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Substantially vs. Substantively — What's the Difference?

By Urooj Arif & Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 6, 2024
Substantially often indicates a significant degree or amount, whereas substantively refers more to the essence or content of a matter.
Substantially vs. Substantively — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Substantially and Substantively


Key Differences

Substantially is commonly used to describe the extent or degree to which something is true or exists, emphasizing quantity or magnitude. Whereas, substantively focuses on the underlying essence or substantive nature of an issue, often relating to the content or core aspects.
Substantially can modify financial, physical, or numerical changes to indicate a considerable amount or effect. On the other hand, substantively is used in contexts that discuss changes or differences that affect the fundamental nature of something, such as laws or arguments.
In legal and formal texts, substantially might refer to significant changes or compliance that doesn't have to be absolute but must be considerable. Conversely, substantively often appears in discussions about policy or doctrine, focusing on material aspects or the main points of an argument.
When used in everyday conversation, substantially can simply mean "a lot" or "significantly," affecting the scale or scope of something. Meanwhile, substantively tends to appear less frequently and is used to discuss topics in a more abstract or theoretical manner.
In reporting and analysis, a change described as substantial implies a noteworthy difference in size, amount, or degree. In contrast, a change described as substantive implies a deep, meaningful alteration in the way something functions or is perceived.

Comparison Chart


Degree or amount
Essence or content

Common Usage

Physical, financial, numerical contexts
Legal, policy, theoretical discussions


Significant, considerable extent or size
Fundamental, core nature or principle

Frequency in Conversation

More common
Less common

Example Context

Changes in quantity, size, or scale
Changes in meaning, function, or principle

Compare with Definitions


Large in amount, extent, or degree.
The cost has increased substantially.


Relating to the substance or essential elements.
The debate shifted substantively.


To a great extent.
The population of the city has grown substantially.


Concerning the major or central nature of something.
Substantively, the law proposes major reforms.


Ample or considerable in nature.
The evidence was substantially more than required.


In a way that is meaningful or significant.
The policy didn’t change substantively.


Considerably great in quantity.
Their profits were substantially higher this quarter.


Pertaining to the body of essential content.
The discussions moved away from procedural details to focus substantively on key issues.


The landscape has changed substantially over the decades.


With substantive effect or consequences.
The amendment affects the bill substantively.


Considerable in importance, value, degree, amount, or extent
Made a substantial improvement.
Won by a substantial margin.


Substantial; considerable.


Solidly built; strong
Substantial houses.


Independent in existence or function; not subordinate.


Ample; sustaining
A substantial breakfast.


Not imaginary; actual; real.


Possessing wealth or property; well-to-do.


Of or relating to the essence or substance; essential
Substantive information.


Of, relating to, or having substance; material.


Having a solid basis; firm.


True or real; not imaginary.


(Grammar) Expressing or designating existence; for example, the verb to be.


Achieving the goal of justice itself, not merely the procedure or form that is a means to justice
Principles of substantial justice.


(Grammar) Designating a noun or noun equivalent.


In a strong substantial manner; considerably.


A word or group of words functioning as a noun.


To a great extent; in essence; essentially.


In a substantive manner, or to a substantive extent.


Without material qualifications.


Employed as a noun.


In a substantial manner; in substance; essentially.
In him all his Father shone,Substantially expressed.
The laws of this religion would make men, if they would truly observe them, substantially religious toward God, chastle, and temperate.


In a substantive manner; in substance; essentially.


To a great extent or degree;
I'm afraid the film was well over budget
Painting the room white made it seem considerably (or substantially) larger
The house has fallen considerably in value
The price went up substantially


As a substantive, name, or noun; as, an adjective may be used substantively.


In a strong substantial way;
The house was substantially built

Common Curiosities

Can something be both substantial and substantive?

Yes, changes or elements can be both substantial (significant in amount) and substantive (meaningful in essence).

What type of changes does substantially refer to?

Substantially usually refers to quantitative changes, such as size or amount.

What type of discussions would use substantively?

Substantively is often used in legal, theoretical, or policy-related discussions focusing on the core or essential aspects.

What does substantially mean?

Substantially refers to a significant degree, extent, or amount.

What makes a change substantive?

A substantive change affects the fundamental nature or principles of the subject.

Is substantially a formal word?

Yes, it can be used in both formal and informal contexts.

Can substantially be used in financial contexts?

Yes, it's often used to describe significant financial growth or loss.

How is substantively used in a sentence?

Substantively is used to discuss the essence or substantial parts of an issue.

Does substantially imply a positive change?

Not necessarily, it simply indicates a considerable degree of change without specifying its nature.

Is substantively a commonly used term?

It is less common and more specific to formal or specialized contexts than substantially.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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