate vaccinations. Is this their next attempt at 'running' the country?
    Follow the health care debate at

  6. Methinks:

    If the Federal government mandates compliance, then they will have to enforce it. The cost of enforcement will add to the cost health care provisioning and will quickly dwarf any savings achieved through preventive vaccinations - and that's before factoring the cost of the lost liberty which Dumbocrats clearly think has negative value to us.

  7. neolibertarian:

    Both are correct. This is like the alleged distinction between "healthy" and "healthful" or "done" versus "finished." The meaning is clear.

    I'd save my ire for instances of unclear communication, like when "indefinitely" is used to mean "forever."

    Good page on this:

  8. Ariel:

    Or when I currently think I mean presently?

  9. Doug:

    It just always sounds to me like preventive is the adjective form of the verb prevent and preventative is the adjective form of preventate.