Lonely vs. Alone – How to Use Each Correctly

enhancedwriting/ August 17, 2017/ Uncategorized

lonely versus alone

What’s the Difference Between Lonely and Alone?

Lonely and alone can both be adjectives, and they both have similar meanings. This causes people to confuse the two. However, these two words are distinct and, therefore, not synonymous.

Lonely is an adjective that describes a bad feeling of having no one to talk to, or that one has no friends. Lonely always has a negative connotation.

  • The boy cried every night because he had no friends to sit with during his school’s lunch, and he always felt very lonely.

The adjective alone means that one has no one else with him or her. He or she is solitary. Unlike lonely, alone can be either positive or negative. Some people prefer to be alone some of the time.

  • I’m going to take a walk. I need some time alone to think.

It is possible to be alone, yet not lonely. It is also possible to be lonely even when surrounded by others, especially if one is depressed or feels that no one understands him or her.

Let’s look at some of the ways to use these words in English.

Using Lonely in a Sentence

When to use lonely: Lonely is an adjective that describes a sad feeling of having no friends or people with which to share one’s life experiences.

For example,

  • Despite always feeling lonely, the woman never introduced herself to new people. She was too introverted.
  • His feelings of being lonely were slowly crushing him, and making him think of suicide.

There aren’t any notable idioms for lonely. However, the expression owner of a lonely heart is a common collocation due to a song of the same name. Another is lonely hearts club, since this was part of an album title for the popular band The Beatles.

Using Alone in a Sentence

When to use alone: Alone is also an adjective that deals with being or feeling solitary. However, the main difference is that a person might choose to be alone as a personal preference.

For example:

  • The husband and wife made sure not to share all their hobbies with one another so they each had some alone time.
  • She despised the company of others and wanted to live her life alone, as a hermit.

There are also some common expressions and idioms with alone:

  • to go it alone: to do something by oneself
    • Thanks for offering to help, but I prefer to go it alone. It’s always been a dream of mine to climb this mountain as a solo hiker.
  • to leave well enough alone: to pay no attention to the affairs of someone else
    • Stop trying to find out where I go every night! Mind your own business. It would be best for you to leave well enough alone.
  • man cannot live on bread alone: religion or some other philosophical beliefs are just as necessary as food for a full life
    • He pursued a degree in theology and philosophy because he thought that man could not live on bread alone.

Occasionally, you might see someone using alone as a synonym for lonely. That’s perfectly common and possible. Just make sure that you know alone can be either positive or negative, whereas lonely is always negative.

Remembering Lonely vs. Alone

Both words contain the spelling one within them, like the number 1. This can help you to remember that both of these describe something solitary.

However, remembering the differences between them is a little harder. One way to remember is that when a person feels lonely, he or she has this feeling unwillingly.

In other words, most people never want to feel lonely. Both lonely and unwillingly end in ly, which can help you remember that connection.

However, if a person is alone, this is often a choice. Alone and by choice both end in the letter e, which can help you remember.

Outside Examples

  • There aren’t many filmmakers these days who have the clout and the ambition to even attempt to pull off a movie like “Dunkirk” and get a studio behind it. Do you have a sense of that — and is that ever a lonely feeling? –LA Times
  • There is nothing “wrong” with being an introvert, but you report being lonely and socially isolated. –Chicago Tribune
  • Christopher Charles Watson, 28, of Kingman, was charged with felony domestic child abuse after the girl was found alone sobbing Saturday morning in 91-degree heat, according to news station KSNV. –New York Post
  • Imagine what he could do alone, even with some of the younger parts around him in New York. –USA Today

Quiz: Alone vs. Lonely

Instructions: Select the correct word to fit in the blank, either alone or lonely.

  1. Although she was surrounded by people at the party, she still felt sad and _______________. None of these people knew the real her.
  2. Sometime __________ time can help a person figure out important truths about himself or herself.
  3. Don’t leave me _________! I’m afraid of the dark!

See answers below.

Article Summary

Should I use lonely or alone? Both of these words are adjectives that deal with being or feeling solitary. However, there is an important distinction in their connotations that means they are not always interchangeable.

  • Lonely is always a bad feeling of having no one to connect with.
  • Alone can have the same meaning as lonely, but it can also describe a person who is solitary by choice and by preference.

Therefore, use either word for a negative feeling, but only use alone if a person is choosing to spend time away from others because they enjoy time to himself or herself.


  1. lonely (alone could also work here)
  2. alone
  3. alone