Duel vs. Dual – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ July 26, 2017/ Uncategorized

duel versus dual

What’s the Difference Between Duel and Dual?

Both duel and dual have the same pronunciation, yet they have completely different meanings and function as different parts of speech.

Duel can function as a noun or a verb, and means a fight between two people with deadly weapons. Usually the weapons are swords or guns, and often the two people formally organize the fight beforehand.

  • The two noblemen agreed to a duel at dawn. The winner of the swordfight would keep his honor, and the loser would die. (noun)
  • The two cowboys turned back to back, and walked ten paces away from each other. They then turned face to face and prepared to duel. (verb)

Dual is an adjective which means two. It describes one thing with two parts.

  • The new employee will have a dual role of managing a team of teachers and curriculum writing.

Although there is no overlap in meaning between these words, the fact that they are homophones is enough for people to confuse the two.

Seeing them in context will help to avoid mixing them up.

Using Duel in a Sentence

When to use duel: As a noun, a duel is a prearranged combat between two people, often using swords or guns. This is often a way to settle a dispute between them. As a verb, a duel is the action of fighting between the two people in combat.

For example,

  • In the past, duels were a legal way to settle a disagreement. (noun)
  • The two swordsmen agreed to duel to the death. (verb)

Occasionally, duel is used colloquially to refer to a sports rivalry between two players up against each other, such as pitchers in baseball.

Phrases That Use Duel

There are several collocations and expressions that use duel.

  • dueling pianos: two piano players who play against each other to see who is better, or who simply perform as a pair.
    • The bar offers a dueling piano show every Thursday night.
  • challenge someone to a duel: To propose combat.
    • The man was very offended and challenged the man who insulted him to a duel.
  • a duel to the death: a duel in which the loser must die.
    • King Joffrey was very fond of forcing his subjects to duel to the death.

Depictions of duels are common in cinema, especially sword fights in fantasies and pistol duels in Westerns.

Using Dual in a Sentence

When to use dual: Dual is an adjective that you can use to describe anything that has two of something, or is in two parts.

For example,

  • Dual bombings at the concert in one night made the police suspect a coordinated attack.
  • The new phones will have a dual camera to entice consumers.

Phrases That Use Dual

There are also some common collocations with the word dual.

  • dual citizenship: being a citizen of two countries
    • She was born in America, but married someone from Costa Rica. Therefore, she had dual citizenship in both countries.
  • dual purpose: serving two functions.
    • The plan served a dual purpose: to end the fighting between the couple and also to get them to clean up the house.
  • dual role: being responsible for two main areas.
    • Kindergarten teachers serve a dual role of helping the children learn about the subjects and also how to behave properly in a classroom.

Remembering Duel vs. Dual

There are two ways to help you remember which word to use and when.

First, duel ends in the letters uel, just like the word cruel. A duel can be cruel because one person often dies, or at least gets injured.

Second, dual ends in the letters ual, just like the word usual. Nowadays, finding something that comes in two parts is a lot more usual than finding a duel.

Alternatively, the word bilingual also ends in ual. Both bilingual and dual have to do with the number two.

Outside Examples

  • Marie Curie’s life was rich with incident, including a sex scandal that led to a duel. –Washington Post
  • At one point, Kalka casually reminds us that Proust actually fought a pistol duel over a negative review of his first book. –Washington Post
  • There is a special admission charge to visit the dual Chihuly exhibits, but there are also two dramatic glass pieces on display in the museum, which is free: Colorful glass orbs float on a spring along the Art Trail, and the “Azure Icicle Chandelier” hangs in the light-filled gallery bridge. –LA Times
  • And that’s key, of course, for the dual-threat quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner who captivated the nation with his speed and affinity for scoring touchdowns. He’ll still be quick, he’ll still be shifty — but he’ll likely be a bit harder for defenders to bring down. –USA Today

Quiz: Dual vs. Duel

  • When one man accused another of cheating during a poker game, they agreed to a ____________ with pistols.
  • My idea of a fun night out is seeing a ____________ pianos show.
  • This car is very safe because of its _________ air bag system.
  • My pen has a ________ function. It writes and is a laser.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use duel or dual? Both of these words sound the same, but their meanings are completely different. Therefore, you can’t mix them up in writing.

  • To duel someone, or to have a duel, is to fight someone in prearranged combat to settle a quarrel.
  • Dual means one thing with two parts or purposes.

In short, duel is a verb or noun about fighting or competition, and dual means two.


  • duel
  • dueling
  • dual
  • dual