Confusing words: convince, persuade

The verbs ‘convince’ and ‘persuade’ are very similar in meaning, but there is a difference in how we use them.

After ‘persuade’ we use the structure
to + infinitive:

  • I persuaded them to stay for another drink.
  • He persuaded her not to take the job.

After ‘convince’ we cannot use a verb infinitive. We say ‘convince someone that‘:

  • She convinced the police that she was telling the truth.
  • He convinced her that it was the right thing to do.

Both of the above sentence would also be correct without ‘that’:

  • She convinced the police she was telling the truth.
  • He convinced her it was the right thing to do.
  •  

    Meaning

    There can also be a subtle difference in meaning between ‘convince’ and ‘persuade’, as seen here:

    Although Robert finally persuaded his girlfriend to move abroad with him, she was not fully convinced that it was the best thing to do.

    In the example, Robert’s girlfriend was persuaded (to move) but was not convinced (that it was the correct decision). So, we can see that when we persuade someone to do something it doesn’t always mean that we have also convinced that person.

    One more thing is worth mentioning about ‘persuade’ and ‘convince’. If we are absolutely sure about something, we say I’m convinced:

    – Are you sure he’s innocent?
    – Yes, I’m convinced.
    NOT I’m persuaded

     

    Some related words:
    convincing (adjective)  It was a convincing argument.
    persuasive (adjective) Marta can be very persuasive when she wants.
    persuasion (noun) He used his powers of persuasion.

    If you have any questions about ‘convince’ and ‘persuade’, please leave a comment below. I always read comments and try to reply to them all.

    Have you understood everything? Here’s a quick exercise for you to test yourself:

    questions go herescoregoes here

    Stuart is an English teacher and runs the Speakspeak website. He currently lives in Prague and has been teaching for over 20 years. See all posts by Stuart

    41 Comments

    1. Kamil - March 20, 2012, 10:51 pm Reply

      Good excercise!

    2. Ankit shah - March 31, 2012, 7:09 am Reply

      I want some more explanation for persuasive and persuasion. Thnaks

      • Stuart Cook - April 2, 2012, 8:17 pm Reply

        Ankit,

        ‘Persuasion’ is a noun, meaning someone’s ability to persuade people. Two examples are: ‘powers of persuasion’ and ‘to use gentle persuasion’.

        ‘Persuasive’ is an adjective. If someone is ‘persuasive’ he makes you want to do something or believe something. Words or speech can also be ‘persuasive’, meaning that they (or it) persuade you to do something or convince you of something.

        Someone who has strong powers of persuasion is a persuasive person.

    3. elizabeth - August 10, 2012, 4:19 am Reply

      Hi Stuart,
      Can we say:
      “He tries to persuade Sally home.”
      Or must we say:
      “He tries to persuade Sally to go home.”
      The latter is correct, I know, but is the former grammatically wrong?
      Thanks!

      • Stuart Cook - August 10, 2012, 11:34 am Reply

        Thanks for the question, Elizabeth.
        Persuade is followed by ‘someone + to + verb’, so ‘persuade someone home’ is incorrect. The verb you’re looking for here is probably something like entice (‘He enticed her home with the promise of … ‘) or coax (‘They coaxed the monkey into the cage’).

        • elizabeth - August 10, 2012, 12:50 pm Reply

          Thanks for the quick reply, Stuart! I’ve heard “persuade her home” before — is it used colloquially and in that context be acceptable?

          • Stuart Cook - August 11, 2012, 10:06 am Reply

            As far as I know, the construction ‘persuade someone somewhere ‘ isn’t even used colloquially, Elizabeth. Let’s see if anyone else has anything to say about it.

            • elizabeth - August 11, 2012, 10:24 am Reply

              Okay, thanks, Stuart!

    4. nurul - October 22, 2012, 2:34 am Reply

      hi Stuart,

      I want to as a question. Is there any difference between convincing and persuading? instead of the way how to use them. How about the meaning?

      • Stuart Cook - October 22, 2012, 7:08 am Reply

        Nurul,
        ‘Convincing’ is an adjective, meaning that something (an argument, a story, someone’s words, etc.) cause us to believe that something is true or real. ‘Persuading’ isn’t used as an adjective – it’s the present participle (‘ing’ form) of the verb persuade. We say ‘His story is convincing’, but never ‘His story is persuading.’

        • nurul - October 22, 2012, 12:15 pm Reply

          OK, thank a bunch Stuart for your explanation 🙂

    5. Hirofumi - October 24, 2012, 10:50 pm Reply

      Hello, I just came by and noticed something, which was about your statement “After ‘convince’ we cannot use a verb infinitive. We say ‘convince someone that‘”

      Maybe you can also mention another use of “convince,” which is “of” following “convince someone”. For exmaple,

      He convinced her of the importance/necessity.

      🙂

      • Stuart Cook - October 25, 2012, 7:48 pm Reply

        Yes, that’s right, Hirofumi. We can say ‘convince someone OF something’. Some examples are:

        The lawyer convinced the jury of the man’s innocence.
        Residents have convinced the council of the need for safer road crossings in the town.

    6. Convince or persuade? « Just English - November 27, 2012, 4:35 am Reply

      […] http://speakspeak.com/ […]

    7. Ramil - December 29, 2012, 1:22 pm Reply

      Great thanks! I even didn’t know about differences between convince and persuade)
      Frankly speaking, I was surprised)

    8. Marija - January 18, 2013, 5:50 pm Reply

      Hi Stuart. I’m from Serbia, and I’m practising for an English test wich is crucial for apllying for the collage that I would like to sign in, and the question is: He persuded me to take/convinced me taking the wine.
      I am having second thoughts, so could you help me?

      • Stuart Cook - January 18, 2013, 7:47 pm Reply

        Hi, Marija
        ‘He persuaded me to take . . .’ is correct.
        Good luck with the college application!

        • Marija - January 19, 2013, 10:21 pm Reply

          Thank you very much!

    9. Jean - June 5, 2013, 6:59 am Reply

      Your explanation is excellent . May I have your email , sir ?
      Thanks a lot .

    10. Trong Tin - June 12, 2013, 12:24 pm Reply

      Hello Stuart Cook
      Please help me to clear this sentence that correct: …CONVINCING…TO SWITCH…

      Authorities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are facing a tough task in convincing millions of Vietnamese motorbike and car owners to switch to the trains as the first metro systems in the two economic hubs are all set to be commissioned by 2018.

      • Stuart Cook - June 17, 2013, 7:49 pm Reply

        Hello, Trong

        It should be persuade them to switch (not convince).

    11. James - June 22, 2013, 6:19 am Reply

      Is it ok to say “there is no need to do something to convince me about something” or should it be ‘convince me of something”

      • Stuart Cook - June 22, 2013, 11:47 am Reply

        James,
        ‘convince me of something’ is correct.

        • James - June 23, 2013, 5:30 am Reply

          Thanks, Stuart

    12. Abubakar - July 29, 2013, 10:05 pm Reply

      When someone is disturbing you, can you say stop convincing me or stop confusing me????

      • Stuart Cook - July 29, 2013, 10:42 pm Reply

        Neither convince nor confuse. You would say: “Stop disturbing me!”

    13. Olesya Gilmutdinova - September 6, 2013, 6:48 am Reply

      How come 2 dictionaries state that we use infinitive+to with ‘convince’?
      http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/convince?q=convince
      http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/convince

      • Stuart Cook - September 7, 2013, 7:21 pm Reply

        Hi, Olesya

        Thanks for the question.

        Some authorities (dictionaries, grammarians, etc.) say that the construction ‘convince someone to + infinitive’ is acceptable. Others will say it’s incorrect and that only ‘persuade someone to + infinitive’ is correct.

        The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says at the bottom of its entry:
        “It is quite common . . . for each of these words to be used with both meanings . . . persuaded/convinced her to see a doctor. Some speakers of British English think that this is not correct.”
        I belong to that group. Although many native speakers often say convince someone to, I don’t believe that means it’s correct to say it. I like the distinction between convince and persuade, and think it’s an important distinction to have.
        http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/persuade

        Here are two links that support the belief that convince and persuade are NOT interchangeable:
        http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/diffuse-versus-defuse?page=all
        http://web.uvic.ca/wguide/Pages/UsConvince.html

    14. Hojin - October 8, 2013, 12:09 pm Reply

      Hi~ Sturt cook ^^
      Help me.
      I think the salesperson’s job is stressful because have to convince people to buy products.
      Is this sentence right??

    15. GAGAN DEEP SINGH - November 19, 2013, 2:26 pm Reply

      Sir your website is really convincing, i see.
      Great help!!

    16. Minhho - February 17, 2014, 5:40 am Reply

      According to oxford advanced learner’s dictionary, “convince” can be used before “to +infinitive”. e.g: convince somebody to do something.
      http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/convince .

    17. S.Arash Peighambari - December 23, 2014, 10:31 pm Reply

      I really enjoyed and appreciate your kindness and of course your effort. I’m Iranian and I learned easily by means of what you have provided!

    18. gokul - April 30, 2015, 10:39 pm Reply

      Hi Stuart, you are doing a great job! thanks.
      what I understand is:
      convince-If some one convinces me, then from my heart I know that what was convinced to me was true and I have no doubts.
      persuation- I am made to say, believe or do something just because some one asks me to do but within my heart I still have doubts.

      now what could be the difference between urge, persuage, convince?

      • Stuart Cook - May 2, 2015, 7:58 pm Reply

        Hi,
        Yes, it’s fair to say that if you are convinced about something, you have no doubts. But when someone persuades you to do something, you may have doubts or you may not. It isn’t the case that persuade ALWAYS comes with doubts.
        Urge means to be persistent when trying to persuade someone to do something.

    19. Selena - October 2, 2015, 1:03 am Reply

      Hi,
      The post is great! But I have one question about the usage of convince. Is it wrong to say “After the popular surfboard designer died, many surfers were convinced of having no alternative but to ride boards of inferior design”? It should be wrong in some way because the right way to say is “…many surfers were convinced that they would have no aternative but to ride boards…” (It is a multiple choice question)
      What are the differences between the two and is there any grammatical error in the first option?
      Thank you in advance!

    20. Stuart Cook - October 2, 2015, 11:03 am Reply

      Hi,
      We say ‘convinced of’, but follow it with a noun, not a verb -ing form (the gerund), as in your example.

      Of + -ing is grammatical – after a preposition we put a verb in its -ing form. However, ‘convinced of + -ing’ is not commonly used; we prefer to say ‘convinced of + something’.

      We’d say “He convinced them of his innocence” rather than “He convinced them of his being innocent”.

    21. Evelina Tsitini - August 1, 2016, 9:55 pm Reply

      Well done Stuart !
      Thank you so much 🙂

    22. Carmela Oñes - August 9, 2016, 9:13 am Reply

      Hi! Just want to ask what is the counterpart of “persuasion”? Thank you!

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