Our Grammar Guru series has covered a few examples of oft-confused words.
This one is a little more niche, we have to admit, but stay with us!
It’s perhaps addressed best by the inimitable Inspector Morse, in this exchange with faithful sidekick Lewis:
LEWIS: “Death would have been instant, would it not?”
MORSE: “‘Occurred instantaneously’, Lewis, or “was instantaneous” if you must. Coffee may be instant, death may not.”
So . . . the words definitely don’t mean the same thing, right?
Well, sort of. And it depends who you ask.
“Instantly” means something happening at once, or immediately.
The meaning of the word “instantaneously” is a little more of a grey area . . .
Traditionally, it is used to refer to an event immediately following another.
So in the above example, Morse is pointing out that the death being investigated didn’t occur “out of blue” as it were, but immediately after the victim was shot.
Plenty of dictionaries will claim these words mean the same thing, or are at least interchangeable, but here at the “Friend” we’re sticking with John Thaw!
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