Emigrate vs. Immigrate – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ July 26, 2017/ Uncategorized

emigrate versus immigrate

What’s the Difference Between Emigrate and Immigrate?

Both emigrate and immigrate function as verbs in English, and have very similar pronunciations, spellings, and meanings. To use them correctly, we must understand the nuances of each word.

Emigrate means to move away from one’s native country.

  • The Americans in the small town were surprised to learn that their new neighbors had emigrated from Iran.

Also as a verb, immigrate is a verb that means to come to a new country as a foreigner.

  • The refugees loved their home country, but, because of the terrible violence and war, they were forced to immigrate to a new home.

The definitions of emigrate and immigrate are two sides of the same meaning, much like come and go, borrow and lend, and give and take.

Now, let’s go over a few ways to use these words correctly.

Using Emigrate in a Sentence

When to use emigrate: Emigrate means to leave one’s country of birth, or of citizenship. It puts the emphasis on going rather than coming to a new country.

For example,

  • The war caused the family to emigrate from their homeland to a new country.
  • Although the man loved his home country, his beloved lived in a different country, so he decided to emigrate to be with her.

This word also doesn’t have noteworthy expressions or collocations.

Using Immigrate in a Sentence

When to use immigrate: Immigrate is defined as to come to a new country, which is not your home country, to live. Use immigrate when you want to emphasize that a person is coming to a new country, not leaving their old country.

For example,

  • People immigrate for many reasons, but they often hope to find a better life in their adopted country.
  • Some people choose to immigrate illegally because they believe the danger is greater if they stay in their home country.

There are not any idioms with the word immigrate, nor important collocations to be aware of. However, the topic of people immigrating illegally appears in the news frequently.

Remembering Emigrate vs. Immigrate

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

First, immigrate starts with the letter i, just like the word in. It means people who come in to a country.

Second, emigrate starts with the letter e, just like the word exit. Emigrate and exit both mean to go or to leave.

Outside Examples

  • Pujols played high-school ball in the Kansas City area after immigrating from the Dominican Republic, but opposing pitchers walked him 55 times in 88 plate appearances his senior season in part to protest what they believed was an age disparity. –USA Today
  • Families that immigrated to the United States from Europe more than a century ago brought fireworks with them, many settling in Pennsylvania. –The Washington Post
  • Just as the Matterns, Saler emigrated from Germany. He said he was delighted to find a taste of his homeland in Mattern’s. –OC Register
  • “He had to leave his family when he was 16 and move north to train,” Martinelli said. “His is a very Italian story in that he had to emigrate to find success. It didn’t all come easy for him.” –New York Daily News

Quiz: Immigrate vs. Emigrate

  • Her family begged her not to _____________ because they didn’t want her to go.
  • Some countries are easier to __________________ to than others.
  • He’s American now, but he wasn’t always. He ________________ to this country in the 1990’s.
  • Ireland is a country that has had so many people ___________________ that there are fewer Irish people living inside the country than outside of it.
  • The decision to _______________ was not an easy one. However, there were no jobs in her country. She didn’t know where she would go, but she knew she couldn’t stay.

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use emigrate or immigrate? Both of these words are verbs, and they both deal with leaving a country. They differ, however, on the emphasis of the action of leaving.

  • To immigrate means to move to a new country.
  • To emigrate means to leave an old country.

To do one you must do the other, meaning that you can’t immigrate somewhere without emigrating from somewhere. However, decide which act is more important for the sentence, coming or going, and pick the best option to convey that importance.


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