Difference between criticize, criticism, critique, critic, and critical

600+ Confusing English Words Explained E-book

Hello students! Today I want to teach you about the confusing words criticize, criticism, critique, critic, and critical. These are all similar and they come from the same roots, but they have different functions and some slightly different meanings.

The English language has a lot of words like this – words that are very similar, but actually different – and you can learn a lot more of them in my e-book, 600+ Confusing English Words Explained.


OK, let’s start with the word criticize. If you criticize something, you are identifying its faults or negative aspects. So if you say that a restaurant has bad food and slow service, you are criticizing it, you’re stating the bad things about it.


Criticize is a verb referring to the action of identifying faults. The noun form is criticism, referring to the statement or expression of faults. So you might say, “She criticized the restaurant. Her main criticism was about the poor quality of the food.” Note the pronunciation difference between criticize – it ends with the ize sound like in size – and criticism – it has the is sound like in his.


Now let’s look at the word critique – this word can be a verb or a noun, and it refers to evaluating and analyzing something, identifying both its good points and its bad points. So when you criticize something you just say negative things, but when you critique something you can say both positive things and negative things. We often critique books, art, movies… the judges on talent shows like cooking shows or singing shows will critique the performance of the cooks or singers.

Note the pronunciation differences: we had CRI-ti-cize, CRI-ti-ci-sm, and cri-TIQUE has the stress on the second syllable, plus the ee sound as in weak.


What about the word critic? This has the stress on the first syllable: CRI-tic. A critic is a person who judges or evaluates something. The people who write movie reviews are called movie critics. People who are critics perform the action of critiquing things (remember, critique means to identify both positive and negative aspects), but sometimes the word critic is also used to describe a person who only says negative things, a person who criticizes. There’s a saying, “Everyone’s a critic” – we often say this when people are criticizing (saying negative things about) something, even people who don’t really have much knowledge about the area.


And finally we have the word critical, which is an adjective, and it has two meanings. When you say a person is critical of something, it means the person is finding fault. For example, my boss is very critical of my work, he’s always making changes and corrections to it. But when you say a thing is critical, it means the thing is essential, it is necessary, it is very important. For example, honesty is critical to a good relationship.


So let’s review these confusing words:

  • criticize – a verb meaning to identify negative things;
  • criticism – a noun referring to the statement of negative things;
  • critique – a verb/noun referring to evaluating and identifying positive and negative points;
  • critic – a person who judges or evaluates, and sometimes a person who only finds negative points;
  • critical – two meanings: a person who tends to find fault, or a thing that is very important or essential

I know these words are complicated, but I hope I’ve helped make them a little clearer. For more lessons like this, I’d highly encourage you to get my e-book which will teach you more than 600 confusing English words.

Clear up your doubts about confusing words… and use English more confidently!

600+ Confusing English Words Explained

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